A.I. Artificial Intelligence

Review Date:
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer: Steven Spielberg
Producers: Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy, Bonnie Curtis
Haley Joel Osment
Jude Law
Frances O’Connor
Can human beings create robots that will be able to love? That is the question that besieges this entire film. A young robot-child is given to a real human family. The family attempts to love the child as their own, but when their real-life son returns, the jealousy of the real child eventually leads the parents to get rid of the robot-child. Left alone and in the woods, the young robot sets out on a journey to find a way to become real.
In one of the most ambitious films of the year, Steven Spielberg has managed to successfully wrestle several key elements together, including a great story, amazing visuals, a futuristic landscape, solid acting, and emerge with a picture that entertains, touches the heart and digs below the surface. It’s funny because we tend to take Mr. Spielberg for granted from time to time, seeing him more for the movie “businessman” that he has become over the past few years, but leave it to him to take such a sprawling project, begun by legendary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick and then continued by him (they used to fax each other notes and stuff), and create an amazing vision to drive the imagination. But Spielberg’s grown up, too. He tackles big issues in this film. What is love? What is emotion? Why does it suck to be lonely? Emotions and queries that we can all relate to in one way or another. And even though this film is essentially about a “robot”, you can’t help but draw comparisons and connections to moments from your own life, moments in which you felt lonely or hurt or let down or misguided. The truth behind this film is that it’s really about humans…not robots. The cruelty of some humans. The love and kindness of others. The world has become a harsh place for many people to inhabit, and sometimes our own ability to shut down our emotional core enables us to survive from day to day. But doesn’t that negate what being a human being is all about? Living, feeling, loving and even getting hurt? I don’t know.

I’m philosophizing out of my ass here, but I think that the power of this film, its greater strength, other than its engaging narrative and visual delights, is its capacity to harness that deep-rooted fear in all humans. That fear of being alone. That fear of not having anybody love you. That fear of not mattering in someone else’s life. The journey of the robot-child in this film is the journey of which many of us are presently a part. Will we be happy in our lives? Will we be loved? Will our own love be returned by those whom we cherish? Questions that reside in our subconscious, and questions that have suddenly imprinted themselves in the mind of the robot-child in this film. And will his journey end on a happy note? A sad note? Well, being that this film is indeed a collaboration between one of the most optimistic moviemakers of our time, Steven Spielberg, and one of the most pessimistic in Stanley Kubrick, I’ll let you figure that one out yourself. I will say this much though, I personally would’ve liked to have seen the movie end right after the robot-child went underwater in the heli-sub and hovered before the blue fairy (if you haven’t seen the movie, this may not mean anything to you, but to all those who have, you know what I’m talking about). I would definitely have preferred that type of resolution to the film, but then again, I’m not necessarily the most “happy-go-lucky” person in the world. Also, I felt like the final 15-20 minutes of the film, ran it all a little longer than it needed to be.

Emotionally, this film also delivers with two of the three members of my own “movie watching crew” bawling their goggles out (sorry, I tinkered with my own tears, but didn’t go balls-out on them). It’s to note that this emotional touch could not have been attained as poignantly had it not been for the inspired thespianism (that a word?) displayed here by Haley Joel Osment, who has seriously impressed me at this point of his young career. A superb, loving, real performance which drives the film’s significance that much deeper. Add Jude Law to that mix, as well as one of the coolest toys to ever have been invented named Teddy (give this damn bear his own movie!), and you’ve got a serious recipe for greatness. Yes, I thought the film was a little long, it didn’t touch me as deeply as I thought it might and I would have preferred another ending, but those are all very small flaws in an overall sturdier picture that definitely needs to be considered for addition to the great sci-fi films from both Spielberg and Kubrick’s pasts (it was also nice to see the many hommages which Spielberg tossed in here, including to his own E.T., CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, Lucas’ STAR WARS and Kubrick’s CLOCKWORK ORANGE). In the end, the film strives for so much more than most movies coming out these days, that you just can’t help but sit up and take notice. And once you do sit up and pay attention, you will be enthralled by the imagination of it all, the strength of its narrative, its emotional spirit and its unique ability to combine great visuals, great acting and great insight into the human condition.

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian