Artificial Intelligence: AI

I Am....I was

A review by Mike Shea   Movie Rating: ( * * * * · )    DVD Rating: ( * * * * * )

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This movie got torn up pretty good by initial reviews so I wasn't expecting much more than another 3 hour life lesson from Stephen Spielburg. Spielburg is a director that should remember that Jaws was his real big hit and instead of spending two hours making us feel bad, he should try to entertain us again. Instead he changes guns to walkie talkies and tries to remove the word "terrorist" from our brains.

Luckily, I started up AI expecting a pretty long and painful movie. What I got was good solid science fiction that performed both of my two rules for good science fiction.

  1. Build a story based on something other than science or fiction
  2. Build a fantastic imaginative world and use it as a window into a possible future

Either of these two, when done right, can make a really good movie. Pi, for example had a great storyline involving neither science nor fiction but did little to build a fantastic vision of the future. Fifth Element had a terrible story, but a great fantastic vision of the future. AI has both.

First, AI builds a solid thinking-man's story surrounding a robot programmed for unconditional love. The story does such a good job that the humans surrounding him look more lifeless than he does. It also stays true to form by showing that no matter what happens, he cannot let go of this unconditional love. The story does not break down during any point in the movie, even when it seems to drift into the super natural.

Second, AI builds a fantastic world where mecha (robots) do all the manual labor and fulfill the entertainment needs of it's users. The movie doesn't shrink away from showing the huge appeal for prostitute mechas and even includes one as an excellent supporting role. Set designs are very good ranging from a redneck celebration of life that looks like a future version of Nascar and pro wrestling, to a red-light city of sin, to a submerged New York. All are done with a great attention to detail.

The characters in AI are very well done. Jude Law as Gigolo Joe, the sex mecha, gives us a look in the mind of a more mature android who truly understands "They don't love you, they love what you give them". The best character of all is Teddy, a supertoy bear that seems to have everything figured out the second he is turned on. The hopelessness of his mannerism made me want to weep each time he showed up on screen.

My one complaint with AI is the four hour long ending. So much time could have been spent on the society and on character depth than the endless irrelevant explanations given at the movie's end. Note that I didn't mind the fantastic nature of the ending, simply the length. If you can't take the wild turn, you aren't ready for good science fiction.

The DVD release of AI includes a 16x9 enhanced 1.85 to 1 picture with both a DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. There are a ton of features with everything but a full directors commentary stuck in. I would have liked to get into Spielburg's head just to see how fucked up he has become since getting "big". Still, there is enough extra features to warrent a rating of 5.

AI is too long, has an ending that doesn't quit and doesn't spend enough time filling out the world, but what it does have, it does very well. I am constantly reminded of a Bladerunner quote the more I think of this movie. "They called it routine retirement of a replicant which didn't make me feel any better shooting a woman in the back." Deckard understood that there was hardly any difference between robots and humans. Ebert's review of the movie stated that he never cared because he always knew the boy was a robot. What he is missing is that there is nothing but science separating us from them.