Film Review © 2001 by Trip Reynolds
Science Fiction, Fantasy
Directed by Steven Spielberg; Screenplay by Ian Watson VII and Steven Spielberg from an original story by Brian Aldiss. Produced by Bonnie Curtis, Kathleen Kennedy, and Steven Spielberg, and executive produced by Jan Harlan and Walter Parkes.
Starring Haley Joel Osment (as artificial life form, David), Jude Law (as an obnoxious artificial life form programmed to provide sexual-pleasure, Gigolo Joe), Frances O'Connor (as Monica Swinton, human mother to human son, Martin, and A.I. son, David), William Hurt (as human scientist who creates artificial life forms, Professor Hobby), Sam Robards (as Henry Swinton, human father to human son, Martin, and A.I. son, David), Jake Thomas (as Martin Swinton, human son to Henry and Monica), Brendan Gleeson (as merchant-pillager of artificial life forms, Lord Johnson-Johnson), Meryl Streep (as Blue Mecha), Ashley Scott (as Gigolo Jane), Chris Rock (as Comedian), Robin Williams (as Dr. Know), Ben Kingsley (as Specialist/Narrator). Also, starring Ken Leung (as Syatyoo-Sama), Michael Mantell (as Dr. Frazier), Michael Berresse (as Stage Manager), Kathy Morris (as Teenage Honey), Adrian Grenier (as Teen in Van), Clara Bellar (as FemMecha Nanny), Jack Angel (as Teddy), Paula Malcomson (as Patricia in Mirrored Room), Enrico Colantoni (as The Murderer), and April Grace (as Female Colleague).
This is a lousy film. There are many superior "artificial intelligence" films, from D.A.R.Y.L. (Data Analyzing Robot Youth Lifeform) released in 1985, to the 1982 classic Blade Runner, or the 1999 Robin Williams starer Bicentennial Man. The most serious problem with A.I. is an attempt by Steven Spielberg to make this film something more than it is - important. It's not an "important" film. It's completely pretentious to present this film as something more than a disjointed mixture of morbidity solely because it was once a project of Stanley Kubrick. Film does not cover any new themes involving artificial intelligence. In fact, you'd acquire more information, entertainment and drama about artificial intelligence from watching Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The story: The polar ice caps have melted, great coastal cities are submerged, worldwide starvation resulted, and humans now depend on robots to support their entire existence. Haley Joel Osment plays David, the first robot designed to actually love. Henry Swinton, played by Sam Robards, works for the company that built David. One day Henry brings David home in an attempt to comfort his wife, Monica, played by Frances O'Connor. Monica is grieving because their human son, Martin, played by Jake Thomas, is comatose. Unfortunately for David, Martin recovers. Eventually the Swinton's become concerned about David and Martin getting along and, in particular, Martin's safety. They decide to get rid of David but David cannot be returned to his manufacturer because of the permanent emotional imprint established with the Swinton's that make him unable to love any other family, or more accurately, any other mother. So, Monica literally abandons David in the middle of a forest and bids him good luck. Soon David meets Gigolo Joe, played rather obnoxiously by Jude Law who, like David, is also an artificial life form but one programmed to provide sexual-pleasure as a walking dildo. Here's where story takes a Blade Runner-ish turn to become darker with David and Gigolo Joe being hunted, captured and placed in a circus-like show where for sport and entertainment humans destroy robots by blowing them up, tearing them apart. Yeah, yeah, yeah, so David escapes, time passes, and eventually Spielberg takes yet another opportunity to bring his typecast, skinny, silvery aliens into the story. End of movie. Unlike Blade Runner, this film is without an arch in story development. David literally does not grow, physically or emotionally. For nearly two hours you're waiting for something to happen, something big, but nothing ever does. The story is unbelievably flat.
Avy Kaufman did a commendable job casting Haley Joel Osment as the young robot and attaching people like Meryl Streep, Robin Williams and Ben Kingsley in supporting roles. Yet, this distinguished cast cannot lift an otherwise dreadful story. Additionally, except for the opening sequence with Professor Hobby opening the skull of a female robot during a class lecture, all subsequent special effects appeared mediocre. Given the subject matter - artificial intelligence - I was expecting better, particularly since Stan Winston (Animatronic Effects) and Michael Lantieri (Special Effects Supervisor) of George Lucas's Industrial Light & Magic were responsible for the special effects. Among other films, Winston and Lantieri performed similar jobs on Jurassic Park I, II and III.
Film has a long, laborious running length of 145 minutes.
Recommendation: See it a a dollar theater, or better, see if when it's on cable. It's not worth buying on DVD unless you're a die-hard collector of films by Steven Spielberg.