At the Movies with Alan Gekko: A.I.: Artificial Intelligence “01”

MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Sci-Fi Drama/ Stars: Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O’Connor, Sam Robards, Jake Thomas, William Hurt, Brendan Gleeson, Ministry; Voices of: Jack Angel, Robin Williams, Ben Kingsley, Meryl Streep, Chris Rock/ Runtime: 146 minutes

Well now I must say THIS was quite the intriguing film to sit down and revisit then review for you movie lovers. Indeed I say this because 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence is a wonderfully convoluted slice of cinematic pie that I could honestly write a whole book about. Not just in regards to its history in getting to the silver screen, but also (and infinitely more crucially) its importance as a riveting and immersive analysis at just what exactly does it mean to be “human”. Indeed this is a movie that manages to go to some pretty deep places on both a psychological and a philosophical level that at the same time manage to cover the spectrum of emotion before finally showing us that the key ingredient that it feels is the key to being human is the ability to believe. Indeed it is that power of belief, this slice of cinematic pie argues, that has the power to surpass everything else including the powers to be creative, ponder, and even reason respectively. Suffice it to say then that this slice of cinematic pie is an often emotional and quite riveting movie that manages to function almost entirely through its analysis of this idea that is then transformed into a narrative and showcased to us on the silver screen. Indeed the cast of characters that this film presents us with are practically background to a narrative that is built around an odyssey undertaken by a robot boy’s quest to overcome his own limits in order to find the final thing that will make him a real live boy yet just what that missing component may be is entirely inconsequential to the dogged determination on the part of the child to locate it. It is that way that this film is a distinct face amongst the masses in that we are given a look at the soul from an entirely new perspective which proposes that it isn’t having a soul right off the bat that matters, but that if you have the desire to possess one then it is what makes something human no matter what.

The plot is as follows: A.I. takes us to a possible future where we quickly learn that accelerated global warming has managed to decimate the planet in the worst ways possible. Indeed the ice caps have finally melted away and as a result cities across the planet are gone, the population is a lot smaller thus turning pregnancy into a luxury, and also the government has imposed restrictions of sorts on having kids. To that end, we see that society has quickly and desperately turned to artificial life for help since they could do all the work yet not take in nearly as many resources as a human would.  To that end we see that, as our narrative begins, the world of science is about to conjure up a robot child that can actually love and be loved much as a “real child” could thus giving those who wish to be parents the chance to actually be one. Suffice it to say then that when a pair of a child who is only able to survive in stasis decide to bring one of these new miracle children, a robot boy christened David, into their lives, they find they are able to do so…albeit with some slight biases and reservations attached before finding it possible to accept him as their own son. Yet when their son is amazingly able to come home, we see that the stage is set for a distinct twist on the time-honored sibling rivalry that soon sees David abandoned and left all alone. Undeterred however, we soon see our intrepid robot hero set out on a quest to become human in order to be taken back in and be capable of receiving and giving the love that it so desperately wants.

Now right off the bat it should be noted that this movie is a quite riveting peek at what could occur if humanity decides to eradicate being human from the planet….at least that is how it starts. I say that because in the 2nd third of the movie, things take a rather bizarre detour into the surreal, one of the few yet crucial weaknesses this movie has incidentally, which operates more as its own separate movie within a movie that doesn’t seem to have a purpose beyond being the bridge that connects the beginning and end of the film, the first act meant to show the eradication of humanity and the ending the attempt to bring it back by an entity that never has had it no less. Be that as it may be this film still is at its best in the beginning and if that is because the middle of the film just doesn’t fit with the rest of the movie or because there is more of a chance for this material to wax philosophical with the material covered in the first act is up for each and every one of you to decide for yourself. Nevertheless, it is that idea of that both what is real and what is created can exist if one tries to become more like the other that is the genuine highlight of this movie. Incidentally the effort in this movie to not only insert emotion into a being that didn’t have them to begin with as well as wanting people to accept this being as an entity capable of genuine emotion presents us with the quite intriguing question: can something that has never known love be able to both give and receive that which it has never known? Yes a person can love something that is not real or even something that might not have a soul as we perceive it to be, but even that love can be different from what each of us on an individual basis sees as the say all, end all explanation for what love is between us and another person. Indeed it really feels like if the real lesson that this movie seems to want to pass along is that genuine love is not a thing which can be downloaded into a computer or put together piece by piece no matter how up to date the machinery, hopefully not run by AOL, is.

