Friday, December 9, 2011


A.I. Artificial Intelligence
Released 6.29.2001

Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by Steven Spielberg and Ian Watson

"A.I." is built on a promising premise, full of technological wonders, and carried by a terrific lead performance. It is a shame that the third act goes as far as it does. What could have been a fabulous futuristic fairy tale ultimately wears out its welcome.

Stanely Kubrick (who crafted such noteworthy pictures as "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "Full Metal Jacket") had been working on this "picaresque robot version of 'Pinnochio'" since the 1970s. As with many ambitious ideas, he didn't see the needed technology available at the time. After colleague Steven Spielberg changed cinema (and my life) forever with "Jurassic Park," he wanted to had the reigns over to Hollywood's star-child. Spielberg kept the ball in Kubrick's court until the day we lost one of our finest filmmakers. After that, Spielberg saw it was indeed him who had to make it a reality. As fascinating as the story behind the production of "A.I." is, the film itself holds one all the more stirring. It is a futuristic tale of a robot child who is brought into a family that lost one of their own son. The robot child was programmed to love his mother, but wants to become a real boy to make everything right with his world. His quest takes him away from home (not according to his will) on a perilous journey accompanied by a walking and talking teddy bear and later lover bot named Gigolo Joe (Jude Law seemed fit for the part).

I like a lot of things about this film. I like the book-ended narration (by Sir Ben Kingsley). David, the boy boy, is played magnificently by Haley Joel Osment, who the whole world beheld in "The Sixth Sense." He is even better here and nails all of the idiosyncrasies you'd expect from an android. Perhaps the most stunning aspect is the production design that Spielberg and team always manage to fashion for the setting of his films. We get some terrific set pieces, scenes, and imagined technology. Kaminski's camerawork of the carefully crafted world is equally breathtaking. Several shots are framed with meaning, often treating David as the odd one out that he is. The CGI is particularly striking, such as in the first scene when a scientist opens up the very realistic face of a robot. While I'm not humming any memorable melody from the John Williams score it belonged with the story very well.

"A.I."'s primary problem is that the film goes on far longer than it should. At about the two hour mark there is a good enough place to stop, but we keep getting more... and the more we get is flabbergasting. Furthermore, the film's final scenes are meant to treat the cold (the cold of technology felt throughout) with some sentimentality, but it all comes off feeling rather strange and even coy. It surprised me to learn that a lot of the sentimentality was what Watson and Kubrick originally envisioned and wanted. It was Spielberg who added the darker elements on display here such as the Flesh Fair, one of the more memorable set pieces. Still, I will always wonder how this movie could've been had it been directed by Kubrick.

(Author's Note: Y'know what aspect of this film I also liked? Teddy. The smart-toy that David is given by his adoptive parents is a cameo character throughout that charms despite his un-cuddliness, for a teddy bear that is. Voiced by Jack Angel, Teddy is a remarkable invention in his own right, a toy that can jog around and keep up with the best of them. His reactions are thoughtful, funny, or cute. I would like to see a spin-off series starring the robo-bear. That is all.)


CONTENT: some violence, some sexual references

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