An intelligent film
For those of you who were worried that Steven Spielberg would sugarcoat Stanley Kubrick’s film idea of an android boy programmed to love his mother unconditionally, you can breathe easy: A.I.: Artificial Intelligence is a movie as dark and confusing as one would expect from Kubrick himself, and it’s a stunning merge of the sensibilities attributed to two of the greatest directors in cinema history.
With A.I., Spielberg has crafted one of the more disturbing, ambitious projects of his career—a spellbinding morality tale that feels like Kubrick was there every step of the way during its creation. It’s a daring, frustrating film that gets your brain swirling on such subjects as the responsibility of love, the perils of technology and what actually constitutes humanity.
Based on Kubrick’s original treatment, Spielberg has written a screenplay that owes much to Grimm’s Fairytales, the violent and disturbing morality stories that acted as source material for many a Disney film and children’s book. Filled with violence and a surprising amount of sexual innuendo, this movie is final proof that Spielberg has put his Hook days far behind him.
When a couple can no longer handle the grief of their young son’s coma, the husband (Sam Robards) brings home an artificial boy named David (Haley Joel Osment) in an attempt to please his wife Monica (Frances O’Connor). Monica is outraged at first, but she gradually grows accustomed to the robot and willingly enacts an imprinting program that will cause the android to refer to her as “Mommy,” offering undying loyalty and pure, inhuman, idealistic love.
A turn of events renders David unnecessary and even dangerous to the family unit, and he is abandoned, along with his supertoy bear, Teddy, in a forest to fend for himself. Having been read the story of Pinocchio, David believes that if he finds the Blue Fairy, she will make him a real boy, and therefore truly loved by his mother.
A.I. becomes a perverted version of the wooden boy fairy tale, and Spielberg doesn’t skimp on the shocking imagery. The Flesh Fair, where robots are publicly executed through various means of dismemberment, is one of the darkest sequences Spielberg has put to screen. Rouge City, where buildings are shaped like women’s lower halves, and the sexual exploits of Gigolo Joe (Jude Law), David’s travel companion, are as risqué as you’re going to get in a PG-13 film.
Osment is remarkable as David in what is sure to be one of the year’s best performances. He puts beautiful touches into his characterization, never allowing us to forget that he’s playing a robot, but remaining undeniably humanlike in all of his screen moments. It’s a flawless performance that will cement his place in movie history. Equally impressive is Law as Gigolo Joe, supplying the film with a nasty sense of humor.
Visually, A.I. is a triumph. From the eye-popping Vegas-like extravagance of Rouge City to the gloomy dread of a submerged Manhattan where David ends his journey, the film’s creativity is unmatched. The creatures created by Stan Winston, including Teddy the bear (a combination of animatronics and GGI), are a marvel to behold. Every time Teddy takes a walk by himself—especially a money shot were he strolls in front of a rising moon—is breathtaking.
Much is being said of the film’s ending—David’s granted “wish” has been criticized as Spielberg’s attempt at unneeded sentimentality. I, for one, didn’t find anything overwhelmingly sentimental about the ending: David’s sad, wishful dream can never really come true.
Don’t go to this film thinking you will be getting a science fiction movie full of cute aliens and funky spaceships. A.I. is one of the more serious films in Spielberg’s impressive repertoire, and it’s a movie that will have people arguing and questioning for many years to come.