A.I. - Artificial Intelligence is an ambitious attempt to duplicate the Stanley Kubrick formula, while still retaining the heartstring-tugging emotion of any one of Steven Spielberg's greatest hits.
The futuristic story revolves around David, played by Haley Joel Osment, who is the first robot created to resemble and act like a little boy. He is also the only robot programmed to feel real love for his adoptive parents. Through a series of Pinocchio-influenced experiences, David soon embarks on a quest to become a real boy. He believes that this is the only way his mother will truly grow to love him. Is this the result of genuine robot emotion, or just faulty programming? Only time, or a patch for Microsoft Windows 2035, will tell!
This film follows the Kubrick formula almost to the letter. For those unaware that Stanley Kubrick's films followed a formula, read on! The following is my own 'Kubrick Fan' capsule analysis of his style. Kubrick's films usually start slowly, with very sterile environments. The tone is dark and often creepy. In the beginning, it's difficult to know where the film is headed with its story, as many directions are hinted at in the first half-hour. This leads to the middle hour of the film, which is constructed to be extremely entertaining to a wide audience. Astounding visuals and wonderful, memorable characters and dialogue usually mark this portion of the film. This is also where the audience becomes comfortable with where they believe the plot to be headed. The last half-hour, the end of the film, usually comes completely out of left field, provoking thought from those who would seek to understand Kubrick's intentions and confounded annoyance from most everyone else. The end is entirely unpredictable, dark and rarely what Hollywood would consider happy. Spielberg applies the above formula, but falters by attempting to add many of his own distinct touches.
The beginning is indeed slow and calculating, and the 'David' robot is one of the creepiest little movie kids I've seen since Village of the Damned. I do wonder though, if science has progressed so far with robotic technology that genuine emotion is the next frontier, why does David act so robot-like? He doesn't even blink! Even those cute little robot pets from Radio Shack blink their eyes, for gosh sakes! It seems that David lacks quite a bit of fundamental programming at the start of this film. Also, if I were a family who had 'adopted' a robot as creepy as David, I'd send him back as defective at the first opportunity. I credit Spielberg for the introduction of David's cute but still creepy robotic teddy bear friend. I doubt that Kubrick would have gone this route.
The middle portion of this film is a visual feast, easily approaching the scale of science fiction classics like Blade Runner and Star Wars. This is where Jude Law's character Joe, a robotic gigolo, makes his very smooth entrance. Gigolo Joe is easily my favorite character in the film. He joins David and his ever-present talking bear, as they continue his quest to become a real boy by visiting a city that resembles post-apocalyptic Las Vegas. David's journey is more clearly defined during this hour of the film. Also making an appearance is the cryptic Dr. Know, a cartoonish holographic question answering device that works like a really bad search-engine. Thanks again to Spielberg's tendency to get a bit too sweet with the tone for this modern miracle of information retrieval.
The end of the film, true to the Kubrick style, cannot possibly be predicted by watching anything that preceeds it. Spielberg's style becomes apparent in all it's tear-jerking glory during this portion of the film. The end does carry a certain amount of logic, but the style change is jarring and very, very weird. Also, one of the final pivotal scenes relies on a coincidence so contrived that it's enough to make anyone, even robots who aren't programmed for it, roll their eyes in complete disbelief. If you have reservations about enjoying the end of this movie, my advice is to stop watching A.I. as soon as you feel thoroughly entertained and intellectually stimulated, regardless of what you still see up on the screen. If you have no reservations, just remember that you have been warned.
A.I. exists in a form that is as brilliant as it is flawed, not unlike the human condition itself. You may love it or you may hate it, but this is a film that will likely stand the test of time.
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Written By: Ian Watson, Brian Aldriss, Steven Spielberg
Starring: Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O'Connor, Sam Robards, Jake Thomas,
Brendan Gleeson, William Hurt, and the voices of Jack Angel and Robin Williams
Rated: PG-13 (Language / Sexuality / Violence)
Running Time: 180 Min.