A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001)
I remember so well when this movie was released. I was 10-years-old, and i wanted sooo badly to see it – but due to its PG-13 rating my mom wouldn’t let me. I got over it. I’m glad, now, that I didn’t see it then because when I finally was able to, I could appreciate it. At 10-years I already loved movies and knew all about Steven Spielberg; E.T., Close Encounters, Jaws, & Jurrasic Park were favorites from my childhood. I did not, however, know who Stanley Kubrick was (pretty sure that name came along when I was 12 or 13). This began as Kubrick’s project and you can see his prints all over it.
Sometime in the future, where the world is starting to freeze over and couples must obtain a license to have children, technology has advanced so much that man can create life. Artificial intelligence (robots) are hardly distinguishable from human beings. Scientist Allan Hobby (William Hurt) wants to take it a step further: What if we could create a Robot that could love. Not physical lust but love like a child would care for his mother.
And so David was created (Haley Joel Osment). Monica (Frances O’Connor) and Henry (Sam Robards) Swintons – whose child is being held in cryostasis until a cure is found for his disease – decide to test out this new product. (Yeah, I totally stole that from IMDb. But I didn’t really know what the kid’s problem was. So sue me). Henry brings him home and Monica is initially furious. No “mecha” could replace her own physical child. Trial period ensues. Should they choose to keep David, they must perform an irreversable imprint ritual. Monica spends time with David and they begin to bond. She decides to do the imprint thing (sadly, this now makes me think of Breaking Dawn…) and David is now in for good. The transformation is instant – Monica is now Mommy and David wants nothing but to make her happy.
Problems arrive when their “real” son, Martin (Jake Thomas) recovers and comes home. Suddenly David’s got competition. Suddenly “Daddy” has changed his mind about the entire ordeal. Suddenly David is getting in trouble and doesn’t know how to get mommy’s love anymore. David cuts a lock off Monica’s hair to gain her love but is falsely accused of sinister motives. Things get worse when he’s found holding Martin at the bottom of a pool… but only because he was frightened seconds earlier and wanted protection. Monica (sob sob sob) can’t take it anymore, David’s gotta go.
So what does she do? She drops him in the middle of the woods with nothing but a smart Teddy, some money, and a dismal parting message: “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about the world.” WTF? He may be artificial, but he’s still a kid. All he can figure is that his mother must not love him because he isn’t real like Martin. He decides to search for the Blue Fairy so that he can become a real boy like Pinnochio.
Part two, the story takes a turn and we are introduced to (though we don’t thoroughly explore) this “world.” Mecha exist everywhere, but humans resent their presence. “Flesh Fairs” are held to destroy and publicly ridicule mecha, led by Lord Johnson-Johnson (Brendan Gleeson). Human nature hasn’t degraded far enough for them to ridicule an 8-year-old boy, however, when David is under display.
David still searches for the Blue Fairy, still accompanied by Teddy and newly accompanied by Gigolo Joe – Hey Joe what do you know? (Jude Law). He is led (guided by Dr. Know (Robin Williams)) to an underwater Manhattan.
The end to this film is an end for discussion, and I must admit I have a few issues with it myself.
David is reunited with Dr. Hobby, creator. We learn that David is the new frontier. Soon he will be available to anyone who wants a child that can love. Suddeny, though, David leaves. Hey Joe what do you know is taken by the police. David finds the remains of a Pinnochio exhibit on an underwater Coney Island. David and Teddy stay in the helicopter thing for, wait for it, two thousand years praying to the Blue Fairy. After those two thousand years – the Mecha of the future and some sort of real Blue Fairy (Meryl Streep) find David and are able to reunite him with his mother for a day only. The film ends after a perfect day spent with Monica.
I’m not in the habit of writing an entire synopsis for a simple review, that’s not my thing. But I’ve been thinking about this movie so much that it helps me to sort it all out. I’m even having difficulty throwing in sarcastic comments, made-up words and dumb jokes I’m thinking about this so hard. Allow me to interject now with a big WTfreakingF??? Like, seriously. I don’t even know what to think. But now that I’ve gotten this out of my system, thanks for listening to that really boring summary instead of our usual review format. I feel much better now, folks. Anyway, there are the little things that bug me… for example though I liked Jude Law’s character I found the sexual innuendos unnecessary. It gave an interesting perspective to David’s unique ability to truly love, but in the end it contributed nothing. I also wonder what the point is of owning a perpetual 8-year-old. But those are small things.
Many complain about the end. Many are convinced that Spielberg took this film a completely different direction than was the intention of Kubrick. (Spielberg has been quoted to say that this is false, Kubrick’s intentions were met in the finished product. Apparently). Granted, I had a WTF moment myself and it took two viewings to really place it but seeing as mecha cannot become human, this is sci-fi not fantasy, I found the ending appropriate. David found closure. His wish essentially came true. He was able to spend a perfect day with his mother and do the things he wanted to. Who knows what his future holds – he is one of a kind, now.
My issue concerns the almost-end. Apparently he was led to Manhattan as part of a plan. Apparently he was special. Apparently the fellow scientists (including Miles from Lost!) were dying to meet him. He was made in the image of Doctor Hobby’s son for crying out loud! Yet…. nothing else happens? David… gets left? Did they search for him? What would have happened next? Now do their Davids and Darlenes get shipped to the world? We are led to this moment and nothing happens. That threw me. And really bothers me.
My admiration for this film outweighs my contempt for its faults, and although I was thrown by the ending it adds to my appreciation. Though I love Spielberg and Sci-Fi always – the selling point is Haley Joel Osment. He may be the very best child actor to have passed through cinema, and yeah I’m being serious. It’s not easy for an adult to correctly display artificial emotions, yet he does it without a single misstep. His eyes tell the story. His performance could not be duplicated. If anything, the film is worth it for him.
It is unique. It is fascinating. I was invested every second. As with all works of art, it’s now left to interpretation, so do what you will with the ending. I, however, highly recommend the film. It must have been worth it if I’m already eager to watch it again. 🙂 8/10
On a side note – I want a Teddy. That’s my kind of companion!