A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001) 1.86/5 (2)


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Rating: The Bad – 52.4
Genre: Science Fiction, Drama
Duration: 146 mins
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O’Connor

Steven Spielberg was never an obvious choice in style or sensibility to complete the screenplay for and then direct Stanley Kubrick’s last major project because, firstly, he doesn’t tend to write films in the first place and, secondly, he has an inescapable tendency to infuse the majority of films he directs with a cheesy cliched child-like wonder. However, despite those differences, it’s still genuinely confounding at how much Spielberg misjudged the essence of this particular film.

A.I. begins with a profound look at the subject of life and sentience in what is clearly the Kubrick half of the story. To be fair to Spielberg, he very much replicates Kubrick’s stark and symmetrical visual style during this segment (no doubt thoroughly story-boarded as it probably was) and gives the film a feel that one could imagine Kubrick would’ve set. In this opening act, we follow a robot in the form of a human child called David (Haley Joel Osment) who is purchased by a couple who believed their own child was lost to them. We see David and his new mother beginning to form a bond and for all intents and purposes, David becomes part of the family. However, when the couple’s child returns to them, he quickly becomes surplus to requirements as the mother begins to see him for what he is.

This is the point at which Kubrick’s contribution seems to end and Spielberg’s is stepped up and it practically descends into farce as we are given an unashamed story of Pinocchio in the future. Even the visual aspects to the film begin to suffer as the downscaling of the story seems to remove any inspiration to get the look right. The film loses the subtle features which the previous tight production design and lighting ensured as the need for ‘big’ special effects seems to send Spielberg fully into default mode where style replaces substance to such a point that the latter must be artificially generated and crammed in anywhere it’ll fit. The last 20 minutes in particular are a complete car crash as the audience sees the worst of Spielberg and possibly the most inappropriate conclusion to a Kubrick film imaginable.

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