DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review
Written and directed by Steven Spielberg, 145 minutes, rated PG-13.
By Christopher Smith
After an intriguing opening that lays the foundation for the story of David (Haley Joel Osment), a robotic boy who longs to be human, Steven Spielberg’s uneven collaboration with the late Stanley Kubrick, “A.I.,” becomes a fascinating mess.
Technically strong yet emotionally sterile, it raises a handful of questions about the meaning of love and our responsibility to those high-tech toys we’ll one day create in our own images, but it ultimately finds Spielberg reaching too hard to honor Kubrick’s vision--not to mention his own.
The film is comprised of three acts--the first nicely captures the chill of Kubrick, the second gives in to the sap of Spielberg, and the last is a weird hybrid of each director’s personal style.
In the best part of the film, the first third, David is introduced to Monica and Henry Swinton (Frances O’Connor and Sam Robards), an unlikable couple whose terminally ill son, Martin (Jake Thomas), is being cryogenically preserved until a cure can be found to heal him. Desperate to fill the hole left in their son’s absence, the Swinton’s turn to David, a walking, talking doll who has been programmed to love.
But when David is abandoned by Monica, whom he is certain is his mother, Spielberg breaks from his canny imitation of Kubrick’s style to employ all the tricks for which he himself is known--rousing action, teary-eyed sentiment, innocence threatened, the search for home, love lost and found. It’s a jarring transition, but Spielberg, ever the entertainer, can’t help himself.
Now, with David lost to the wilds of the world, the rest of the film demands that we invest ourselves in a machine whose love isn’t real and never can be real. It’s artificial, the work of transistors, battery packs, animatronics. But does the artificiality of David’s love make it any less valid simply because he’s a robot? As "A.I." presses into its second hour, Spielberg struggles to find an answer that wouldn’t just please Kubric, but also himself.
With Jude Law in an astonishing performance as Gigolo Joe, a polished robot who takes David to the evil city as the wolf did to Pinocchio, “A.I.” builds to an inevitable ending. Spielberg wants us to weep, but Kubrick wants us to think. Audiences will find a middle ground, but it won’t be one that satisfies.