In the future, the ice caps have melted and drowned many coastal cities around the world. This causes government bodies to enact laws restricting newborn birth, in an effort to save the dwindling resources of the Earth. Because of this, the scientific community continues to create and advance the science of android or meccas. Professor Hobby (William Hurt) creates a little boy mecca that is so advanced that people mistake David (Hayley Joel Osment) for a human. He even has the ability to love. David is adopted by a couple, the Swintons (Sam Robards, Frances O’Connor). The Swintons’ real little boy is in a coma and David could provide the love that Monica Swinton is lacking. Things get complicated when the Swintons’ little boy comes out of his coma and sibling rivalry develops. Monica can’t bring herself to take David back to the laboratory, so she sets him free. David begins his journey for the Blue Fairy, from “Pinocchio”. He is convinced that she will make him a real boy. Along the way, he meets Gigolo Joe (Jude Law), another Mecca.
“AI: Artificial Intelligence” is a film that began with the late filmmaker Stanley Kubrick. Somewhere along the line, he asked Steven Spielberg to become involved. Upon Kubrick’s death, Spielberg resurrected the idea as a homage to his friend. Spielberg wrote the screenplay and directed the film.
“AI” is simply one of the most outstanding visual feasts ever committed to film. Spielberg has created a concert of images and special effects which, for the most part, bring this future society alive. Future homes are just slightly modern. But future cityscapes on the other hand… Wow. Scenes are set in New York City, after the floods, and I quite honestly felt that Spielberg had filmed in a flooded New York City. The obvious use of CGI has become so advanced that it looks that realistic. The scenes in Rouge City are also very effective: a riot of color, sound and neon. Rouge City, a descendant of Las Vegas gone bad, is flashy and bright, filled with whirling holograms and characters. But it is believable. There is also an extended scene underwater which looks real. Everything looks real. Including the mecca that has her face pulled off. She looks like a human until her face splits in half and reveals a circuit board underneath. Gone are the shaky computer animated aspects of such a creation. Also, the climax, while fairly unbelievable, is also very convincing. Everything is done so well, that we could imagine that this happened, if the story were as effective. Visually, the film is stunning and a true example of a master at work.
Hayley Joel Osment further cements his reputation as a great actor. He takes a very difficult role and makes it believable. He brings a lot of subtle nuance to the role of a mecca that wants to be human. Every moment, we get a sense that his character is working things out, trying to figure out how he can become the Swintons’ new little boy. Osment doesn’t rely on the theatrical gestures that many actors would employ to create the character of a robot. No jerky movements or stilted speech.
Jude Law is the other stand out in “AI”. Perfectly cast, Law plays a gigolo mecca, created simply to pleasure others. This is his role in life and colors everything he does and says. He has the looks, the swagger, the bravado to pull the character off.
It is fairly important for people to pay attention to the fact that this film was inspired by Kubrick. At times, the ad campaign paints the film as a cross of “E.T.” and “Close Encounters”. It does have elements of each, but despite the presence of a talking teddy bear throughout most of the film, there are some disturbing un-child friendly scenes.
“AI” fails as an exercise in storytelling. Spielberg pens a screenplay that moves coldly from one scene to the next. Probably conceived as a warning of sorts, the film loses impact because there are no characters in the film that are affected by the warning message. Without giving anything away, I understood that the film wants to warn humans against too much technological advancement. However, there are no humans in the story throughout. The journey is made by the product of our technology. The journey is entirely through his eyes. David also has a different journey, as he searches for the Blue Fairy. This journey takes him through the various stages of our obsession with technology, but doesn’t seem to affect him in any way.
The film is about thirty minutes too long. Essentially, there is a lengthy epilogue which stretches the imagination far too much. While it is created in a very real way, we have to wonder again why we are taking the journey. Young David doesn’t experience what a human would experience. How are we supposed to relate to this message? In the end, I don't think that we do and the message loses power.