Movie: Artificial Intelligence

by Wartank

Artificial Intelligence

A.I. is the creative collaboration of two cinematic masters. Stanley Kubrick wrestled with its development for eight years, finally turning the reins over to Steven Spielberg to realize his dream when it was obvious that he could not. Kubrick’s movies are easily identifiable, and this one is no exception. However, it is arguably Spielberg’s interpretation and liberties which altered it from its original intent, sadly leaving a superficially brilliant film hung out to dry on the expectations of today’s sophisticated viewers.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with a member of A.I. team. (an inside source), “[Kubrick] had lovingly sculpted a WORLD at a precipice in more ways than one – environmental, social, and moral collapse defines humanity’s waning days. The social-economic pressures of this time and age pushes technology to create the next step in human evolution: working for us where we can’t work, loving for us when we can’t love.”

A.I. follows the journey of David, a small boy robot played by Haley Joel Osment, created to act as a substitute for a mother who had lost her biological child. The story runs in four acts, each dealing with a different aspect of this creation’s place in society; first, in the household, second, in society, third, as an individual, and finally, as an everlasting ideal. The continual question is whether a ‘mecha’ (mechanical bodies, as opposed to humans, ‘orga’, or organic bodies) created to exemplify one dimension of the human character can ever be accepted by those of our time and civilization. A bleak world is represented, in sentiment if not in gaudiness, and the film does excel at immersing the audience in a dystopic reality.

The acting was superb, notably Haley Joel Osment added tremendous depth and intelligence to his role. Jude Law provided a refreshingly comedic, yet equally smart portrayal of Gigolo Joe, a deceivingly poignant male prostitute mecha, and devoted companion of David’s. Suitably enough, kudos must also fall towards the animators and puppeteers of Teddy, a discarded, first generation mecha toy with the wisdom of Yoda, and the cutesy cuddliness of an Ewok. The soundtrack was of the utmost caliber, practically a foregone conclusion with John Williams at the helm, and the visuals were simply astonishing.

However, beyond superficial appreciation, any praise begins to lose cohesiveness. As a thought-provoker, the movie confronts many sentiments primarily spawned by paranoia – including individuality, responsibility, and morality, but seems to shirk away from any real depth. As a tear-jerker, David’s character is never fleshed out the point where we can REALLY care for him, especially after the concluding scene which emphasized his simplicity of character and the ease of his satisfaction.

Every Kubrick movie I’ve seen I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, and the primary appeal is their capacity for uncompromising intellectual “envelope-pushing” (with many complaining that he often over-prioritizes poignancy to the point of obscuring art). Similarly, I trust Spielberg to entertain me, but his forte rests more in wresting control of the audience’s emotions — be it excitement, suspense or sentimentality.

There certainly are successes to be drawn. In the opening act, the story presents the intriguing infusion of synthetic love into the household. David is portrayed brilliantly as a creature with depth and feeling, but with little objective proof of his validity outside of a few kind words and specially prepared coffee in the morning for his mom. Our source describes that “in all ways, DAVID threatens not just [the true son’s] place in the family, but the very essence of FAMILIAL LOVE…DAVID is an unnatural intrusion to the eternal cycle of birth and rebirth, threatening to expose the illusion that we must all learn to live with: love is mortal. DAVID must be cast out.” Kubrick’s ideas entreat the mind, while Spielberg excels in the eventual heart-wrenching scene of David’s dismissal. Even though the beats were drawn out in the opening act, one could not help but hear the wedding bells of a directorial marriage made in heaven.

Unfortunately, as the tale turns towards the David’s story in society, the movie lingers far too much on the specific individual, often presenting bewilderingly trivial trials and tribulations rather than truly exploring more of how David’s KIND is the catalyst for this waning civilization. Similarly, when David’s concerns of belonging turn to the self, his fascinating outbursts of individuality and selfishness are immediately disregarded by the next story element or dramatic pan of character in thought.

It is this divergence of strengths that culls the discontent from moviegoers. It is a shame, because every technical aspect was incredibly refined — from the visual grandeur to the acting to the music to the Internet hype to one of the most well-considered trailers in recent memory. Now, this isn’t to say that it was an empty husk, devoid of both intellectual content and emotional draw. Rather, they were tantalizingly present, but just out of reach, compromised by an apparent conflict of direction, and rooted in the differences of creative influences that made the respective creators so successful in the past.

Our source did add that “good or bad this movie has sparked more debate than any other movie of recent history… it has already set itself apart from the rest of the summer fluff” – an interesting perspective. I did enjoy the movie, and would recommend it, but I was clearly a victim to raised expectations. Simply put, it was an intellectual movie with no guts, and a sentimental coming-of-age story with no heart. The movie disappointed because it created all sorts of potential that it was never able to reach.

PS. “Make no doubt about it this was meant to be a Fairy Tale by Kubrick, but Spielberg backed out of it in all but a few minor scenes” said our source. Isn’t it just like us to want over have nots, will nots, and can nots?

  • Movie: Artificial Intelligence
  • by Wartank
  • Published on August 1st, 2001
Artificial Intelligence
Steven Spielberg
Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law..
June 2001

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