Friday, May 14, 2010

Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001)

It's the Wizard of Oz with just the tin man.

When I saw Artificial Intelligence: AI in 2001, I thought it was an admirable effort. Little did I know how young and innocent I really was. For most movie goers, a team effort between Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg is about the greatest possible thing that could happen. Even I thought this combination would yield amazing results, but I was severely mistaken. Kubrick was already gone by the time AI: Artificial Intelligence reached it's completion and, even if he was around, it wouldn't have made much of a difference. The film really amounts to nearly three hours of Spielberg wasting potential.

Artificial Intelligence: AI is the story of David. David is the first of his kind, a child robot built to truly love, filling a void for families who aren't able to have a child in the film's slightly dystopic future. David, played by Haley Joel Osment, is brought home by a family whose real son is in a coma. Things are good until the family's real son awakes and David is abandoned with only the story of Pinocchio giving him hope that if he becomes a real boy his mother will love him back. He goes on an adventure, meeting robot gigolos, crazy, robot smashing lunatics and some sort of super aliens, or robots, in an effort to finally be loved by his "mother". The movie features William Hurt, Jude Law and a few other recognizable faces and voices and is directed by the one and only Steven Spielberg. The whole idea was Stanley Kubrick's brainchild, adapted from a short story, but Kubrick refused to direct the film until technology could accurately show it. In the end, Kubrick chose Spielberg to direct, and to finish developing the movie instead of himself. That decision was a huge mistake.

I'll start by briefly saying what I liked about Artificial Intelligence: AI. Those things were, simply, the minor thematic touches left over from Kubrick's original vision. The world imagined by Kubrick is not a happy one and it shows through in the middle section of the film. David's journey of discovery is fairly compelling and full of interesting questions about existence and the future. While this section of the film is good, it is still slightly marred by Spielberg's terrible writing and his inability for subtly or unanswered questions. What made Kubrick such a great film-maker was that he required the audience to ponder the questions of the film without spelling it all out for them.

With Spielberg in the lead, Artificial Intelligence: AI goes from being the next 2001: A Space Odyssey to being a run-of-the-mill unsatisfying science fiction effort. The fact that the film is Spielberg's first writing credit since Poltergeist, which also has a terrible script, is no surprise. Spielberg has a lot in common with George Lucas in the film-making department. He is certainly a visionary, but it is better for him to leave the writing up to someone else. Aside from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, written many years ago, he has had most of his success using other peoples scripts. He should stick to it. I don't think I need to mention how awful the end of this movie is either. There is a perfectly good ending point, borderline amazing ending, and Spielberg mucks it up by adding another 30 minutes of useless crap with space robots or something. In the long run, the biggest problem here is Spielberg's total lack of confidence in his audiences ability to come up with answers and meaning on their own. The first half and the last chunk of the movie are seriously dumbed down to the point of being insulting.

I didn't hate Artifical Intelligence: AI, but it made me angry. There are a lot of admirable things going on in the film, but all of them seem to be pushed under the rug by Spielberg. Rather than the brilliant collaboration I was hoping for, I got peaks of Kubrick's genius amidst the crap the Spielberg turned it in to. The film is mostly insulting because it was so widely viewed. If this is the kind of movie people think of when you talk about science fiction, I can understand why the genre is so unappreciated. Do yourself a favor and just go watch 2001: A Space Odyssey instead of this movie. You'll thank me.


1 comment:

Mike Lippert said...

I agree with you that this is one of Spielberg's lesser efforts, but I don't hate it nearly as much as you do, maybe because I give it a pass just for how much imagination Spielberg brings to creating this futuristic world. It would have been interesting to see what Kubrick would have done with the material though. I guess we'll never know.