A.I. is a futuristic fairy-tale, an enchanting story of a boy mechanoid ("mecha") called David who embarks on a journey because he wants to be loved by the woman he calls his mother. With parallels to the story of Pinocchio, Spielberg takes us on a spellbinding exploration of love, hate, friendship, prejudice and ultimately what it is to be human, and what it is to be without humanity.
Told in three vastly different acts, the story takes us from somewhat familiar home settings, through the grittiness of the Flesh Fair; the glamour, glitz and sleaze of Rouge City; to a final half hour in the most imaginative and dreamlike vision of the distant future.
This film communicates on many levels, and is held together by a gloriously unique concept, a cast of interesting and well-portrayed characters (including excellent cameos by Robin Williams, Ben Kingsley and Meryl Streep), a simple and beautiful musical score by John Williams that - for a change, had me guessing for a while and didn't sound like Williams at all - and excellent visual direction by Spielberg.
While it must be said that I found the first 50 minutes unnecessarily slow-paced, and not entirely successful in conveying the emotions and motives of David's parents, the last two acts more than make up for this imbalance. The character of Teddy, a semi-intelligent robotic soft toy who is essentially playing the part of David's conscience, also has a vital role of stitching together the broken scenes, smoothing out the storyline, and adding moments of much needed comedy.
Every time I watch A.I., I come away with a new message, another meaning in the story I hadn't spotted before, and it never fails to fill my eyes with tears at the end. The finale is pure magic, and can only be appreciated in context with the first two acts.
It is a tragedy that Kubrick, the great film visionary revered by Spielberg and who had wanted to make this movie for over 10 years, died before it could be made - although Spielberg incorporated many of his concepts and worked closely with his production company. For once, Spielberg avoided being over-sentimental, having struck a fine balance between emotion and reason, and I think has succeeded in bringing to life a story that is as accessible and relevant for adults as it is for children. I believe he would have made Kubrick proud, and it is a fitting dedication to his memory.