STARRING: Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, William Hurt, Frances
O'Connor, Sam Robards, Brendan Gleeson
2001, 145 Minutes, Directed by: Steven Spielberg
This film spans near and distant futures with the fairy-tale adventures of
an artificial boy named David (Haley Joel Osment), a marvel of cybernetic
progress who wants only to be a real boy, loved by his mother in that
happy place called home. Young David, shunned by his trial parents and
tossed into an unfriendly world, is joined by fellow "mecha" Gigolo Joe
(played with a dancer's agility by Jude Law) in his quest for a
mother-and-child reunion. Parallels to Pinocchio intensify as David
reaches "the end of the world" (a Manhattan flooded by melted polar ice
caps), and a far-future epilogue. -
Don't be fooled by this or any of the movie's marketing, AI
is a dark movie and not really intended for children at all.
It is easy to see why this movie received some very
mixed reviews upon its release in the States and UK, and - it evokes mixed responses. Some critics
have blamed this on the film being a project started by director Stanley Kubrick and being handed over and finished by Steven Spielberg instead
(for a detailed history of the project, check here).
They have a point: their styles differ radically from one another. (How
much do they differ? Try making a schizophrenic double video bill of
A Clockwork Orange and E.T. one evening . .
not knowing the movie's production history, you'll probably find that
A.I.'s biggest problem is that Spielberg can't contain his worst
instincts as a filmmaker. The movie shoots itself in the foot with the
extreme saccharine sentiment of the last twenty minutes or so.
"Shoots itself in the foot with the extreme saccharine
sentiment of the last 20 minutes or so . . . "
It is as if Spielberg grew afraid that audiences would become alienated
by anything negative and quickly inserted a happy ending or schmaltzy
elements. These instincts almost ruin
AI . . .
Note that I use the word almost. Critics (particularly the intellectual
types) have been very unfair to AI Sure, the movie is deeply flawed. Maybe it's lowered expectations because the last two years
of Hollywood blockbusters have been the utter worst in its entire history,
but at least AI has flickers of ambition. It tries to be about
something, with real characters and good acting.
it is well-made, but not in the sense that the
Planet of the Apes remake is well-made: its visual splendor, particularly
scenes set in a semi-submerged post-apocalyptic New York, has a more lasting
visceral impact than the clever make-up in Apes.
(Perhaps it is
in retrospect of seeing the World Trade Centre being destroyed by two
airliners crashing into it that makes these particular scenes linger in
the mind. I don't know. Sadly enough, AI's distant future features
the twin towers intact - talk about science fiction with an expiry date!)
Sci-fi fans will find lots of the territory in AI covered familiar
(Bicentennial Man anyone?), but unlike recent
Hollywood offerings the movie doesn't merely consist of a nonexistent
plot stringing a bunch of action sequences together.