A.I.: Artificial Intelligence


Haley Joel Osment as David Swinton
Jude Law as Gigolo Joe
Frances O’Connor as Monica Swinton
Sam Robards as Henry Swinton
Jake Thomas as Martin Swinton
Brendan Gleeson as Lord Johnson-Johnson
William Hurt as Professor Hobby
Jack Angel as Teddy
Ben Kingsley as Narrator
Robin Williams as Dr. Know

A.I. is an interesting and thought provoking story with great acting and impressive visuals. However, it may appeal more to sci-fi fans than mainstream audiences.

In the future, mankind has learned to build robots with artificial intelligence, or A.I.. However, these robots, or mechas, are simple tools with no independent thoughts or emotions. Professor Hobby proposes to build a mecha child that not only dreams, but has the ability to love unconditionally. He and his team build a prototype called David. To test him out, David is given to a family who has a son cryogenically frozen due to a terminal illness. The mother, Monica, is devastated by the illness of her son and soon bonds with the new robotic child. David becomes hardwired to love Monica.

However, one day a cure is discovered for Monica’s real child Martin and he is unfrozen and brought home. Martin becomes jealous of David. Monica tries to keep both children happy, but a series of accidents makes it clear that she can’t keep David. Rather than return him to Professor Hobby for destruction, she dumps him and his robotic toy Teddy in the woods.

David decides that the only way he can regain Monica’s love is to become a real child. Infatuated by the story of Pinocchio, David concludes that he must find the Blue Fairy and have her turn him into a real boy. Thus he begins an obsessive quest to find the imaginary character. Unfortunately, the world is filled with mecha hating humans who destroy robots for sport. David must deal with them and other hazards along to way. Helping him is a gigolo robot he encounters named Joe.

This film is rated PG-13 for some sexual content and violent images.

What Worked:
A.I. is a really interesting and thought provoking story. It brings up a lot of interesting questions. What would an intelligent robot act like? How would you program one to love? How could a mother love a robot? Why do humans create things? The film also brings up topics like the relationship between God and man as well as the relationship between man and its own creations. Overall A.I. is probably one of the few movies of the summer that will bring up intellectual discussion (unless you consider the size of Lara Croft’s bust as an intellectual topic).

The robot effects in this film are stunning. Nothing they did in this film was particularly groundbreaking, but they used the standard tools available to bring imaginative and intriguing visions to the screen. As you’ve seen in the commercials, the robots have incomplete parts, faces half-gone, and other broken parts. They are truly memorable and exciting.

The supertoy Teddy steals almost every scene he is in. The animatronic teddy bear is amazingly expressive. Teddy could look miffed one minute and confused the next. It probably deserves a best supporting actor award. The character is funny, cute, and wise all at the same time. Stan Winston and his crew deserve special recognition for that character alone.

The sets were also very well done. From the home of the Swintons to the Sin City seen towards the end, the sets give us an interesting vision of the future. I also liked how nothing could be pinned to a particular year in the future. It was familiar, yet futuristic at the same time. The underwater city was very impressive, too. In reality everything would have been washed away long ago, but there was still an impressive attention to detail by the effects crew. Everything is covered in barnacles, silt and seaweed. It makes a haunting vision.

Osment delivers a first class performance. His acting is really robotic, and for once that’s a compliment. He never blinks in any scene. He always looks like he’s studying his surroundings and learning. His devotion to Monica seems halfway manufactured and halfway sincere. And when it seems he’s going to flip out, Osment can be sufficiently creepy.

Jude Law also steals the show in many of his scenes as the gigolo robot. He’s hilarious as he woos the ladies and gives them exactly what they want in a man. His slick moves, manipulative lines, and fancy dance moves are really entertaining. His extras such as built in music and hand mirror are also fun touches.

Toward the end of the movie, I thought the story was going to end on a bleak and depressing note. Then the story takes a rather incredible turn in a whole new direction. I can’t reveal much here, but suffice it to say I was very intrigued. It was also the thing that my friends and I discussed the most as we left the theater.

I’m not sure how this film will do at the box office, but this is a world I’d like to see more of whether it be in a movie sequel, a book, or a TV series. Some of the most interesting parts of the film were away from David’s quest for the Blue Fairy. I’d love to see more of the other robots, more of Gigolo Joe, and more of what happened in other places in the world during the time frame of this film.

What Didn’t Work:
I’m not sure who this movie was made for. Kids will love Osment, the fairy tale theme, and the Teddy supertoy. Adults may be bored by those things. At the same time, Gigolo Joe, though entertaining, is more of a character for adults than children. Some of the architecture in the Sin City was almost X-rated. Buildings are shaped so it looks like people are walking in a woman’s crotch, sculptures look rather phallic, and a bridge into the city looks rather risqué. Those aren’t things I think are appropriate for little children. Then the ending may be something only sci-fi fans can love. So if the film is not totally for kids, adults, or mainstream audiences, that leaves the big question of who the film is really for. Critics?

The movie could be agonizingly slow at times. It clocks in at 2 1/2 hours and certainly feels like it.

I’m a HUGE John Williams fan, but I found his music in this film to be totally forgettable. It mainly blends into the background and never really takes center stage. Maybe that’s what they were looking for, but I had hoped it would be more pronounced. It’s also a strange blend of orchestral music and techno at times.

A couple of other minor things bothered me. The first was that Chris Rock had a cameo as the voice of a robot. Why? Why, why, why? That totally ripped me out of the film. Up till that point I was really into this futuristic world, then Rock’s grating voice came on a ruined it. Ugh. The other thing is that David eats a wad of spinach and immediately breaks down because of it. Why would you spend all that money to build a human-like robot, then not give it the ability to mimic eating? And why would such a simple thing as eating cause such a destructive error?

Finally, I think Spielberg dwelled way too much on the Pinocchio theme. They drilled the Blue Fairy so far into your head that it went from being a metaphor to almost seeming like a sequel to the original fairy tale. I don’t understand the obsession with the fairy tale. The movie was more interesting when it was breaking new ground.