Artificial Intelligence: A.I.
It is a time when natural resources are limited and technology is advancing at an astronomical pace. Where you live is monitored, what you eat is engineered, and the person serving you is not a person at all. It’s artificial. Gardening, housekeeping, companionship — there is a robot for every need. Except love.
Emotion is the last, controversial frontier in robot evolution. Robots are seen as sophisticated appliances; they’re not supposed to have feelings. But with so many parents not yet approved to have children, the possibilities abound. Cybertronics Manufacturing has created the solution. His name is David (Osment). A robotic boy, the first programmed to love, David is adopted as a test case by Cybertronics employee Henry Swinton (Sam Robards) and his wife Monica (Frances O’Connor), whose own terminally ill child has been cryogenically frozen until a cure can be found. But the very day David is programmed to love the grieving mother, her own son comes out of his coma.
When Martin Swinton (Jake Thomas) returns from the hospital, he is unable to accept his robotic brother. Jealous, and a bit demonic, the real boy does whatever he can to belittle David. Thinking that he is unloved, and spurred on by the reading of “Pinocchio,” David believes his new mother will love him if he can find the Blue Fairy and become a real boy. Abandoned in the forest by Monica rather than returned to Cybertronics Manufacturing for disassembling, David sets out to find the Blue Fairy. Armed only with Teddy, his super toy teddy bear and protector, David searches vainly for the storybook fairy he believes can grant his wish.
Two thousand years later, David is still on his quest, but all of mankind has become extinct. Our young automated hero is rescued by aliens who find the young David the only link with humanity. In essence, he becomes a symbol of humankind.
Armed with memories of “The Wizard of Oz,” “Bicentennial Man,” “Pinocchio,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “The Stepford Wives,” “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and several episodes of “The Twilight Zone,” Mr. Spielberg pays homage to Stanley Kubrick, who died before he could make this film himself. Rather than uplifting the viewer, this cynical look at family life in the future reminded me of “Pinocchio” had it been written by Gomez Addams.
An endless movie (144 minutes), I got the impression that the filmmaker was overcome with his own reasoning for mankind’s dilemma. He gives us a dark, cynical and verbose look at what man is becoming, shut off and alienated from others by an ever growing/changing technology. There will no doubt be articles and conversations for weeks to come discussing the meaning of “A.I.,” but for me it lacked any cohesive reason. While there are some Christian symbols bandied about, they aren’t respectfully or artfully used as in several previous Spielberg movies (“E.T.;” “Schindler’s List;” “Empire of the Sun;” “The Color Purple”). Rather, Christian symbolism is either ridiculed or shown as impotent. I could find no resolve that God was ultimately in charge. With the human race extinguished and aliens rescuing the film’s central character, is Spielberg saying extraterrestrials are the actual Supreme Beings? Hmmm…
Technically, “A.I.” is remarkable, with its state-of-the-art effects and direction by perhaps the greatest filmmaker of all time. And Haley Joel Osment proves that his Oscar-nominated performance in “The Sixth Sense” was no fluke. He’s the best child actor of all time. Even as a robot who never blinks, you can see through his eyes into his deepest recesses. He’s perceptive, unaffected, and honest. But this is one dark, cold movie, with elements of cruelty and despair. This isn’t just a depressing film, it literally grieves the spirit. Bizarre, spooky, at times overtly sexual, this is not a cuddly fairytale for little ones. It may even cause them to experience nightmares and certainly it will cause confusion. Ultimately, it is a noir-ish thriller for adults. But is it a prophetic parable? Is there a moral? Beats me. Perhaps I need to see it again in an attempt to decipher its underlying meaning; however, that isn’t going to happen.