AI: Artificial Intelligence
History will place an asterisk next to A.I. as the film Stanley Kubrick might have directed. But let the record also show that Kubrick—after developing this project for some 15 years—wanted Steven Spielberg to helm this astonishing sci-fi rendition of Pinocchio, claiming (with good reason) that it veered closer to Spielberg’s kinder, gentler sensibilities. Spielberg inherited the project (based on the Brian Aldiss short story “Supertoys Last All Summer Long”) after Kubrick’s death in 1999, and the result is an astounding directorial hybrid. A…
History will place an asterisk next to A.I. as the film Stanley Kubrick might have directed. But let the record also show that Kubrick—after developing this project for some 15 years—wanted Steven Spielberg to helm this astonishing sci-fi rendition of Pinocchio, claiming (with good reason) that it veered closer to Spielberg’s kinder, gentler sensibilities. Spielberg inherited the project (based on the Brian Aldiss short story “Supertoys Last All Summer Long”) after Kubrick’s death in 1999, and the result is an astounding directorial hybrid. A flawed masterpiece of sorts, in which Spielberg’s gift for wondrous enchantment often clashes (and sometimes melds) with Kubrick’s harsher vision of humanity, the 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.
Echoes of Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun are clearly heard as 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 propels A.I. into even deeper realms of wonder, even as it pulls Spielberg back to his comfort zone of sweetness and soothing sentiment. Some may lament the diffusion of Kubrick’s original vision, but this is Spielberg’s A.I. (complete with one of John Williams’s finest scores), a film of astonishing technical wizardry that spans the spectrum of human emotions and offers just enough Kubrick to suggest that humanity’s future is anything but guaranteed. —Jeff Shannon
Barnes and Noble
As is often the case with science fiction, Steven Spielberg’s futuristic drama is concerned with simple if profound questions. In this case, Spielberg seems to ask, “What is love?”—and follows up with an even larger issue in a world where artificial life comes closer to reality each day, “Is human love uniquely unlimited?” Whether or not the master filmmaker answers these questions to every viewer’s satisfaction, there’s no denying that his effort achieves heartrending poignancy. Haley Joel Osment, the young sensation of The Sixth Sense, is deeply affecting as “David,” a technically sophisticated “mecha” (robot) companion programmed to look, think, and even feel like an 11-year-old boy. David’s circuitry is so advanced that he actually believes he loves his adoptive mother (beautifully played by Frances O’Connor), who tries hard to reciprocate but eventually realizes that she can’t. This presages a centuries-long odyssey for the indestructible David, cast out of the only home he’s ever known and determined to some day secure the love he so inexplicably craves. Based on a short story by Brian Aldiss, originally developed for the screen under the auspices of Stanley Kubrick, A.I. was brought to fruition by Spielberg, whose uncharacteristically stately direction suggests Kubrick far more than it does the man who gave us Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Saving Private Ryan. Modernistic sets, gadgetry, and special effects are skillfully employed to sustain the illusion of a not-too-distant future, but the core of A.I. is pure emotion. The deeply affecting performances of Osment and O’Connor are supplemented with memorable supporting turns by Jude Law (as a robotic gigolo) and William Hurt (a visionary scientist). At various points this movie will bemuse, confuse, and perhaps even outrage you—but it will evoke feelings so powerful that you’ll want to revisit it over and over again. The DVD offers two making-of documentaries featuring interviews with Spielberg, Osment, and Law. Additionally, there are three segments devoted to specific aspects of production, including a visit to the special-effects studios of Stan Winston and George Lucas’s Industrial Light and Magic. Multiple trailers, storyboards, and hundreds of photographs round out this highly collectable package. Ed Hulse
Packed with Big Ideas about the future of mankind and dispatched with a distant, often icy veneer, Steven Spielberg’s Artificial Intelligence can scarcely camouflage its roots. It was begun by the late Stanley Kubrick in the mid-’80s; Spielberg collaborated briefly a decade later, bowed out, then inherited it upon Kubrick’s death in ‘99. And while the late auteur’s cold vision seems largely intact (if now infused with Spielberg’s enduring Pinocchio fetish), it’s safe to say that Kubrick’s often challenging musical tastes would probably not have led him to…