A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE || 2001, USA || Science Fiction || Directed by – Steven Spielberg / Written by – Ian Watson, Steven Spielberg (based on the short story Supertoys Last All Summer Long by Brian Aldiss) / Produced by – Bonnie Curtis, Jan Harlan, Kathleen Kennedy, Walter F. Parkes, Steven Spielberg / Music by – John Williams / Cinematography – Janusz Kaminski / Editing by – Michael Kahn / Production design – Rick Carter / Starring – Haley Joel Osment, Frances O’Connor, Sam Robards, Jake Thomas, Jude Law, William Hurt / Running time: 146 mins.
A futuristic fairy-tale with heavy existentialist undertones. A.I. Artificial Intelligence is the story of David, an android (or “mecha” boy) who looks like a little boy and was created by human hands to be adopted and loved by a human family. In this case, however, the android boy is abandoned by his. The traumatic separation leads him on a desperate search for a being he calls “blue fairy,” which he hoped will turn him into a real boy, and that the transformation will win him the acceptance and love of his mother once again.
A.I. Artificial Intelligence has been associated with Kubrick, who started developing the idea, itself based on a short story by Brian Aldiss, during the 70’s. But it wasn’t until the late 90’s that the project resurfaced as a collaboration between Kubrick and Spielberg. The idea was for the former to produce and the latter to direct. Though Kubrick died before the project could shift into high gear, the mixture of the styles of the two directors, with Kubrick’s bleak vision of the world and Spielberg’s lenience towards romanticism, is visible throughout the feature. In fact, there is also a mesh of visual sensibilities to be found in the production design; the futuristic world constructed for this movie owes debt to, and could in fact be considered a descendant of, the visual vocabulary set up by Kubrick in his influential science fiction epic 2001: A Space Odyssey. Yet there is also an aura of timelessness and original invention in the final sequences, the likes of which represent the greater descent of the movie into the fantasy fiction territory. There is also a sense of the urban and suburban, and therefore a significant pinch of realism, in the first part of the film, bringing the set-up of the story closer to its audience by means of representation.
Nevertheless, truth be told, it is Spielberg’s voice that emerges as the strongest in the finished product. This statement is supported by the emotional charge of the movie, certainly heavy-handed at some points – a recurring flaw in many of Spielberg’s films – and by A.I.‘s dealings with its central family theme, a favourite theme of its director. One of the reasons why Kubrick had originally put the project on hold in the 70’s was that he did not believe that that the visual effects of the time would be able to sustain the imaginative charge of the project. When the film was released in 2001, this was no longer the case, and Spielberg himself had already made a number of spectacular films such as Jurassic Park and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
The spectacle of the effects, however, far from overwhelms the ability of the cast. In particular, Haley Joel Osment in the role of David is praise-worthy. His role as the android whose mission in life is to love and be loved by his adoptive family could have been a fatality of the afore-mentioned heavy handed romanticism ala Spielberg, but the fact that Osment is able to be convincingly likable despite the screenplay’s weaker moments affirms this as one of the best child-acting turns of the 21st century. – 4/5