Stanley Kubrick died three days after finishing Eyes Wide Shut, and was never able to bring his vision of a story about a robotic child made to love to the big screen. And if there is any director who can follow in the legendary filmmaker's legacy it might as well be Steven Spielberg, a director with a list of both blockbuster hits and critical praises longer than any other.
Steven Spielberg introduces us to the issue in the first scene, as a scientist proposes that his company create the first loving robot. Here we are told that it is a moral question: Maybe a robot can be made that can love like a child can, but how can the human possibly love it back? Can the bond between a human and a robot become as close as a human to another human?
Spielberg goes on to show the development of David (Haley Joel Osmet) as he adapts to his new home. He learns to act more human and to love his mother, but things change when his long comatose 'brother' returns, and challenges his affections. Due to an unfortunate incident, David is forced out of his home and into the world, where it sets out to become a real boy, much like, and not with any coincidences, Pinocchio. But what he experiences is far worse than what he could ever imagine.
As already mentioned, the Oscar-nominated star of The Sixth Sense takes the helm as the robotic boy who is almost human, who goes to the ends of the Earth to have his wish come true. With an Oscar nomination on his first starring role, it is hard to imagine that he could beat out his "I see dead people" role, but A.I. shows that that is not the case. If anything, Osmet has matured into an even better actor; his facial expressions, his lines... everything is pulled off perfectly. The key to making David nearly human relies on emotions, and Osmet knows just when to deliver a frown, a smile, or a tear.
On one hand, Spielberg has brought a children's tale into the 21st century, but on the other, there is a morality tale being told, with adult themes and adult consequences. Jude Law plays a robot who is meant to do none other than make women happy... where should the line be drawn? The same goes to Osmet's character... Why should a robotic child replace a human one? Furthermore, if people create these robots that have feelings, do they have the right to destroy them? Do they have the right to play God? Spielberg knows the questions and asks them, forcing the audience to decide.
A.I.'s running time is two and a half hours, and the first hour and forty five minutes are some of the best storytelling moments that Spielberg has ever created. He goes from a rather calm world where David is living with his 'parents,' and then thrusts him into a place where robots are tortured and destroyed for entertainment. There isn't a slow or dull moment the entire time...
But then Spielberg steps on ice and slides farther and farther away from the ideal goal without changing directions to compensate. It is at the point where David finally makes his maker that A.I. begins to become sketchy. How does he want to end it? A happy ending? A sad ending? A thought provoking ending? What? It is as if Spielberg couldn't decide, so he throws in several endings. Literally, I thought this film was going to end three times before it actually did. Watch the movie and you will know what I am talking about. Unfortunately, it is hard to criticize an ending of a movie without giving away that ending, so all I can say is that just when you think the movie is going to end, another ten or fifteen minutes come, and everything continues to get farther and farther away from what you want to see. And finally, when the real ending is reached, I'm left with disappointment.
Obviously, Spielberg's version is much different from what we would have seen with Kubrick's. Spielberg tried to follow the Kubrick device and did a pretty good job for the first two hours, but then forgets what the moral issue is that he is trying to tell. I'm not going to say whether the ending is happy or sad, but I do know that Kubrick would have done something different, something more dramatic, and something bolder.
A.I. is a masterpiece in its own right; it has a moral issue and it tells it, the film work is down right excellent, and the acting is terrific. However, there is something missing in the ending that keeps it from achieving its goal, much in the way that David is trying to become human.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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