Artificial Intelligence: A.I. - movie review (July 11, 2001)
I finally got to see the film on Sunday, and while my feelings aren't as strong as those of others I've read, I was very disappointed in this film. I'm a big Spielberg fan and have seen almost everything he's made (haven't gotten around to seeing "1941"). Even with what I consider his mis-steps ("Hook", "Always", "Empire of the Sun"), there were things about them that I liked, but "A.I." just really left me cold.
Probably more than anything else, Spielberg's name was what made me go see this movie. I'm not sure I would have gone otherwise, given the trailers I'd seen. The only other thing that would probably have gotten me to go was if Kubrick had directly this picture.
Since the journey is really David's, the film didn't work for me because I never connected with David. He never became more than a machine to me, so I didn't care what he was searching for or whether he'd find it. I spent some time wondering if I was just unable to connect with a "machine", but I had absolutely no trouble completely empathizing (is that a word?) with Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, or even the exo-comps from one of the TNG episodes (for those of you who know the reference). I didn't think there was enough time building the relationship between David and Monica, and even during all that, she still referred to him more or less as a machine - sure, her machine son, but I don't think she ever treated him like her real son. And all the while, David referred to Monica's husband as "Henry", not Dad, and Henry never considered David anything more than a machine either. With no one else treating him like anything more than a machine, it's no wonder I had trouble making that connection myself.
The scene in the forest was very sad, and it would have been heartbreaking to me - if I could have accepted that he was feeling those emotions and not just acting out some very advanced programming. I'm usually very susceptible to tears in sad scenes, but I wasn't close to tears once during this film.
I thought Haley Joel Osment was very good in this role, but again, I never made the leap that his character wasn't just a machine. I've heard lots of over-the-top praise for him, but I have to say that I think Elijah Wood showed the same promise at the same age as does Osment.
I would have dearly loved to have seen Kubrick's actual take on this, although I've heard recently that at the time of his death, he had only intended to continue being a consultant to Spielberg and not to direct the film itself. I also think the story of a world where robots are at once accepted and reviled is an interesting one, but Isaac Asimov's whole series of Robot stories has already covered that topic at great length.
There were people in the theatre that I could hear in tears by the end of the film, but as I mentioned, the film really did nothing for me.
One question I had was about the man at the Flesh Faire who basically ended up saving David. I couldn't tell if his daughter a machine as well. He had that flashlight thing that could see through the outer shell, and when it accidentally flashed on his daughter and Teddy (unbeknownst to him), it looked like she had the same composition as Teddy and David.
For me, the most telling thing about the film is that the most interesting thing I found was Teddy. Not only did I want one, but I thought it had great character and understanding, and I understood and connected with Teddy much more than I ever did with David.
There has been a great deal of discussion about the beings at the end, and as for me, I thought they were aliens and it never occurred to me that they were any form of mecca. They sure as heck looked like a lot of "aliens" that I've seen in other films. I understand that an affiliated filmmaker stated the intent of the beings and an earlier version might have been more explicit, but I'm not convinced that the finished product bears out that same intent.
I later was able to read the original source material on which this film is based, and because of the way the short story is presented, I connected with and felt for David in that small amount of time in a way that I could not with David during the entire length of the film. I highly recommend reading the original short story entitled "Supertoys Last All Summer Long" by Brian Aldiss.
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