A.I. Artificial Intelligence Review
The marketing campaign for A.I. Artificial Intelligence was ferocious yet inspired. Many small websites were set up to attempt to offer snippets of information to the masses awaiting Spielberg's next project, and these websites were mock sites fabricating real ones from the future. More attention was also devoted to the film through the use of a certain Stanley Kubrick. This was a film that Kubrick wanted to make for a while, or at least a film he wanted to produce; he always intended Steven Spielberg to direct. Common knowledge will tell you that Kubrick never saw his wish granted, as he sadly passed away after his misdirected Eyes Wide Shut was completed. Spielberg however, still rose to the challenge and decided to follow up his epic Saving Private Ryan with a sharp left turn into territory usually reserved for someone like Terry Gilliam or Kubrick himself. Despite all of this, the film received a mere lukewarm reception in the United States. It's probably not incorrect to assume that the combination of a futuristic Pinocchio story directed by Steven Spielberg and starring new child protégé Haley Joel Osmont sent the wrong signals out to the American mass public.
With someone like Spielberg, the expectation is phenomenal. A man who has directed such legendary classics as Jaws, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Schindler's List, Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan to name but a few is surely going to be pressured into delivering better goods each time. Fortunately, A.I. Artificial Intelligence does not let his portfolio of classics down one iota and to say the film is the most competent and quality assured studio release of the year is not exaggerating. It might not have the originality of something such as Moulin Rouge but what it does have is an abundance of thought provoking visuality.
Set far into the future, but not so far as to be completely removed from our society, A.I. Artificial Intelligence tells of a world where the polar icecaps have melted and most major cities are underwater. Parents wishing children need strict licensing before being allowed to conceive. A robotics corporation therefore produces a latest innovation to create a robotic boy that is in terms of appearance and capabilities the same as a human boy, but unlike other mecha-beings, capable of love. One of the scientists working for the corporation is given the first mecha-child to test, due to his son being disabled and in a coma. The mecha-boy, named David (Haley Joel Osmont), soon yearns to be treated like a real boy, using the story of Pinocchio as inspiration and believing that the Blue Fairy will one day turn him into a real boy. As David's integration into his new family hits the obvious teething problems, he is abandoned by his parents and given only his mecha-toy pal Teddy to help him. Told to watch out for Flesh-philes who are against mechanisation of organisms, David and Teddy attempt to search for the Blue Fairy, thus rendering him real and therefore able to return to the family he loves.
Most facets of the plot pose nothing new for cinema. Waterworld told of icecaps melting and Blade Runner dealt with the problems of having a society where the boundaries between organism and mechanism have eroded. However, A.I. Artificial Intelligence places these problems at root level, thus depicting how they affect the everyday family. Visually, the film is absolutely splendid, and the cinematography and production design by long term Spielberg colleagues Janusz Kaminski and Rick Carter are truly top notch. The acting by Osmont and Law is genuinely convincing, although you'd expect nothing less from such young heavyweights. Not since Wilson in Cast Away has their been such a fine supporting role by a non-organism than Teddy, a character that will make you wish such a mecha-toy existed right now. Spielberg's direction takes a newer approach compared to his usual efforts, with homages to Kubrick, Gilliam and even some of his earlier work in his flawless direction that never makes the two and a half hour running time long.
Some will criticise the 'over-sentimental' aspects of the film, although that term is debatable. The film certainly is more suited to Spielberg than Kubrick, just as a film like E.T. The Extra Terrestrial would obviously have been. Ironically, there is a sequence showing near-ruined Manhattan in the film, but one of the monuments still standing is by a cruel twist of fate the World Trade Centre. The incidents of recent weeks, coupled with the ideas presented in A.I.'s conclusion (which will not be spoiled here) if anything serve to suggest an added worry with regards to man's safety in the twenty first century and beyond. This all may be, but it's hard to find a greater exercise in film making in 2001 than A.I. Artificial Intelligence.