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A.I.
Reviewed by Jason Myers, ©

Format: Movie
By:   Steven Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick
Genre:   Science Fiction
Released:   May, 2001
Review Date:  
RevSF Rating:   7/10 (What Is This?)

You want a plot summary? A.I. is about a robotic boy. That's all you get.

What a strange animal A.I. is. Directed by Stephen Spielberg, who flits quite well between escapist fantasies and historical morality tales? And based on years of work done by the late great Stanley Kubrick, a director whose four compass points were art, intellect, sex, and violence? Kubrick and Spielberg had communicated about A.I. for years, and Kubrick did a treatment based on Brian Aldiss' short story "Super Toys Last All Summer Long." In 1994, Kubrick suggested that perhaps Spielberg should direct it. In an interview, Spielberg said, "I was shocked. I said, 'Why would you want to do that, Stanley?' He just said 'Well, you know, I think this movie is closer to your sensibility than mine.'"

But Spielberg went on to do other things, and Kubrick decided to work on Eyes Wide Shut. After Kubrick died, Spielberg picked up the project. He worked from Kubrick's 90-page treatment, and from hundreds of storyboards and pictures Kubrick did. The resulting movie is not a masterpiece, nor is it an entirely satisfying posthumous collaboration. But the world it proposes is beautifully constructed, and it's probably the only science fiction movie you'll get to see all summer (maybe even all year) that emphasizes science fiction over action, so enjoy.

I don't want to speculate which parts of the movie are Kubrick, and which are Spielberg, but this is the kind of movie you could probably write a hefty book about. Suffice it to say that there was enough of Kubrick in A.I. to make me really miss the old guy. He obviously still had a few good movies left in him, and his death robbed us of his singular vision. With him gone, who's going to take us by the hand and lead us into the dark heart of the wood?

Not Spielberg, that's for sure. He kind of takes us along the edge of the forest, giving us glimpses into what's hiding within. Which is not a bad way of doing things. Kubrick is there. He's there in the android shop in Manhattan that recalls Kubrick's use of mannequins in A Clockwork Orange and Killer's Kiss . He's there in Rouge City; that cross between Oz and Los Vegas, but we see only the glittery surface. Kubrick would have taken us inside. There's a menace to the world, but I don't think that Kubrick would have stooped to break the tension with quite the type of winking comic relief that Spielberg uses. CAMEO SPOILER ALERT. SKIP TO NEXT PARAGRAPH: I found the brief appearance of Chris Rock (as a discarded black stand-up comedian robot?) to be distracting, taking you for a moment out of the movie and throwing you back into the movie theater. I was further horrified when I first heard the voice of Robin Williams, though, to be fair, he reigned in his usual manic tendencies and gave a good performance. And I'm not absolutely sure, but was one of those androids R. Lee Ermey, the drill instructor from Full Metal Jacket?

A word about the performances: excellent, with the exception of Frances O'Connor and Sam Robards, who were merely adequate. It's always good to see William Hurt (Dark City). And Haley Joel Osment is once again stunning, bringing more shade and maturity and nuance to his role than you'd think possible. If only Lucas had cast him as young Anakin Skywalker. Or even Jake Thomas (young Carl Stargher in The Cell), the other talented young actor in A.I. Of course, the true delight of A.I. is Jude Law (Existenz, Gattaca) as Gigolo Joe, the pleasure mecha who's a bit of the Tin Man, Don Juan, Sartre, and Gene Kelley rolled into one.

THIS PARAGRAPH IS ABOUT THE END OF THE MOVIE. DON'T READ IT UNLESS YOU'VE SEEN THE MOVIE.

Why oh why oh why couldn't Spielberg have left David at the bottom of the ocean, staring at the blue fairy? That ending would have been depressing, but so much more preferable to what does happen. Spielberg (or Kubrick, or both) freezes the world, destroys humanity, and has wispy creatures with unbelievable powers excavate the earth, for what? So David can get his wish. But only after contrived mumbo jumbo like, "We can bring your mother back to life, but only for one day." Gag. I'm not sure who to blame for the ending. The thing is, the final minutes of the movie, strangely lit, slow and quiet, are very Kubrickian, very much like 2001: A Space Odyssey. Leave it to some godlike creatures to solve our problems. The ending to A.I. is also very similar to the ending of 2001 in that it's supposed to be transcendent, even triumphant, but it was, instead, creepy - a hollow and artificial victory. I have heard that the movie originally ended differently, but I've been unable to confirm it.

I've been told that watching A.I. a second time gives you a different perspective on the ending. I'm not sure about that, but I will watch it a second time. When it comes out on DVD. Because I have a hunch that the making of the movie is even more fascinating than the movie itself.

-Film/DVD editor Jason Myers' motto is "more human than human."


Film/DVD editor Jason Myers' motto is "more human than human."

 
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  •  
    Kubrick
    Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
    Full Metal Jacket (1987)
    Shining, The (1980)
    Barry Lyndon (1975)
    Clockwork Orange, A (1971)
    2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
    Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
    Lolita (1962)
    Spartacus (1960)
    Paths of Glory (1957)
    Killing, The (1956)
    Killer's Kiss (1955)
    Fear and Desire (1953)
    Seafarers, The (1952)
    Flying Padre (1951)
    Day of the Fight (1951)

    Spielberg
    Minority Report (2002)
    A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
    Unfinished Journey, The (1999)
    Saving Private Ryan (1998)
    Amistad (1997)
    Lost World: Jurassic Park, The (1997)
    Schindler's List (1993)
    Jurassic Park (1993)
    Hook (1991)
    Always (1989)
    Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
    Empire of the Sun (1987)
    Color Purple, The (1985)
    Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
    Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) (second part)
    Poltergeist (1982) (uncredited)
    E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
    Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
    1941 (1979)
    Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
    Jaws (1975)
    Sugarland Express, The (1974)
    Duel (1971) (television)
    Amblin' (1968)
    Firelight (1964)
    Battle Squad (1961)
    Escape to Nowhere (1961)
    Last Gun, The (1959)

     

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