A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

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A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

Post  BoG on Thu Oct 30, 2014 3:25 pm

The saga of a robot, built in the year... wait one moment. Didn't I type this before? Yes, yes...for my post on Bicentennial Man (1999). Yes, the robot which yearns to be human. Hm, yes, not a very original thought by this time. Spielberg rushed out this concept based on plans which Stanley Kubrick made before he died. Kubrick would have taken at least a couple of years longer and it would have showed. Right as the film's narration begins, we're rushed into an explanation of how the icecaps have melted in the near future, flooding all coastal cities (shades of Waterworld). The resulting displacement of huge amounts of people caused some birth control measures, thereby jumpstarting a robot industry (usually referred to as 'mechas' here). I guess it makes some sense, so far. What follows is another variation on Spielberg's fascination with fairy tales - in this case a reworking of Pinnochio (which is spelled out more than once during the film, ad nauseum). There are not very many subtleties present; instead of gradually working in the premise, Spielberg has the scientist played by William Hurt clumsily spell it out in the beginning - let's build a robot who can love. Gee whiz, really? OK, let's. And let's make it a boy robot (Haley Joel Osment), because maybe - uh oh - the scientist has some personal stake in this deceptively high-end concept to advance the scope of human knowledge and science.
The film's strong points are its ambition. The future landscape presented here also reminded me a bit of Blade Runner (1982) - a fantastical, alien and truly futuristic feel (except for the tacky future cars on rural roads and a suburban pool straight out of the eighties). It's uneven, though all the big city visuals and scenes with the mechas succeed. But this is the 3rd film I've so far mentioned that A.I. reminded me of, which points to a weakness - it's definitely derivative - probably because it was rushed, as mentioned. And though the story is surprisingly hard-edged and even adult for the most part, Spielberg reverts to a very saccharine climax, intended, it seems, for science fiction fans in the 7-year-old age group. Heavy and deep concepts having to do with the nature of being human, of the supposedly special nature of humanity, are brushed over rather than tackled, in favor of the fairy tale aspect. What the hell was Hurt really intending or planning in the end? We'll never know - probably because the filmmakers didn't either. As we do know, this was a Kubrick project, one which he was unable to work on, not something that Spielberg put together as his personal vision like his other films. I didn't mind the sudden new time era in the final 15 minutes since at least it was a genuine surprise and innovative by today's standards. But the last minute was a bit of a cheat - nowhere to go but the big sleep. Picture Spielberg tucking in the audience after feeling guilty for traumatizing them. BoG's Score: 6.5 out of 10
A.I. Trivia: Robin Williams, who starred in the similar Bicentennial Man (99), provides his voice for one scene with a holographic info machine
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