Haley Joel Osment
A.I.: Artificial Intelligence is a haunting, heartfelt science fiction
drama that offers movie fans a marriage made in 24-frames per second heaven:
the visionary eye of the late Stanley Kubrick with the directorial (and also
in this case, screenwriting) magic of Steven Spielberg. The result is
2001:Pinocchio's Odyssey, a stunning work of filmmaking highly uncommon for
this or any summer movie season.
Based on three short stories from Supertoys Last All Summer Long, by
Brian Aldiss, A.I. is the story of an android in the guise of an 11-year old
boy named David (Haley Joel Osment). David is the cybergenic creation by
Professor Hobby (William Hurt) as a possible solution for couples who are
childless (Earth's natural resources have eroded to the point where
population control is strictly enforced). The couple that receives David,
Henry and Monica Swinton (Sam Robards and Frances O' Connor) already have a
child, but he is terminally ill and currently is in cryogenic suspension.
At first, Monica is understandably creeped out by the presence of
David, but over time begins to accept him. David begins to refer to her as
"Mommy" and she starts to care for him the way she would her real son,
Martin (Jake Thomas). However, just as this familial relationship is beginning
to bloom, Martin comes out of his coma and re-enters the family scene.
As with any child having to deal with a new "sibling" in the house, there
is a great deal of animosity aimed at David, which leads to a few unfortunate
accidents that nearly kill Martin.
With their real son back with them,
Henry decides to "discard" David by having Monica leaving him in the woods
to fend for himself (Standard Spielberg trademark: Dad is a dick). Using
the story of Pinocchio (which Monica read to Marin and him) as a blueprint
of sorts, David, accompanied by his supertoy, a talking, walking bear named
Teddy, begins a journey to find the magical "Blue Fairy" in the hopes of
becoming a human boy so he may be loved in return the same way he loves
Having two filmmakers as vastly different as Steven Spielberg and Stanley
Kubrick working on the same project together is both an exciting and scary
prospect: if they find a common creative vibe, the film will be a stunner.
If not, it could be a schizophrenic disaster that would send a lot of film
geeks (myself at the front of the line) into serious cinematic depression.
Thankfully, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence's final result is one that doesn't
resemble the latter and comes very damn close to the former. Spielberg,
working from a 90-page outline of notes that Kubrick wrote as a treatment
for the movie, has done a remarkable job in balancing Kubrick's pessimism
with his optimism without having one overcrowd the other. The bleak, cold
inhuman future, where the androids seem to possess more emotion than their
creators, is pure Kubrick, while David's long journey to find unequivocal
love and acceptance is trademark Spielberg.
Yet, Spielberg's directing
here is not the warm and fuzzy style of E.T. It is more genteel and relaxed,
giving the script (which he adapted) a chance to come to life without being
overshadowed by camera tricks and visual effects (although those are here
as well, thanks to the excellent cinematography by Janusz Kaminski and
the stunning visual effects by Industrial Light and Magic). At 146 minutes,
the film does run about ten minutes too long (the Flesh Fair and Doctor
Know sequences should have been trimmed down), but the length is not enough
to take away from what is accomplished here.
Last fall, when I was reviewing a perfectly dreadful movie called Pay It
Forward, I stated Haley Joel Osment might have been a one-trick pony in
terms of his acting (in short, his performance in that film was less than
impressive). After seeing this film however, I am very happy to report that
I was wrong. Dead wrong. As David, Osment gives his best performance to
date. He's completely believable and his performance is very heartfelt,
making it easy to empathize with him on his quest. This is award-worthy
As Gigolo Joe, the male android who befriends David and accompanies
him on his journey, Jude Law turns in an energetic and spirited performance.
As for the other players, Frances O'Connor is good as Monica, David's "Mommy"
(the scenes she shares with Osment though is where she really shines),
while William Hurt has a nice, albeit small, turn as Professor Hobby. Ben
Kingsley adds a nice layer to the film as a narrator that opens and closes
Spielberg has brought along his usual crew to handle the behind the
scenes work and once again, they do not disappoint. John Williams delivers a
nice, subtle score (although I am pretty sure he did write the songs
performed by Ministry), while Michael Kahn's editing is, big surprise, first
rate. Along with aforementioned Kaminski and ILM's work, a huge round of
applause should also go out to production designer Rick Carter and effects
geniuses Stan Winston and Michael Lantieri (and of course, Industrial Light
and Magic) for bringing to visual life a future world quite realistically.
A.I.: Artificial Intelligence is a movie unlike any other that we have
seen in quite some time. It's a haunting, emotional, almost poetic journey
that will fascinate as many viewers as it frustrates. You may feel a little
scared about our future after seeing it. You may also wipe away a tear or
two away in the process. You may find it a depressing, lumbering, boring
mess that you thought would never end.
Either way, you won't soon forget the
movie. Pro or con, images and themes will creep back into your mind and make
you think and rethink a lot of things. This is not your typical Hollywood
summertime movie and because of it's dark nature, definitely not a film for
the entire family. It is, however, the best film I have seen so far this
year and it is definitely the best science fiction film I have seen in years.