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Retro Review: A.I. Artificial Intelligence

Short Attention Span Review™

A.I. Artificial Intelligence

4.0

A.I. PosterI really enjoyed Artificial Intelligence, and found it very deep and symbolic. I also enjoyed the moralistic/scientific paradox. Some people won't get it, and those are the people that won't like it. It seems there are no middle of the road opinions on this one: you either dig it or hate it. Not one of Spielberg's most popular works, but that's okay . . . I can dig it.

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The text below the break is part of a theatrical review originally published on June 29th, 2001.

Here are some updated thoughts:  Who knew while sitting in theaters during the summer of 2001 trying to escape the mundanity and craziness of society that the world would change for the worse in only a few months?  Certainly not I.  Nearly 14 years later we’re still living under the umbrella of the impact the September 11th attacks had on this country and the world.  Sadly this was one of the first things I remembered when I dug up this review.

A.I. was the beginning of the end of Haley Joel Osment‘s major film career that was hot ever since the release of The Sixth Sense.  While re-reading this and making some corrections I read across the Pearl Harbor comment and had a good chuckle.  To this day I’ve never had the fortitude to sit down and watch that movie.  I could tell from the previews that most likely a godawful mess of a movie.  Indeed:  Michael Bay.

It seems I’d been reading about this movie for years before I started seeing anything of substance concerning its production.  And this, sadly, didn’t happen until after Stanley Kubrick‘s death.  This movie had been on Kubrick’s production back-burner for years, and when he passed away Steven Spielberg picked it up.  Is his version different from what Kubrick may have envisioned?  I have no idea, but there are many critics out there that just can’t accept what Spielberg supposedly did to A.I. . . . I’m not one of them.

A.I. works on many levels.  You can view it as a lesson in morality, a movie heavily laced with religious connotation, or as a piece of hard science fiction.  I viewed it as a piece of sci-fi with a moral message . . . I didn’t read any religious meaning into it at all.  Another mistake is to view it as a simple remake of Pinnochio, even though it has many elements from that classic including a quest for the Blue Fairy.  Artificial Intelligence is based on the Brian Aldiss short story Super-Toys Last All Summer Long (read it at the link provided).  While the film does have similarities to Pinnochio, it stands on its own relatively well.

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In this version a mother loses her son to an incurable disease and he is locked in a deep coma. To help deal with her pain her husband brings home David, and mecha (robot) that can think and love a person it is imprinted on.  The real son comes out of his coma and David is no longer wanted.  The movie is his quest to become a real boy in the eyes of his adoptive mother, and win her love at all costs.  Along the way we see a dark vision of what society has become.  Flesh Fairs capture mechas, torture, and dismember them for entertainment of the discriminating crowd . . . not unlike like Christians were rounded up and fed to the lions in ancient Rome.

A.I. PosterIt’s the mid-21st century and man has developed a new type of computer that is aware of its own existence.  This computer has been utilized to help man cope with the melting of polar ice caps and the submerging of many of its coastal cities.  This form of artificial intelligence has been used in robots, and one such android, a young boy is about to take an emotional journey to find out if he can ever be anything more than a machine.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence
Director:  Steven Spielberg (Stanley Kubrick)
Starring:  Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, William Hurt
Genre:  Science Fiction
Media:  Film, 146 minutes
Rating: PG
Year: June 29, 2001
4 out of 5 stars

The moral dilemma presented is when does a mecha (robot) that can think, learn, love, and looks exactly like a human cease being a mecha and start to become a “living” being?  What’s the definition of life?  Does something have to be biological to be considered alive?  We are, you and I, after all just machines ourselves.  Mechas of organic matter hung on a rigid structure of bones and powered by chemical and electrical energy.  Does this justify the definition of life, or does the ability to rationalize do so?  The movie never answers the question, but leaves it up to the viewer.  As soon as the movie could have told us the answer, that’s exactly when the moment it would have become preachy . . . a bad thing for a movie.

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Contrary to most people’s opinion, this movie IS a thinking persons movie . . . and people can debate the different aspects of it with great vigor.  People who go to this movie and just sit on the butts until the credits roll should immediately leave and go the the theater showing Pearl Harbor instead.

Many complaints I’ve heard are about the ending.  Most people believe the beings shown are aliens, when in fact they are advanced A.I.s.  To even think that aliens would be introduced into a movie at the end is shortsighted, and well, blatantly idiotic.  But I could see how that false belief could lead to serious confusion.  Many professional critics have made this mistake and given the movie negative reviews because of it.  It just shows that critics who try to view and understand all films, not just those they are interested in, are doomed to often misunderstand what’s actually taking place.  It would be like me writing critiques of musical romances.  This is the genre I love, so these are the types of movies I review.  That doesn’t mean I don’t dole out negative critiques.

I really enjoyed Artificial Intelligence, and found it very deep and symbolic. I also enjoyed the moralistic/scientific paradox.  Some people won’t get it, and those are the people that won’t like it.  It seems there are no middle of the road opinions on this one: you either dig it or hate it.  Not one of Spielberg’s most popular works, but that’s okay . . . I can dig it.

I’m revisiting and re-posting many older articles (almost 200) I’ve written (or contributed to) over the years, either for my own purposes or as contributions to other sites now long digitally decayed and dormant.  These reviews/articles will appear in their nearly raw, unaltered form, with a few updated thoughts at the beginning of each.

About Neal Ulen

Neal Ulen
Editor/Webmaster - Neal is a writer and recovering engineer who likes pizza, the insidious power of sarcasm (and pizza), and debating science fiction (and pizza). You can also find his writing on Omni, Geeks, and other media platforms.
  • I just watched the end of this movie again when it was on TV last weekend. I really liked it, as well! I always appreciate your insightful reviews, and this was a really good one. Musical romance, huh? Perhaps you should resurrect the He Said, She Said for Love’s Labour’s Lost…LOL!