June 30, 2001 -- Stanley Kubrick reportedly wanted to make the film "A.I." but after Kubrick's untimely death, Steven Spielberg took over the project. The screenplay, based on a short story by science fiction writer Brian Aldiss, is very much like a fairy tale with numerous references to Pinocchio.
A scientist, Professor Hobby (played by William Hurt of "Sunshine"). Makes a prototype robot that is just like a real boy. He is programmed to love his adoptive mother, Monica Swinton (Frances O'Connor of "Bedazzled") and her husband, Henry Swinton (Sam Robards of "Bounce"). The Swinton's own child is in a coma-like condition and they were deemed to be a good test couple to try out the prototype robot.
The boy robot, David (Haley Joel Osment of "Pay it Forward") gets loose and has to fend for himself in a terrifying world where robots are killed for sport. He sets out on a journey to find the blue fairy, who, as in the Pinocchio story, he hopes will turn him into a "real boy" so he can regain his mother's lost love. His quest turns into a grand adventure. Along the way he is befriended by a Gigolo Joe, the love robot (Jude Law of "Enemy at the Gates") and other robots.
This touching story, like many others before it, is a story about the genius of human creation (in this case, humanity's quest for procreation expressed through a robot), and the struggle of robots and androids to attain human rights. It is also about the responsibilities that creators have to and for their creations, a very heavy philosophical subject, indeed. Like the continuing story of Data in the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" series and "Bicentennial Man," we have a mechanical creature who strives to be human. This raises the question of what is it that makes us human, surely it is not our bodies that makes us so. I would argue David was always human in every important way. Unlike a real boy, however, David's family demanded that he be perfect, and nobody's perfect, least of all robots or boys. While the end of the film seems contrived, it is also brimming with delicious irony concerning David's previously unrecognized humanity. It is a thought-provoking story.
While the science in this story (such as global warming followed in short order by an ice age) is highly suspect. It is clearly meant to be a fairy tale, not true science fiction. The story is almost as whimsical as "Edward Scissorhands." The film is more emotionally neutral that most Spielberg films, but it certainly is not as emotionally frosty as a Kubrick film. I personally like emotionally powerful films like "Saving Private Ryan," and found Kubrick's "2001, A Space Odyssey" almost devoid of all human feeling. However, others complain Spielberg films are too manipulative. Whatever. This film is certainly not overbearing. I thought it had just the right level of emotional restraint. This is an excellent film, with an imaginative screenplay by Ian Watson and Spielberg, and brilliant special effects. The production values are excellent, particularly the cinematography by Janusz Kaminski ("Saving Private Ryan"), production design by Rick Carter ("Cast Away") and art direction by Richard L. Johnson ("All The Pretty Horses"), William J. Teegarden ("Twins") and Tom Valentine ("Mission to Mars"). The actors are also excellent, particularly Osment, O'Connor, Law and Hurt. This film rates an A.
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