|Pick of the Week:|
Reviewed by Ivana Redwine
Tagline: "David is 11 years old. He weighs 60 pounds. He is 4 feet, 6 inches tall. He has brown hair. His love is real. But he is not."
Length: 145 minutes
It's difficult to watch a Steven Spielberg film that's rated PG-13 and not have certain expectations, but I think the way to get the most out of "A.I. Artificial Intelligence" is to put your preconceived notions on hold. I missed "A.I." during its theatrical release, and when I watched it at home recently on DVD, I was a little taken aback on my first pass through at how dark and provocative it is. I felt so uneasy during my first viewing of "A.I." that I wasn't fully drawn in until my second pass at it. I'm still finding it hard to grasp all the implications of the film, and I'm disappointed that although the DVD comes packaged as a two-disc set, almost no materials are provided to assist the viewer in interpreting the movie. It would have been particularly helpful if writer-director Spielberg had recorded an audio commentary track for the DVD, but there is no audio commentary track at all.
"A.I." is set in the northeastern United States at some unspecified time in the future when global climate shifts and technological advances have changed the world. The coastal cities are under water, but there are still inland pockets of prosperity where relatively small enclaves of humans are served by large numbers of sophisticated robots. To conserve resources, citizens are prohibited by law from having a child without first obtaining a government permit that can be hard to come by. These conditions give rise to the development of David (Haley Joel Osment), the first robot who can give unconditional love. Then David, who looks and acts almostbut not quitelike a real boy, is placed in the home of Monica (Frances O'Connor) and Henry (Sam Robards) to serve as a surrogate son. But Monica and Henry already have a son named Martin, and when the robot boy David almost drowns the real boy Martin, Monica takes David out into the country and abandons him. This first part of the film takes up about 55 minutes, and I have to admit I find it to be slow-moving and sometimes boring.
The part of the film that I really like a lot is the hour-long footage following David's abandonment by the woman he has come to consider his mother. Since Monica has read "Pinocchio" to David, the robot boy has come to believe that, like the wooden puppet in the story, he can become a real live boy with the help of the Blue Fairy. Thus David sets out to find the Blue Fairy and soon teams up with a robot named Gigolo Joe (Jude Law) who is on the lam after being framed for murder. David and Joe have some fascinating adventures during this hour of the film, including getting caught up in a Flesh Fair, which is an arena event where robots are ritualistically destroyed for the amusement of crowds of screaming humans.
The last 24 minutes of the movie takes place some 2000 years later, at a time when the human race has become extinct. I won't spoil things for those who haven't yet seen "A.I." by describing any more about this part of the film, except to say that it is extremely provocative and sure to generate discussion among thoughtful viewers.
The film demands a lot of the child actor who plays the protagonist David, and I think Haley Joel Osment is absolutely terrific as the robot boy. I also liked Jude Law's performance in the supporting role of Gigolo Joe, a robot designed for pleasuring women. The movie also offers many stunning visual moments. One of my favorites is the approach to a garish place called Rouge City, where vehicles enter through portals made to look like the mouths of huge female heads. There's also some impressive footage of New York City where, except for the upper floors of some skyscrapers, everything is under water. But what I like best about "A.I." is the way it raises nettlesome questions about what it means to be human.
The two-disc DVD set comes with many bonus materials, and I've listed them below. I liked "Creating A.I.," which describes how the project was originally conceived by Stanley Kubrick around 1984 and gradually turned over to Spielberg. I also enjoyed the feature in "Acting A.I." where Haley Joel Osment talks about his work on the movie: What an impressive young man he is! And there are other good features as well, with perhaps "Robots of A.I." being among the best of the rest. But be advised: The bonus materials focus on technical details, and there's nothing on the DVDs that helps much in interpreting the meaning of the film. There are also no materials that draw out the parallels between the Pinocchio story and David's story. And finally, there's nothing about the short story "Supertoys Last All Summer Long" by Brian Aldiss on which the movie is based.
Selected Special Features on the DVDs:
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