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A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) (PG-13)
Warner Brothers
Official Site
Director: Steven Spielberg
Producer: Kathleen Kennedy, Jan Harlan, Steven Spielberg
Written by: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Haley Joel Osment, Frances O'Connor, Jude Law, William Hurt

Rating: out of 5

Once upon a time there was a man named Stanley Kubrick. This man had a vision to make a movie based on a short story named Super-Toys Last All Summer Long. In a sad twist of fate, he passed away before beginning work on this project. Legend has it that he had a wonderful friend named Steven, who would bring this idea to life. Unfortunately, this is where the vision gets a little blurry.

From the trailer, the actual plot of A.I. is a little hard to discern. It was clear it had something to do with Steven Spielberg (1st instant appeal factor). It had something to do with a Pinocchio-esque robot boy who wants to be real (2nd instant appeal factor) and Spielberg was merely seeing through the vision of Stanley Kubrick, one of the most intriguing filmmakers of the last 30 years (3rd instant appeal factor). What wonders would a collaboration between such masters of film present to the audience?

The truth is A.I. is a stark contrast from the trailer's assertions. It is a dark, at times downright creepy movie. If you are expecting a heart-warming ET-esque romp, this is not the film for you. A.I. follows the struggle of David; a robot programmed to love his mother Monica (O'Connor). Luck isn't on David's side when Monica's son Martin wakes up from his coma and returns home, leaving no room in the house for the little robot-boy. For the remainder of the movie, David treks around attempting to become a real boy so his mother will love him again.

A.I. is visually awe-inspiring. It thrusts the audience into a variety of almost virtual-reality-like futuristic worlds, full of color and vibrant atmospheres, a testament to Spielberg's imagination. As David enters Rouge City, it feels like one is witnessing the unfolding of a movie that will become embedded in cinematic history. For all its innovation, it is A.I.'s lack of substance which makes it place on future AFI lists highly questionable.

One cannot deny that A.I. is helped by the wealth of acting talent it displays. Osment is wonderful as the bewildered David and equally engaging performances are given by Jude Law as the charismatic Gigolo Joe and William Hurt as robot creator Dr. Hobby. It is Frances O'Connor who provides the greatest disappointment and creates a serious doubt as to the believability of the story's main conflict. O'Connor plays David's mother who, by all accounts, is not particularly thrilled about having a new addition to her family and when faced with the choice, it seems she has few qualms about throwing David out. So why would David spend the rest of the movie trying to prove his love for a woman who obviously cares so little for him? Is it because he is programmed to do so? Hard-wiring hardly seems like adequate motivation and this is where the emotional appeal of A.I. falls flat.

Another of A.I. biggest flaws is the lack of focus on its themes. There are issues of love, in particular how David's unquestioning love is received by his human family, but Spielberg also introduces a conflict between the Mechas [robots] and humans. It then becomes an issue of outsiders versus insiders, but this is hardly explored during the film. There is also a strange incident involving Gigolo Joe and a dead woman which is never explained.

There is no doubt that A.I. gives glimpses of pure genius, especially the eerie nature of Davids personal conflict and the visual journey his spiraling alienation takes. There are also times when the movie provides comedic treasures, especially in the form of the absurd Snuggle-Bear, Teddy, a soft-toy manifestation of David's conscience. Even with little screen time, Jude Law is brilliant as the quirky robot-prostitute. His portrayal is perfect, even down to the minutest mechanical mannerisms.

It is hard to give A.I. a fair assessment as it is the kind of movie that begs at least a second viewing, if not third or seventh to truly do justice to its complexity. It seems more like a work in progress than a final product and maybe 10 years from now, when the special edition DVD comes out, the feeling of completion it lacks will be resolved. Until then, A.I. feels like a movie which was directed for the first two hours by Stanley Kubrick, then handed off to Spielberg who made a touchy-feely last half an hour with little regard for the tone his friend tried to create.

When it comes to collaborations with the deceased, Spielberg should have taken note of Nat "King" and Natalie Cole's success and made sure he was in tune with Kubrick's aspirations. Maybe then A.I. would have truly been unforgettable.

óPriti Ubhayakar

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