12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Best Sci Fi since Blade Runner?,
This review is from: A.I. Artificial Intelligence [VHS]  (VHS Tape)
I understand that Steven Spielberg took over this project started by the late Stanley Kubrick, which would explain the uneasy edge to the usual Spielbergian treatment. The remnants of Kubrick's message, namely that humans are soon-to-be obsolete beasts, contend with the usual Spielberg formula of corn syrup, tears, and awe, so that the result is unsettling and more than a bit curiouser and curiouser.
First of all, be aware that, despite the fact that there is a full serving of the Spielberg recipe here (cute kids, dazzling special effects, a beautiful score by John Williams, social consciousness seen largely from a kid's POV, etc.), this is not a "feel good" movie that will appeal to the mass audience at which Spielberg usually aims. The heartland of America will find this film disturbing and will tell their neighbors to stay away. Sci fi afficionados of the hard science variety (like myself) will have mixed feelings since some of the science is, shall we say, unlikely. The fantasy/sorcery crowd will probably be disenchanted for other reasons, although there is a glorious ending that might mist up one's eyes (it did mine). Overall, however, this is an unsettling look at humanity and where we're headin' ("Is that Lincoln County Road or Armageddon?"), and the treatment is definitely NOT something for the kiddies. It's liable to give them nightmares.
The central hook of the film is that we are made to identify with the robotic mechas, especially Haley Joel Osment's David and Jack Angel's Teddy and Jude Law's Gigolo Joe, while being reminded that they are not human, or more properly, that they are more admirable than human. In a way the robots resemble the have-nots of the current society, the handicapped and the poor, while the humans in the persons of Monica Swinton (Frances O'Connor), her son Martin (Jake Thomas) and the Flesh Fair entrepreneur (Brendan Gleeson) represent respectively the privileged, the cruel, and the exploitive. Monica's compromised morality is made clear in the scene in the woods (which I won't describe for fear of giving away too much). One also gets the sense that she and her husband (who portray the usual kid-show parental mentality) are not actually bright enough to figure out what has happened when siblings and friends have conflicts. Monica simply sides with her biological child and throws David to the wolves, as it were.
On another level this is a movie about a child's undying love for his mother, a love that lasts for two thousand years and a day and is never compromised. It is about believing in fairy tales and the miraculous, a modern day Pinocchio in Wonderland as might be dreamed up by admirers of Blade Runner (1982). In the Spielberg canon, echoes from his cinematic predecessors mesh with echoes from his own movies in a sometimes all too obvious way. Note the return of the moon (in sinister splendor) from E.T. with Teddy (who could have been retrieved from the set of Blade Runner--as could Prof. Hobby, AKA Geppetto) trudging across the top of a rise in front of it.
The sets and the animations are sumptuous and beautiful. The robots and the aliens are ingeniously crafted. I very much liked the vision of a drowned Manhattan with the upper stories of the skyscrapers rising above the level of the sea (presumably from global warming), giving us a very quiet and almost contemplative Manhattan, and then the skyscrapers immersed in ice as the earth falls into a prolonged ice age. The sense of the rapid passage of awesome time reminded me a bit of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), while Dr. Know (voice of Robin Williams) recalled The Wizard of Oz (1939), and the Blue Fairy (voice of Meryl Streep) something from Disney.
This is a substantially compromised masterpiece, as it certainly had to be coming from the ghost of Kubrick as fashioned by Hollywood's most powerful and most commercially successful director, but an engaging, ambitious spiral into the future, one well worth watching one, one that will linger in the mind awhile.
See this to encourage Spielberg to emphasize creativity over formula, to encourage him to make more movies that dare to offend the mass mind while intriguing the rest of us.
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Initial post: 18 Dec 2015 23:34:00 GMT
An excellent review of an underrated film.
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