A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
February 2, 2023 9:57 AM - Subscribe

A robotic boy, the first programmed to love, David (Haley Joel Osment) is adopted as a test case by a Cybertronics employee (Sam Robards) and his wife (Frances O'Connor). Though he gradually becomes their child, a series of unexpected circumstances make this life impossible for David. Without final acceptance by humans or machines, David embarks on a journey to discover where he truly belongs, uncovering a world in which the line between robot and machine is both vast and profoundly thin.

Also starring Jude Law, Jake Thomas, William Hurt, Robin Williams, Ben Kingsley, Meryl Streep, Chris Rock, Ken Leung.

Directed by Steven Spielberg. Screenplay by Steven Spielberg, based on a screen story by Ian Watson. Both were based on the 1969 short story "Supertoys Last All Summer Long" by Brian Aldiss. Cinematography by Janusz Kaminski. Score composed by John Williams.

Development of A.I. originally began after producer/director Stanley Kubrick acquired the rights to Aldiss' story in the early 1970s. Kubrick hired a series of writers, including Brian Aldiss, Bob Shaw, Ian Watson, and Sara Maitland, until the mid-1990s. The film languished in development hell for years, partly because Kubrick felt that computer-generated imagery was not advanced enough to create the David character, whom he believed no child actor would convincingly portray. In 1995, Kubrick handed A.I. to Spielberg, but the film did not gain momentum until Kubrick died in 1999. Spielberg remained close to Watson's treatment for the screenplay, and dedicated the film to Kubrick.

75% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Currently streaming in the US on Paramount Plus. Also available for digital rental. JustWatch listing.
posted by DirtyOldTown (15 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We threw out a bunch of DVDs a few years ago but not this one, even though the our player may not work ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ even though streaming it is more convenient and getting rid of stuff feels good.
posted by kingless at 11:20 AM on February 2

I only saw this once and I found it unbearably sad.
posted by Kitteh at 11:40 AM on February 2 [7 favorites]

I thought the film did a brilliant job laying out the sheer cruelty of David's single-target love programming, both because he's explicitly disposable and because he is incapable of ever developing beyond that programming--even after his breakdown near the end, when he discovers that he is mass-produced. Gigolo Joe, by contrast, does develop a more complex sense of self by the end of the film (the "I am--I was," an identity not defined by his status as a high-tech sex toy for humans) through his friendship with David, even though there's no sign that David is actually capable of reciprocating.
posted by thomas j wise at 12:04 PM on February 2 [5 favorites]

I always liked this one, although I thought it was less well received than the RT score would suggest. But as a counterpart to Bicentennial Man? Good times.
posted by Kyol at 12:34 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]

Kubrick was not always interested in subtlety and ambiguity, but when he was he could dig deep. Spielberg just doesn’t have those tools in his toolbox. This seemed like a poor fit for his skillset.
posted by rikschell at 12:45 PM on February 2 [3 favorites]

I acknowledge that The Nostalgia Critic is a bit of a controversial figure; but he did a decent analysis of the direction, and why Spielberg may have made some of the choices he did.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:59 PM on February 2

A movie that got better for me on rewatching. I really bounced of Spielberg's schlocky tendencies when I first saw it on release.
posted by kokaku at 2:04 PM on February 2

This movie made me sad, too, not just for the film itself, but because none of my friends who ostensibly liked science fiction movies liked it. Some didn’t even understand it. At least one called the advanced robots in the last act “aliens,” for example. Another guy only went to see it because Ministry was in it, and hated the “happy” ending. Yikes.
I was completely alone with loving this movie.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 2:09 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]

Blank Check has a very good podcast on this movie (ep 97, Soundcloud) with David Rees, which I'd encourage everyone to check out.

AI has to be one of the most misunderstood of Spielberg's movies. Part of that is for reasons described by Mister Moofoo (aliens, "happy" ending); and part of that is thinking that Spielberg is responsible for the ending, which isn't true. The good news is that it's being reappraised lately, along with things like Minority Report and Spielberg's work as a whole, so I think people will get a better picture of it over time.
posted by adrianhon at 3:36 AM on February 3 [3 favorites]

This is one of those movies where Spielberg being crassly manipulative like he usually is just pisses me off because it feels like it runs so counter to the Kubrick story underneath it.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 5:48 AM on February 3 [5 favorites]

It felt to me like three different Outer Limits episodes tacked together: First the initial dysfunctional family drama based on the Aldiss story. Then the scope shifts to society wide with robots as persecuted others. Finally the Pinnochio / real boy / far future vignette.

I mostly liked the first one and thought it had punch, and Jude Law had a lot of screen presence in the middle to keep it moving, but overall I left feeling disappointed.

Can someone explain why it's not a happy ending? Is it just that humanity is gone? Because humanity consistently sucks in the movie frame. The Mechas are a better legacy for us than more meatsacs.
posted by mark k at 9:03 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]

I was pretty engrossed in the ARG that was part of the marketing for this movie.
posted by emelenjr at 9:51 AM on February 3

Holy shit, Cloudmakers! Man, that was a fun ride.
posted by Rora at 6:05 PM on February 3

I do like this movie quite a lot, despite its Spielbergian overtones. For me, it’s Osment’s performance that sells it. He’s spectacularly good in the role.

The one part of the show that I could do without is the Flesh Fair. The violence is wayyyyy over the top, bordering on cartoonish. Anyway, I think there could have been a far less violent, yet still seriously threatening, way to get across the point that many humans hate mechs.

I feel like this section in particular would have been handled more effectively and deftly by Kubrick. In a way, the violence is very Spielbergian in it’s high level of violence. It’s one of the most manipulative scenes in the movie, and it’s like being hit over the head with the “humans hate mechs” idea.

What’s kind of interesting, though, is how this section is introduced. The full moon rising into the sky, which almost directly refers back to Spielberg’s E.T., and the flying bikes scene. Of course, the difference there being that, in A.I., the moon is revealed to be the Flesh Fair hunters.

The ending is appropriately bittersweet. Again, though, I think Kubrick would have done it much more deftly, probably leaving more space for personal interpretation by the viewer, instead of the strings being firmly tied-up as Spielberg does. Kubrick would probably have not added the narration at the end.

Anyway, this is definitely one you should not miss seeing.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:05 AM on February 4 [2 favorites]

I was a moderator on the Cloudmakers mailing list, along with a few other Mefites, plus I wrote The Guide, the walkthrough to the ARG!
posted by adrianhon at 11:34 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]

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