STARRING: Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, William Hurt, Frances O'Connor, Sam Robards, Brendan Gleeson

2001, 145 Minutes, Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Description: This film spans near and distant futures with the fairy-tale adventures of an artificial boy named David (Haley Joel Osment), a marvel of cybernetic progress who wants only to be a real boy, loved by his mother in that happy place called home. Young David, shunned by his trial parents and tossed into an unfriendly world, is joined by fellow "mecha" Gigolo Joe (played with a dancer's agility by Jude Law) in his quest for a mother-and-child reunion. Parallels to Pinocchio intensify as David reaches "the end of the world" (a Manhattan flooded by melted polar ice caps), and a far-future epilogue.

Don't be fooled by this or any of the movie's marketing, AI is a dark movie and not really intended for children at all.

It is easy to see why this movie received some very mixed reviews upon its release in the States and UK, and  - it evokes mixed responses. Some critics have blamed this on the film being a project started by director Stanley Kubrick and being handed over and finished by Steven Spielberg instead (for a detailed history of the project, check here).

They have a point: their styles differ radically from one another. (How much do they differ? Try making a schizophrenic double video bill of A Clockwork Orange and E.T. one evening . . .)

Even not knowing the movie's production history, you'll probably find that A.I.'s biggest problem is that Spielberg can't contain his worst instincts as a filmmaker. The movie shoots itself in the foot with the extreme saccharine sentiment of the last twenty minutes or so. 

"Shoots itself in the foot with the extreme saccharine sentiment of the last 20 minutes or so . . . "

It is as if Spielberg grew afraid that audiences would become alienated by anything negative and quickly inserted a happy ending or schmaltzy elements. These instincts almost ruin AI . . .

Note that I use the word almost. Critics (particularly the intellectual types) have been very unfair to AI Sure, the movie is deeply flawed. Maybe it's lowered expectations because the last two years of Hollywood blockbusters have been the utter worst in its entire history, but at least AI has flickers of ambition. It tries to be about something, with real characters and good acting.

Technically it is well-made, but not in the sense that the Planet of the Apes remake is well-made: its visual splendor, particularly scenes set in a semi-submerged post-apocalyptic New York, has a more lasting visceral impact than the clever make-up in Apes.

(Perhaps it is in retrospect of seeing the World Trade Centre being destroyed by two airliners crashing into it that makes these particular scenes linger in the mind. I don't know. Sadly enough, AI's distant future features the twin towers intact - talk about science fiction with an expiry date!)

Sci-fi fans will find lots of the territory in AI covered familiar (Bicentennial Man anyone?), but unlike recent Hollywood offerings the movie doesn't merely consist of a nonexistent plot stringing a bunch of action sequences together.



# 25
of the
Top 100 Sci-Fi Movies
of all time



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