johnlink ranks A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (2001)

While I wouldn’t put this on my less-than-famous Embarrassment List, this is certainly a film that I’ve been meaning to see since it’s release almost ten years ago (amazing to think that a film which came out in ’01 is nearly ten years old). I’ve had this on DVD forever, and had it in my mind to knock off a film I’d always wanted to see. So, here we go…

I watched A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) on 12.17.10. It was my first viewing of the film. TRAILER HERE

This, as has been well documented, is the never realized Stanley Kubrick film which Spielberg took over after his death. As such, this is a film which is not instantly recognizable as Spielberg. Rather, much homage is paid to the pacing, visualization, and memory of a Kubrick film.

There really isn’t much thematically to talk about here. Only the essence of love, family, the soul, loyalty, forgiveness, persecution, humanity, and death. Nothing important.

These themes are woven in a magnificent story which unravels itself visually, as well as verbally (something Kubrick had long since mastered in his landmark film 2001). Consider the shape of the robot logo scene throughout the first and second acts. They come back to play in the third, answering a question about what we are seeing without banging us over the head. It is a bold sort of subtlety.

The acting is wonderful. I’m not sure what ever happened to Haley Joel Osment, but he was a young actor who gave us several memorable performances in just a few years, between this film, SIXTH SENSE, and PAY IT FORWARD. Jude Law has also given some powerful roles, but he may never have been better than he was in this.

I love the way the robots have no sense of fear. Law’s character survives because it is seemingly ingrained, but is never particularly worried in the several moments where he faces his termination. Osment’s David is the only one who has this fear. While it doesn’t quite make him human, it creates a sense of isolation wherein his own kind can’t understand him, and humans certainly don’t want to. Even in the film’s climax, he must plead his case. Those which have evolved from himself cannot, even 2000 years later, fully grasp his needs. He quests to be real, and in some ways he succeeds. In others, he becomes super-real, above real.

This is a film which needs to be watched again. While it is not the flash-bang of MINORITY REPORT (which, having now seen AI, much benefited from the work Spielberg put in here), it is a much more rich world. Wherein MINORITY REPORT has its brilliance in the technological jumps it makes and the fun it has, AI finds its brilliance in its attention to detail and its embracing of the visual. The moments of facial distortion, or facial mimicking serve as constant reminders of the thin line between human and artificial.

The end, for once (and unlike KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL) reinforces everything else about the movie. It is not a let down, or a cop out; but rather a powerful exclamation point at the end of this film’s bold statement.

Is this Spielberg’s best filmic endeavor, not in its entertainment value, but in its power? Heck, I don’t know. SAVING PRIVATE RYAN is still pretty damn untouchable. I know AI is often put down as an afterthought. But I’m glad I came to it with an open mind, and like David, I gave it a chance to live.



The bonus is for the cinematography, which is beautiful, vibrant, and powerful. The order of the list is arguable, but there is no doubt that this makes Spielberg’s best-looking films list.



~ by johnlink00 on December 17, 2010.

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