A.I.


Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by:Steven Spielberg
Starring: Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O’Connor, Sam Robards, Jake Thomas, William Hurt
Released: September 13, 2001
Grade: A

A chilling yet coercing vision of the future.  A long time project of the late Stanley Kubrick, A.I. began several years ago when he shot brief scenes with young actor Joseph Mazello.  Whispers from the inside leaked word that Kubrick was secretly developing a grand masterpiece.  But when Kubrick died in 1999 just prior to the release of his final film, Eyes Wide Shut, little more was heard of the myth that was A.I..

Steven Spielberg was a long time friend of Kubrick and as a personal tribute to the legend, developed a screenplay from Stanley’s notes and took residence in the director’s chair for the first time since Saving Private Ryan.  Now showing in theatres, it’s clear that Kubrick’s influence has induced a departure from Spielberg’s commercial style.  The film is better for it.

A.I. offers a cold perception of the world in the “not to distant future”.  The polar ice caps have melted and many of the world’s great cities lie undisturbed beneath the ocean.  As expected, robot technology has advanced to incredibly precise levels with Professor Hobby (Hurt) an industry leader.  Robots (known as mechas) have become an integral part of life but their increased numbers and unlimited lifespan have many “organic” humans resenting their presence.

Hobby wants to take evolution a step further and develops a robot child that can “love”.  The prototype is placed in the home of company employee Henry (Robards) and his wife Monica (O’Connor) who still mourn following the loss of their own son five years ago.  Deciding to activate the mecha’s irreversible love capability, the robot is named David (Osment) and the line that separates fiction from reality has been crossed.

They soon learn that when you create a mecha with the ability to love you have also created a mecha with the ability to feel jealous, to feel threatened and to feel hate.  Monica and Henry reluctantly understand that David’s flaws will never allow him to fit in but faced with the alternative of returning him to Professor Hobby for destruction, they take him far from the home and leave him independent to make a life of his own.  Failing to compute the thought of being without his parents, David hears the story of Pinocchio and believes that if he can find the blue fairy, he will become a real boy and his mother will love and accept him again.

A film with the depth of A.I. is rarely witnessed.  It does not chastise the creation of robots nor spoon feed us the ethical clichés of “playing god”.  The film looks at the robots themselves and the aftermath in providing them with the ability to love and feel.  I hope audiences value Spielberg’s eerie conclusion in his view of the world 2000 years into the future.

A.I. is also an extremely dark film.  Compelling, strangely hypnotic and filled with dazzling imagery of a new world.  The soft music, simple story and minimal dialogue allow the actors’ simple movements and expressions to become the film’s most appreciable asset.  Haley Joel Osment’s performance is stunning.  We all remember him from The Sixth Sense and his subsequent Academy Award nomination but his dominating presence defies that fact he’s still just 13 years old.

The unconventional style and preconceived expectations will leave many unsatisfied but Spielberg has sacrificed his usual methods to help develop the future of cinema.  Change is difficult to accept but one day A.I. will find its place and will be truly appreciated.  Take the next step in evolution.