by Jason Whyte
Walking out of "A.I.", many thoughts had run through my head, the key one being that this is a Spielberg film of a Stanley Kubrick film. Every Kubrick film that I've walked out of, I have always come out with my head reeling, my gut churning by Kubrick's amazing visions. And "A.I." did not have the same impact.Which is not to say it is a bad film by any means. This was one of the most ambitious and audacious films to be released in 2001, both in what what is on the screen and what was hyped about this production. Kubrick, before his death in 1999, would have made this film after "Eyes Wide Shut" and most likely make it his last film of his career. He wrote the inital storyline and provided storyboards of how he wanted the film to look. And then, after his death, Spielberg had permission from the Kubrick estate to make this film.
"Spielberg on Kubrick...does it work?"
Set in the distant future, David (Haley Joel Osment) looks and sounds real, but he is not. He's a "Mecha" child, the design of a technology corporation called Cybertech that creates synthetic beings, this one the most controversal because it is manufactured to have feelings. David is brought into the family by Henry (Sam Robards), who works at Cybertech and brings David home. David is then introduced to his new mother, Monica (Frances O'Connor).
They are both very nervous of David and his presence in their life. Here is a robot child capable of dreams, thoughts and emotions, and looks astonishingly real and organic. But when an event happens that almost causes death to Monica and Henry's natural son, David is abandoned. He finds himself with Gigalo Joe (Jude Law), a robot hustler, who both come together by being track down by some anti-robot fanatics. Escaping them, David's journey of his mind, his quest to become real after reading the story of "Pinocchio", begins.
Everything Kubrick, in theme and style, is outstanding. Spielberg has paid great tribute to the God of Filmmaking with his use of lenses, framing, tracking shots, garish and muted colors and hot lighting. There are moments that my heart raced at the astonishing attention to detail.And the way Kubrick tells his stories slow and drawn out, to appreciate what is happening in the moment, is well done by Spielberg here.
It's just when Spielberg brings in his own methods of telling the story is where some of it backfires. In some cases, he goes completely against what Kubrick would have made out of this film and pumps up the John Williams score and the sentimentality. It is no more evident in the final passages of this film, which deal with David's endless quest to find the Blue Fairy, that Kubrick's vision ends and the one of Spielberg begins.
Kubrick had delayed the idea of this film, based on Brian Aldiss' "Summer Toys Last All Summer Long", because his idea of the effects were not around at the time. And yet somehow, Spielberg has come in and provided some of the most groundbreaking visuals and sets ever put down on film. The images of Manhattan, the robot destruction carnival, even the other uses of Mecha beings are all beautiful to look at and serve a major purpose to the storytelling.
Haley Joel Osment is at the peak of his form here. As a fine supporting player in "The Sixth Sense" and "Pay It Forward," Osment completely disappears into David, and never for a second did I believe this was just an actor portraying an unreal entity. He's matched by Jude Law, simply amazing as the suave gigalo that befriends David. William Hurt has an important role as David's creator. And both the parents, Frances O'Connor and Sam Robards, are very good.I kept thinking if Kubrick was alive to make this film, how long would he have taken to make it? Would he have poured years into the visuals, updating it as technology came into play? How would he have dealt with David's story different than Spielberg? I guess we'll never know. What is here is a startling, beautiful vision, but with some inherent flaws that prevent it from true greatness.
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originally posted: 05/14/04 13:58:00