This of course brings us to the other narrative at play in this slice of cinematic pie in the form of our robot hero’s journey to be transformed into a real live boy a’la Pinocchio.  Indeed what is it that makes David feel that the void where humanity should be within him is a flaw? Is it what he sees throughout the movie or is it just ever evolving programming? Indeed David seems to not possession the comprehension for him to understand that even the barriers placed by biology can’t be demolished by even the science that brought him to life and as such is unaware of the limits that are set on him as a non-human yet humanoid all the same entity. Rather the programming he is endowed with has instructed him to love and be loved by others so much that when he is told the tale of a boy just like him named Pinocchio his inner mechanics cannot tell between what is real and made-up. As a result, he finds himself feeling like he is a living representation of Pinocchio to the point that his quest in the film is to find the proverbial “Blue Fairy” so he too can become a real boy. Suffice it to say that it is this aspect of the movie as well as David’s journey through both time and his ever-growing comprehension of the other emotions in the spectrum that all manage to blend together in order to conjure up for us a distinct comprehension that will prove to be different for each of you who chooses to watch this film since this story and our guide through said story will mean something a little bit different to each of us as well.

Now when approaching this movie from a more typical technical point of view, this movie is very well done albeit not to the point that this narrative requires. Indeed this is a film based on a tale written by Brian Aldiss and that constantly was wanting to be made by none other than legendary film helmer Stanley Kubrick. Yet even though he sadly never got around to making it, it wouldn’t be long before iconic helmer Steven Spielberg decided to take charge and bring Kubrick’s passion project to the big screen at long last. Yet even though the movie finally started filming in time to get it out in 2001 since Spielberg felt that visual effects departments could now do on the computer what they could barely even dream of when Kubrick was around they weren’t the key ingredient to this film’s success. That, of course would be on the young boy that, impressed by his work in his debut 2 years earlier would be picked by Spielberg to bring David to life. His name? Haley Joel Osment and it should be noted that his performance in this absolutely phenomenal. Indeed Osment manages to showcase with a phenomenal degree of skill and ease not only the basics of this character, but also just how deep David is able to go the further into his quest he goes. Not only that, but Osment also manages to blend together the character’s dogged drive as well as his innocence that borderlines on naïve fairly well and from a technical point of view this performance manages to be just as great the work done behind the camera by Spielberg a lot of the time as well. Speaking of it should also be noted that Spielberg’s take on this particular film is a huge plus especially when it comes to the beginning of the movie where he brilliantly utilizes both altered perspective looks and distinct camera angles fairly often in order to help snare and showcase the oddness on a social and pathos level behind the narrative. Perhaps the film’s finest shot is the moment in the film where we get our first introduction to the character of David. Indeed, as seen in the movie, his shape is horribly blurred and oddly out of whack and at first glance looks more like something that we honestly have never dealt with or laid eyes on and as such I feel that is a powerful hint that everything else we have seen or that we will see in this movie is also that and, like its protagonist, so much more as well.

All in all A.I. Artificial Intelligence at the end of the day really truly is a magically brought to life and quite the thought-provoker of a slice of cinematic pie that is able to live up to what it is being asked to showcase for us….at least in the first third and at moments in the last third. Indeed here is a film that’s core narrative showcases a world where the product of humanity’s removal of what it means to be human decides it actually wants that ingredient and goes looking for it himself. Indeed this slice of cinematic pie is one that immerses itself in the hunt for life where life should not be able to thrive whilst also hinting that maybe the thing that makes something human is not possession of a soul, but rather being able to recognize when said soul is not there and deciding to find one nonetheless. Indeed it should come as no surprise that iconic helmer Steven Spielberg does manage to do dependably great work at the helm. Yet this is perhaps the first movie of his where I actually find myself wondering how it would have been done had its original helmer, one Stanley Kubrick, been able to do the film himself. As it is though, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence is more of a Kubrick film than a Spielberg film since even though you are hooked on the characters and the world they live in, they are still just ships through which the audience is able to sail to the various ports of call the narrative takes them to on its quest to locate humanity. Suffice it to say then that it might not be a say all, end all masterpiece, but if you are in the mood for a film that will test your mental acumen and leave you something to ponder you could honestly do a lot worse. On a scale of 1-5 I give A.I.: Artificial Intelligence “01” a solid 3.5 out of 5.