It's hard to imagine two more unlikely bedfellows, but now we have A.I (Artificial Intelligence), a film that the notoriously slow Kubrick (only 13 films in five decades) planned to direct with Spielberg producing. Kubrick's death in March 1999 put the reins in Spielberg's hands (Kubrick is now listed as a producer) and the result is a curious credit for both. With cloning so much in the news, the subject matter is timely, although it's set in the post-apocalyptic future and deals not with clones but robots. No matter how lovable and cuddly David (Haley Joel Osment) may be, he is still a machine, adopted by a couple whose own son has died but has been frozen in the hope that science can resurrect him. David adapts well to the household, giving and receiving love like the best of children, but when the son is revived and returns home, David is suddenly an outsider who suffers from the lack of attention that is now bestowed on the "real" son.
Abandoned, and accompanied only by Teddy, a walking and talking "super toy," he now roams a world hostile to the robots that were mass-produced to such an extent that they threaten to outnumber the humans. Taking up with Gigolo Joe (Jude Law), a fellow robot, he eludes those intent on destroying him because, as the first and only child robot, he is, as he says himself, "unique and special." But David's quest seems an impossible one: to find the Blue Fairy from the story of Pinocchio (which his adopted mother had read to him) whom he believes can turn him into a real boy worthy of his mother's love. David may not have to eat, sleep, or die like a mere mortal, but unlike the fully grown robots in his midst, he can be hurt just as he can love and be loved.
At times, you can spot Kubrick's influence, especially in the cold world of the Flesh Carnival, an organized rally in which humans delight in destroying the captured robots, but it is Spielberg's more humanitarian imprint that dominates. Some critics have even taken him to task for what they call a "happy ending," but I found the conclusion wistful and sad. However one views the finale, A.I provides plenty of food for thought at a time when it is now possible to create life in a laboratory. It also offers a moving John Williams score, and plenty of dazzling visuals, none of which overpower the remarkable performance of Haley Joel Osment. Even more than Spielberg or Kubrick, this film belongs to him.
Brian W. Fairbanks
Originally published at Paris Woman Journal
© 2001 Brian W. Fairbanks