A.I. Artificial Intelligence- 2001
Director- Steven Spielberg
Starring-Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law
Scott’s Review #1,052
Reviewed August 13, 2020
A bit of a history lesson about the film A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001). The final cinematic version is based on the 1969 short story “Supertoys Last All Summer Long” by Brian Aldiss, which was purchased and developed by director Stanley Kubrick in the 1970’s. Left unfinished for years, and the subsequent passing of Kubrick after he had started to collaborate with Steven Spielberg, the film was finally carved into a final project by Spielberg. Upon close study the film possesses the mark of both directors with the edge going to Spielberg.
The tone of the story contains a creepiness and oddity familiar to fans of Kubrick, like he may have been thinking along the lines of a similar theme to the brilliant 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Both center around robots and a futuristic world. Spielberg adds a humanistic, sympathetic, and slightly melancholy edge like he did with E.T. the Extra-terrestrial (1982) so that we adore the main character and want justice for him. In contrast, Kubrick made his version of an extra-terrestrial in 2001: A Space Odyssey a scary villain. The results are mostly good, but uneven in parts.
The premise is solid and grasps our attention. The time is the twenty-second century, when the polar ice caps have melted and submerged many coastal cities. It’s also a time when humans live side by side with “mechas,” or sentient robots. Henry and Monica Swinton are suffering because their son Martin has a rare disease and is placed in suspended animation. They are given a Mecha child capable of experiencing love. Henry and Monica fall in love with David and, in a plot twist worthy of a daytime soap -opera, Martin returns to life, becomes jealous of David in a plot reminiscent of The Good Son (1993), tries to frame David for monstrous deeds, and David is nearly shipped off to parts unknown.
This is Spielberg’s first crack at screenwriting in nearly twenty-five years, since Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and he does a decent job. No secret is that both films, along with E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial have common themes so he clearly feels comfortable with these subjects. The humanity is there, but the screenplay is often too busy with story points coming and going at rapid pace. I wanted a deeper dive into Henry and Monica to feel more from their characters and what makes them tick. I felt their pain of having (sort of) lost a child, but not why they needed to fill the void so quickly.
Osment is insanely good in a film so complex that his performance could have easily been overshadowed by the other elements. Instead, he powers through adding complexities to a character the audience falls in love with, aching and yearning along with him. David is faced with terrible, life-changing news of not only being adopted but of not even being human. His determination to find out who he truly is takes the viewer down a path of both entertainment and adventure, but also of bitter emotion.
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) has a lot going on and critically speaking, maybe too much. Spielberg fleshes out the original short story and tasks the viewer with enduring a global warming message, important, but a trite overdone, and sympathizing with David, the lonely robot boy. The story becomes an exciting adventure and the complexities between being human and being almost human are explored, but not quite satisfactory. Osment and Law are terrific with dazzling chemistry and the visuals and musical score are astounding. Osment should have received a Best Actor Oscar nomination to follow the one he got for The Sixth Sense (1999).
Oscar Nominations: Best Musical Score, Best Visual Effects