This was the summer movie that I was most looking forward
to. The trailers looked good and the plot sounded interesting. So
I went in with high expectations. I know this is a recipe for disappointment
but even taking that into account, A.I. was not good. Actually, I
walked out of the theatre stunned because it wasn't just bad. It
was bizarre. After a fairly promising beginning, this film enters
a death spiral that only becomes steeper as time goes on. And time
moves slowly. This film feels every bit as long as its 2 1/2 hour running
time. The plot of A.I. is Blade
Runner-lite. We are in a future not quite so dark. It doesn't
rain as much. The economy is better. But the environment is still
a disaster. Global warming has melted the ice caps flooding New York and
many other cities. And, of course, there's lots of robots. At least,
we find that out later because, strangely, we see only one robot in the
beginning of the film and life in the future doesn't seem to have much
new technology aside from cars with 3 wheels and a high-tech teddy bear
who looks and acts a lot like an Ewok. A.I. begins with the
head of a big robot-making company (William Hurt) giving his vision of
a new kind of robot, one that can love. One of his employees asks
him whether even if they can produce a robot who loves humans, humans will
be able to love it back. This is foreshadowing with a sledgehammer.
And everything in this film is driven home with similar force in
case the audience is too dim to perceive the important issues being dealt
with. Without any further ado, beyond a subtitle telling us that 20 months
have passed, we are introduced to the finished product, a robot boy named
David (Haley Joel Osment). He is sent to live with a couple (Frances
O'Connor and Sam Robards) whose young terminally ill son has been frozen
in a cryogenic facility. The mother takes to David but the father
thinks he is spooky, and before we know it, the other son has been cured
and is home making life for David a living hell. Soon his foster
parents think better of the arrangement and want to get rid of David. I
don't want to give too much away but David is soon on the run with some
other robots including a "love" robot (Jude Law). David's "mother"
had read him the story of Pinocchio
and he feels that if he can only just find the blue fairy, he will be turned
into a real boy and his mother will take him back. This where things
start to go downhill fast as David proceeds on his mission to find the
fairy. Osment was so amazing as the boy in Sixth
Sense but this role is much harder and he is less successful with it.
He's a little too earnest in A.I. The rest of the cast come and
go. William Hurt is good but gets only a tiny amount of screen time.
The movie is most successful in the early scenes with his foster family.
Afterward, he spends most of his time with Law who is a kind of one joke
comedy character and he seems to bond most with his teddy bear. I
am the kind of guy who cries at the movies. I even cry at Spielberg movies
like when Richard Dreyfuss builds his mashed potato mountain in Close
Encounters of the Third Kind or at the end of ET.
But I was dry eyed about David and his attempts to be a real boy.
In fact, Rutger Hauer in Blade
Runner and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator
2 do better jobs of showing the bitter gulf between humans and robots.
I hoped after trudging through the endless search for the blue fairy that
we would find some redemption in the end but instead we get a series of
out-takes from Mad Max Beyond
and Close Encounters of the
Third Kind spliced together. After you watch the last bit you
may wonder if Spielberg was having some bad acid flashbacks. Part
of the problem may be that this film was originally developed by Stanley
Kubrick and was taken over by Spielberg when Kubrick died. I saw
Spielberg interviewed and he said he tried to be true to Kubrick's vision
and his own at the same time. This may have been too much even for
Spielberg to accomplish. The New York Times calls A.I. disturbing
and complex. I was disturbed and perplexed.