A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Starring Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, William Hurt, Francis O’Connor, Sam Robards, and the voice of Jack Angel.
What’s a summer without a Steven Spielberg movie? Of course, the pickings have been kind of slim, ever since he won that Oscar for Schindler’s List and adopted the policy of “I’ll work like crazy every three years.” And now, we have the first product of his latest work spurt. I’m sure we’ve all heard the legend by now. A.I. was going to be the next project for legendary director Stanley Kubrick, but he passed away in 1999. After his death, it broke in the press that Kubrick had consulted with Spielberg many times about this project, and had even suggested on occassion that Spielberg may be more suited to direct it. So, when Kubrick passed on, Spielberg announced that he would make it his next project, as a tribute to his old friend and colleague.
It’s sometime in the future. The polar icecaps have melted, thus flooding out coastal cities like New York and Venice. With land and natural resources in short supply, robots, dubbed “mecha” by this future society, have become an integral part of society. And, to stop the threat of overpopulation on the remaining land masses, having children is now regulated by the government. Enter a visionary scientist from the Cybertronics corporation (Hurt). His idea is to take mecha to the next level. He wants to develop a robot child, capable of loving its parents as much as a real child is. Before long, the prototype is created, David (Osment). For trial runs, David is sent to live with Monica and Henry (O’Connor and Robards), a couple who’s child is in cryogenic suspension with some disease. Monica is leary of David at first, but soon comes to love him as her son. But, trouble ensues when Monica and Henry’s son is cured, and returns home. Sibling rivalry sets in, and soon David’s attempts to be loved by his “mother” are interpreted as hostility. While taking David back to Cybertronics for dismantling, Monica can’t go through with it. She can’t have her son killed. So, she abandons him in the woods. David believes that he’s been abandoned because he’s not a real boy, and thus his mother can’t love him. Since his mother read Pinocchio to him a lot, David then sets out to find the Blue Fairy and become a real boy. His odyssey throughout this future world takes him through the horrors of the anti-mecha flesh fair, the perpetual sin of Rouge City, and finally, to the city at the edge of the world. Fortunatley, he has some companions in his journey: the robotic teddy bear Teddy, and the love mecha (i.e. walking, talking sex toy) Gigolo Joe (Law). Will David find the Blue Fairy and become a real boy? Will he get the love from his mother that he’s been programmed to desire? Or, does he genuinley desire it?
This movie is a lot like Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. Both involve the ramifications of advancing technology and whether we are able to live up to the responsibility or not. But, whereas Jurassic Park used it as the springboard for an action film, A.I. is a serious, cerebral exploration of the issue. If we start creating these sentient machines, what kind of responsibility do we have to them? Will we treat them as equals, or just “things?” And I tell you, a movie hasn’t ripped me apart inside like this since I first saw The Iron Giant. You honestly begin pulling for David and hoping that he does find his Blue Fairy. Osmet is amazing as David on his odyssey; as a child caught in circumstances he can’t quite comprehend. Law puts in a wonderfully quirky performance as Gigolo Joe, who soon becomes David’s protector from the horrors of the world. And Stan Winston Studios did a remarkable job bringing Teddy to life. You know me, I love my special effects and ILM pushes the envelope on this one. John Williams even gets experimental in his score, tossing out his tradition orchestras for synthesizers and techno-beats in some scenes. Everything about this film is top-notch. It’s truly one of the greatest movies of 2001. Go see it, go see it, go see it. One quick question, though. If Spielberg trying to “do” Kubric gets me this much, I wonder how much genuine Kubric would get to me?
(OK, and a quick trivia note. Listen for former Spielberg movie stars Robin Williams, Ben Kingsley, and Chris Rock doing the voices of assorted mecha.)