Sunday, January 17, 2010

A.I. Artificial Intelligence

A.I. Artificial Intelligence; science-fiction drama, USA, 2001; D: Steven Spielberg, S: Haley Joel Osment, Frances O'Connor, Jude Law, Sam Robards, Jake Thomas, William Hurt

In the future, the Cybertronics company designed a new robot, David - not only does he look like a real child, but he is also programmed to "love" his parents. David is bought by Henry for his wife Monica because their real son, Martin, is in a coma. Monica is at first afraid of David, but starts to like him. But then Martin awakes from coma so Monica leaves David alone in the forest because she doesn't want to bring him back to the company. David likes the story about "Pinocchio" so he goes to search for a fairy who will transform him into a real human being. In the city, he meets robot-gigolo Joe, accused of murder. After Joe gets captured by the authorities, David finds a statue of a fairy in the sea. 2000 years later, he is found in the ice by perfect robots who took over after humans have disappeared. They clone Monica for him, but she will live for only one day. David then happily falls asleep with her in bed.

Even though many have dismissed this film as "Spielberg trying to imitate Kubrick" (who wanted to, but in the end never directed this film), "A.I." is, despite its flaws, one of the most profound, unusual and most fascinating science-fiction melodramas of the decade. By its futuristic aesthetics, "A.I." reminds slightly of "Armitage III" and other cyberpunk-mecha stories, except that it is made with a soul: in the exposition, it is explained how the Earth's poles have melted and sea has risen in the future, and then William Hurt's character shows up and demonstrates to the public how a robot-woman doesn't feel anything by stabbing her in the hand. Spielberg obviously made a huge shift from his usual iconography since the film is neither sugary nor "childish", but filled with pessimism and grotesque, though, surprisingly - and that's something only selected few artists can achieve - the story still ended up deeply emotional for the robot hero David, always portraying him as a real being, in a world where people treat his kind, the robots, as an "inferior race", literally as objects.

The first third of the story is the strongest: it shows how a husband bought a new "child", robot David, for his wife, which creates a bizarre relationship between them (David lies in bed without sleeping, chews without eating...) and creates some poignant messages about the placebo effects and human psychology. The tagline of the poster says it all: "His love is real. But he is not". In the second third, which shows how David is searching for a fairy to become a real human, the story becomes a mess: it wonders aimlessly and seems to have lost what it wanted to say, placing criticism everywhere (the destruction of robots in the arena is set up so unusually that it almost reminds of the Holocaust) though it keeps its ambitious tone. The enigmatic finale, where perfect robots have taken over Earth after humans have became extinct, is by far a real curiosity that neither fits nor burdens the film as a whole, and the ending of David's journey is devastating, one of the saddest endings of the decade.


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