A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
Review by Michael Jacobson
Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O’Connor, Brendan Gleeson, Sam
Robards, William Hurt
Director: Steven Spielberg
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 145 Minutes
Release Date: March 5, 2002
a boy. My name is David.”
a scene in the movie D.A.R.Y.L. where a child robot is deemed expendable
by his creators, and one particularly hard-nosed scientist surprisingly helps it
escape. When asked why, she
responds, “A machine starts being human when you can’t tell the difference
Artificial Intelligence goes even further, posing the question quite literally:
what responsibility do WE owe to a robot that truly loves us?
A difficult question, because the concept of a machine that loves is
beyond all reasonable logic. Director
and screenwriter Steven Spielberg, however, has asked himself that question, and
makes it clear what his answer is by giving his main character the most
implausible and inexcusable ending out of no other reason than kindness.
I’m getting ahead of myself. A.I.
was initially the brainchild of legendary director Stanley Kubrick, who
developed it from a short story entitled “Supertoys Last All Summer Long” by
Brian Aldiss as early as 1984. From
then until the ending of his life in 1999, he shared his creative vision with
Spielberg, even going so far as to suggest that Steven direct it himself.
long delay in realization was more than just Kubrick’s usual methodical pacing
and penchant for perfectionism. Believing
no child actor could fulfill the demands of the role he envisioned, he prepped
his story while waiting for technology to catch up with his vision.
While he would not live to see Final Fantasy and the first
amazingly convincing artificially created people, a young boy would burst onto
the cinema scene in the meantime by making the world believe he saw dead people,
and the rest would be history.
boy was, of course, Haley Joel Osment, and there has seldom been a better on
screen match than his bona fide talent and the tricky role of David.
David is the future’s answer to parenting, after the polar caps have
melted, our coasts have disappeared, our living space has shrunk, and
pregnancies have become regulated by the government.
is a mecha, or an artificial person, but he is also the first major breakthrough
after artificial intelligence. Call
it artificial emotion, if you will…and if you can tell the difference.
David is meant to take his place amongst a real family.
If the family accepts him, they claim him by saying a seven-word coded
sequence. This makes David
“love” his family for all eternity. It
cannot be switched off…it only ends with his destruction.
comes to the family of Henry and Monica Swinton (Robards and O’Connor), whose
real child has been in a coma for sometime.
Monica’s reaction to David is about what you might expect…distant,
and maybe even a little fearful. David
wanders through his new home with open eyes and a childlike curiosity.
His manner is sweet, but despite his convincing looks and movements,
there something unreal about him that makes his new family uncomfortable.
Monica warms to David, she eventually programs him with the code, but things
turn complicated when her real child awakens.
Unfortunate events follow, and she decides to abandon David in the woods,
in one of the most heartbreaking scenes in recent memory.
adventure through the world begins there. Familiar
with the story of Pinocchio and thinking if he too can become a real boy,
he’ll win his mother’s love, he sets out into a surreal futuristic landscape
with a supertoy teddy bear. He makes a friend out of another mecha, a love-machine named
Gigolo Joe (Law), who decides to help David on his impossible quest.
film has many stunning sequences, beginning with a “Flesh Fair” scene that
is as horrific as anything that took place in the Roman Coliseum in years past,
and all about humans trying to reclaim their superiority from their creations.
We see an amazing futuristic landscape in Rouge City, and best of all, we
see what happened to our once proud coastlines after the polar caps
melted…these are some of the most astonishing visuals of recent memory.
at the heart of it all is Osment, as David, whose performance is so real and
truthful every step of the way, we feel for him like a little boy even though we
always believe him to be a sophisticated machine.
complaint, however, is that the ending is purely Spielberg, and it disrupts
everything about the picture that was Kubrick.
I’ll not give anything away, but treading carefully, I would simply
like to say there is one point where the story could have concluded and A.I. would
have been a four star film. But it
goes on to something that not only feels like a cheat, it feels like a cheat
Spielberg lifted off of another one of his own films!
decision, therefore, was that he was responsible for his robot that knew
how to love. Kubrick would have
never forgotten that no machine could ever really love past our own ability to
project love into it. A.I. could
have been one of the landmark films of this early century; instead, it is merely
is generally a quality anamorphic presentation from Dreamworks (a full frame DVD
is also available; you don’t need it). Given
the tremendous amount of backlighting used by cinematographer Janusz Kaminski,
the high contrast film stock sometimes reveals a little more grain than you’re
used to seeing. I saw this movie in
the theatre and it was there, too…not distracting, but noticeable.
Occasionally, there are some darker sequences that lose a bit of
definition and seem a little softer; others are much more well-defined, with
sharper images and better lines. Coloring
is very good throughout, though. Keep
in mind that the ending sequence has a bit of a deliberately unreal, muted look
to it…this is intentional, and not a transfer flaw.
Overall, a good effort.
have a choice of Dolby Digital or DTS 5.1 soundtracks here…either way, the
listening experience is quality. Most
of the front and rear stage effects are for overall ambience, with only
infrequent uses of true crossover effects, but you notice both stages open
throughout the picture, and the way the sound is constructed is appropriate and
tasteful. John Williams’ terrific
score sounds great, too. Dynamic
range is moderately good, but there were some moments where I thought it could
have reached back for some extra power…minor complaint.
commentary track is missing here…that being said, this double disc
offering boasts a nice extras package. With
the exception of a 12 minute featurette on Disc One, the other features are all
on the second disc, and they are mostly broken up by subject matter (to put all
of the information into a single documentary film would have resulted in far too
long a film). There are interviews
with Osment and Law, and several detailed looks at the film’s design, special
effects, sound, music, and more, including a look at Stan Winston’s creatures,
interviews with the team from Industrial Light and Magic, John Williams,
producer and Kubrick friend Jan Harlan, and more.
is also an archives section that features two trailers (both horrible, in my
opinion), storyboards, sketches, production photos, notes, talent files, and
more. Finally, there is a brief
conclusion offered by Spielberg as the DVD credits roll.
Not a bad offering!