A.I. Artificial Intelligence

The release of A.I. Artificial Intelligence brings to a close the long and storied career of the late Stanley Kubrick. He did not write or direct the film, but did spend over a decade developing it before his untimely death in 1999. Over a decade, he collaborated with Steven Speilberg on ways to make this film a reality. Understanding many of the workings behind the movie give a better understanding of the movie itself. Kubrick movies are always hard to pinpoint. Often, people fully appreciate his work years after the initial release. Also, the initial releases tend not to do well at the box office. Kubrick and Speilberg work with opposing emotions. Speilberg films are full of warmth and love. He makes big commercial films that are easily accessible. Kubrick (Eyes Wide Shut, Full Metal Jacket) films are cold and distant. He filled his films with thought-provoking ideas and harsh images. It may sound odd, but A.I. embodies elements from both of these directors. After Kubrick's death, Speilberg decided to complete the film. He wrote the screenplay himself, based on the story Super Toys Last All Summer Long by Brian Aldiss and a story by Ian Watson.

An elaborate marketing game took place before the movie. Clues on trailers and movie posters led to websites that linked to other websites. A larger story emerged, centering around the death of scientist Evan Chan. All these events took place in the world of A.I., years after events in the movie. Puzzles that revealed clues forced players to have a working knowledge of html, German, Japanese, chemistry, and base 64. Studios never publicly acknowledged the game, they just let people discover it and immerse themselves into a dark world of pleasure-bots and sentient homes. It was a highly intelligent, well-written and elaborate game that did not condescend to the players. At the same time, commercials for A.I. played up the Pinocchio-like aspects of the movie. Again, both of these opposite elements are there. Many people will see this movie because it is the first movie for Speilberg since Saving Private Ryan and Amistad, but parents should refrain from taking young kids. This movie is still a Kubrick movie.

The world of A.I. is one where the polar ice caps melted, flooding coastal cities and killing people. Consequently, robots (or mecha) became prevalent, taking on roles in society. Robots existed as toys (Teddy rocks!), prostitutes, and maids. Allen Hobby (William Hurt, Sunshine, One True Thing) wants to create something more. He wants to create a robot-child with the capacity for love. David (Haley Joel Osment, Pay It Forward, The Sixth Sense) is this child. Hobby gives David to Henry (Sam Robards, Bounce, American Beauty) and Monica Swinton (Frances O'Connor, Bedazzled, About Adam), still grieving over the potential loss of their son Martin, who is cryogenically frozen. Monica initially believes that Henry wanted to replace their son, but grows to love David. Miraculously, Martin (Jake Thomas, The Cell, Lizzie Maguire) comes back, and is jealous of David. He goads him to misbehave, and David, not knowing better, listens. Monica slowly comes to the realization that David cannot stay, and tells him to run away. David does not understand, and thinks that if he can turn into a real boy, Monica will love him and want him again. David goes on a quest for the Blue Fairy, the same one from the Pinocchio story. This leads him to Gigolo Joe (Jude Law, Enemy at the Gates, The Talented Mr. Ripley), one of the many pleasure robots who inhabit this world. They also go to a Flesh Fair, a carnival-like arena where humans destroy robots for fun.

On the surface, it looks like there is a lot of love in the movie, but the only character with true love is David. He is programmed to feel nothing but love for his mother. And, as Henry points out, does one programmed with the ability to love also have the ability to hate? Osment gives a strong performance. He does not blink, which helps establish an artificial nature to his character. His actions and mannerism of unconditional love Monica's feelings are hard to gauge. Her feelings for David seem closer to compassion than love. Their apartment lacks warmth. It is sparse and functional, but does not look like a family lives there. The only feelings present in the film are alienation and hatred, with the Flesh Fair a good example of the latter. It is full of horrifying imagery, and is noticeably darker and dirtier than the rest of the movie. The special effects in A.I. are not things nobody has even seen before, but they are very good. Speilberg uses them not to overwhelm the audience, but to enhance the story. David's quest is also one of acceptance. One of the many subtexts of A.I. is the struggle between humans (orga) and mecha. The mecha want rights, but the orga are afraid that mecha may take over. Speilberg cleverly weaves these deeper stories subtly into the simpler one of David looking for the blue fairy. Universal themes like love, loss, obsolescence, and free will all appear to some degree. What Speilberg does is touch on all these issues, while focusing on David and his quest. It is deceivingly simple, and sure to leave some people confused, but for those willing to sit back and think about what Speilberg (and Kubrick) is saying, A.I. is a worthy experience.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Good.
2 hours, 25 minutes, Rated PG-13 for some sexual content and violence.

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