Spielberg sees Kubrick’s vision


Directed by Steven Spielberg

(Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O’Connor, Sam Robards)

Rated: PG13


A.I. is an experience that presents an original vision with reserved imagination and sincerity. Its story, loosely based on Brian Aldiss’ short story Super-Toys Last All Summer Long and Pinocchio, opens ones eyes to questions about life and love forgotten since childhood. It is a film not made for mindless consumption, but for thoughtful contemplation by the masses.

Behind the final product is a most unusual collaboration. Stanley Kubrick, known for abandoning the viewer in his methodical style of storytelling, and Steven Spielberg, the box office champion of big budget spectacles, both contribute to this engrossing vision.

For 15 years Kubrick researched and developed the film. When the director passed in 1999, Spielberg took the reins and wrote the screenplay. Film enthusiasts have debated which style Spielberg would adopt for this challenging film. Astonishingly, he manages both.

A.I. has three chapters. In the first, David (Haley Joel Osment), a mechanical boy on the cutting edge of robotics, is created to help Henry (Sam Robards) and Monica (Frances O’Connor) through the loss of their son Martin (Jake Thomas), who is cryogenically frozen until a cure for his disease is discovered. Initially, Monica can not love a robot. Then, slowly, David works his way into Monica’s heart. As he morphs from awkward coldness to needy boy and says loving words humans long for, he truly becomes Monica’s son, healing her broken heart.

When a cure is found for their son, Martin returns home and tensions arise between the boys, creating a series of misunderstandings that force Monica to send David away.

The second chapter finds David alone, meeting Gigolo Joe (Jude Law), a sexbot, designed to give women pleasure. Together they escape a robot-killing circus and head for Rouge City, in search of Pinocchio’s “blue fairy.” David, having heard the fairy tale, is sure the magical fairy can grant the same powers to him, allowing him to return to Monica as a real boy. Ultimately, David is forced to face the truth of his existence and the futility of his dream.

This story is only a shell for far greater questions. Similar to Pinocchio, A.I.‘s emotions derive from universal themes of the pains from the need for reality and acceptance.

Spielberg has crafted a film that does not cater to the viewer, and yet respects Kubrick’s style in demanding further exploration. What makes anyone, human or robot, real? What is love? Where does it come from? Is human love real or a programmed response? How far can and should science go?

These questions are not easily explored, nor does Spielberg deliver a neatly wrapped package. He allows A.I. to develop free of forced interpretation, lets images sink in and permits the soul searching to begin.

The final sequence stays true to A.I.‘s message. While Spielberg allows his child-like wonder to surface, the film’s intensity is not abandoned. Rather, by shifting tones and allowing David one last chance to test the extent of his “emotions,” A.I. continues to obscure conclusions.

Some will insist it proves love triumphs above all. Others will say it proves David’s love is artificial; something foolishly obsessed over and clung to. In either case, this last tonal shift does not end the story but, in true Kubrick fashion, opens the door of possibilities.

–Steven Snyder