A.I. - Artificial Intelligence - review

What happens if you take the best director and the most popular director and have them make a movie together? When Steven Spielberg took over Stanley Kubrick's project "AI", I was not convinced that this would be a good movie. When AI was jokingly referred to as "Spielberg's best two-letter movie since E.T.", I became even more suspicious. Spielberg is a great visual artist, and like Kubrick, some images from his movies will forever remain stuck in our collective visual cortices. But unlike Kubrick, he tends to manipulate his audience and deny them the possibility to do anything else with his movies than to undergo them, for better or for worse. This often means being taken to a world of childish simplicity and sentimentality.
However, A.I. will stand out as Spielberg's coldest and most artificial movie, which, surprisingly perhaps, is a compliment. The story consists of three parts. The movie begins with the adoption of David, the first ever robot boy capable of feeling love, by a mother whose real son is critically ill. Although somewhat eerie (Haley Joel Osment seems destined to play the alienated, slightly creepy kid), David is hesitantly adopted into the family. The recovery of his "half-brother" Martin changes his behavior and finally, his mom dumps him in the woods. So far, the movie, if somewhat artificial, seems to want to be 'realistic'.
Part two changes all that. When David encounters Gigolo Joe, a sex robot, and is kidnapped and brought to a bizarre "Flesh Fair", where robots are destroyed in lots of grueling ways, it's obvious that we are no longer in normal Spielberg territory. The two travel to a city dedicated to sex, where David goes in search of the Blue Fairy from "Pinocchio", so that she can turn him into a real boy and make his mom love him again. We soon discover that "Pinocchio" is being retold, but in this version, the Blue Fairy does not grant David's wish.
The final part of the movie attempts to tug at our heart strings the most, but the artificiality of the situation (aliens reunite David with a DNA copy of his long-dead mother, who for one day truly loves him) prevents that from working. There is a strange sense of reversal in this last part: in a way, David is now the more real person of the two, and his mom is nothing more than a robotic jumble of living cells.
In short, AI is not always very accessible; neither is it predictable; nor is it easy to extract a moral out of this story; nor does the director pretend that we should watch the movie as if it's supposed to be realistic. All these characteristics are rare in Spielberg movies. It's definitely not the masterpiece Kubrick would have created, but it's unusual, original and inventive enough to deserve a big endorsement.

Posted by cronopio at 01:20 AM, December 09, 2001 | Comments (0)