April 1, 2006
Artificial Intelligence: AI
Movie Review By: SFAM
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Brian Aldiss, Ian Watson & Steven Spielberg
Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Very High
Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High
Key Cast Members:
Overview: Originally convieved of by Stanley Kubrick, Spielberg took the reigns of this wonderful Pinocchio tale done in cyberpunk. This story is about a robot who wants to be a “real boy” so that his mother will really love him. Like Pinocchio, he goes on a journey of discovery. Although there are a few over-the-top scenes, the FX is awesome and the acting is wonderful. AI definitely inspires discussion if nothing else.
The Story: Set in a near future where global warming has led flooding of all the coasts, and a general breakdown has occurred in many parts of the world. Robots, called Mechas, are common in society now, and perform a variety of functions. Unfortunatley, there is widespread public outcry against their very existence. The focus is on a single family, where a mother has essentially lost her son, who now hangs on to life in cryogenic freeze. Her husband convinces her to get a new model mecha to replace their son – this one becomes hard-wired to its owner and experiences real love and emotion. After accepting their new mecha, a child named David, the family’s life seems complete – until their real son miraculously recovers from his illness.
Their real son feels threatened by David, and after a sequence of incidents, David’s mother is forced to send David back to his maker for destruction. But while driving him to his death, she cannot bring herself to follow through, and instead sets him free. In a traumatic breakup, David’s mother warns him of the dangers of the outside world before leaving him alone with just his Teddy toy. David, having been read Pinocchio, decides that if he can find the Blue Fairy, he can convince her to turn him into a “real boy.” Along the way, he encounters Gigilo Joe, who helps him on his journey.
The Acting: The acting in AI is consistently terrific. Haley Joel Osment puts in a performance you’d never expect to see from an actor so young. He is utterly believable both as a mecha, and as his journey proceeds, seemingly transforms into a regular acting boy. Jude Law puts in a terrific performance as Gigilo Joe – one that almost transcends the movie itself as a memorable character. Frances O’Connor also delivers a fine performance as David’s mother, as does William Hurt as David’s inventor.
The FX: The visual effects in AI are still among the best that’s ever been put on film. The mechas (robots) look incredibly real – far more real than should be possible. There are many different kinds of mechas, many of which are represented here, but none are better than the Nanny. She is breathtaking. The entire front-end of the movie gives us a very normal set of surroundings. Other than the cars, and minor mecha parts, we aren’t dazzled by the upfront effects. This makes the second half all the more impressive. When David goes outside, things change dramatically. From the robots, to the city-scapes to the destroyed New York, this AI is a visual feast. To top it off, the Teddy Bear is maybe my favorite robot character of all movies.
The Score: John Williams is as awesome as ever in creating the score for AI. He is able to capture the feeling of the dregs of humanity along with an almost heavenly sense of love and contentment. The score really brings the movie together in places that with something lessor it might not have worked.
Kubrick versus Spielberg: AI is a strange movie in that it encapsulates a harsh Kubrick-style future while at the same time has a story that lends itself to Spielberg’s Capra-like tendency for the emotional mushiness. In watching AI, rarely do the two tendencies meet up well. We either have the dystopic craziness of the Flesh Fair or the serenity of the beginning. We also see dramatic changes in pacing. In some parts, we have a very slow, deliberate movie, whereas in others, it seemingly breezes past key scenes.
Some thoughts on the ending: Many folks who generally like the movie end up hating the ending. I don’t have this issue - in fact I like the ending, but I do understand the sentiment. The ending really does drop into a completely different movie altogether. In effect, it becomes the fairy tale that David pursues the entire movie. But because I KNOW the ending engenders discussion, I am concerned about spoilers in the comments below. PLEASE don’t post spoiler thoughts - if you do, your comment will be deleted. Instead, I’ve created a thread in the meatspace to discuss the ending of AI.
The Bottom Line: AI is a visual feast of dystopia and human morals run amok. As the same time, it’s a beautiful love story about the best of humanity. Many have issues with the ending, although, it works fine for me. While the actions in the Flesh Fair are bit outside believability, overall, the story is very well done. The CG is among the best ever on film (check out page 2 below if you want to see more screencaps). It doesn’t serve to astonish us, but instead, attempts to integrated seemlessly into the film. The acting is terrific, especially from Haley Joel Osment (David the robot boy) and Jude Law (Gigolo Joe). On top of this, we get a very interesting portrayal of a future with sentient robots who do not have any rights. One can almost see the Animatrix’s Rennaissance occurring shortly afterwards.