Artificial Intelligence

Mommy, Mommy, whine, whine, whine

Steven Spielberg is surely on the verge of disappearing up his own arse after this pathetic, muddy, sprawling borefest. AI is one of the worst films I have ever seen. It leaps from one massive suspension of disbelief to the next without ever coming close to constructing a realistic or believable character or setting. The subject matter and the mention of Kubrick as having had something to do with it suggested to me that it might be worth a look. Unfortunately nowadays Spielberg always produces films which are schmaltzy enough to induce severe vomiting. Admittedly he is talented and has been responsible for some truly great films (as well as the tedious blockbuster culture, which still pervades in Hollywood) but this is clearly a step too far for Steven.

If you have not seen the film and don´t want to know what happens then don´t read on. The idea behind AI is an interesting one, full of moral dilemmas and philosophical questions. Spielberg skims over these in favour of an overemotional fairy tale, which doggedly avoids any of the more interesting questions in favour of cheap emotional manipulation and misplaced romantic notions.

Haley Joel Osment plays David, the young creation of Professor Hobby (William Hurt). The professor is looking to test his child robot, which supposedly has the ability to love and so finds a suitable employee to test it. He chooses a couple who have recently lost their child to a coma, seven words are to be spoken to the surrogate robot child in order to "activate his love". The mother (Frances O´Connor) is unsure at first but eventually relents and says the words. This results in David immediately hugging her and calling her "mommy". As though overly pleased with this addition to his vocabulary the young robot goes on to say mommy in a cutesy poo voice around two hundred times before the film is over.

Having completely glossed over the moral implications with a pathetically short scene at Cybertronics Manufacturing, in which we are supposed to believe a leading scientist can get away with not addressing moral issues by spouting some irrelevant religious quote. We are then led into an unfolding fairy tale, which is completely at odds with the setting and characters. The mother cannot trust the robot David after her son comes home and the two don´t get on (basically the son picks on the robot and gets him into trouble). The father demands she get rid of the robot, he has never become engaged with it anyway. This raises the obvious question of why he bothered bringing it home, what about jealousy if the robot only loves the mother? All these potential questions are left unanswered as David is dumped in the woods in true fairy tale style. Surely a fate much crueller than just taking him back to the corporation to be dismantled.

David decides to find the blue fairy from Pinocchio so he can become a real boy and have his mother love him like her other son (spew). He somehow enlists the help of a ridiculous sex robot called Gigolo Joe (Jude Law). They escape from an old film set, which must have been used in Mad Max where crowds of idiots are watching robots being blown up, burned and melted with acid. When they are about to kill David he shouts out and suddenly the whole crowd is on his side. A moment earlier they were laughing with pleasure at this sick, cruel violence (like firing robots out of canons through flaming hoops) then all of a sudden they are prepared to start trouble in order to save this poor wee boy.

They go on the run, rather unconvincingly escaping the authorities. After a visit to some kind of hedonistic megacity they track the blue fairy to the remnants of New York. In actual fact it is Cybertronics, who have planted the clue to lead him there deliberately. I suppose they somehow knew that their escaped robot child prototype was bound to ask some computer program a question about where the blue fairy is?

Reaching this point with believability already stretched, snapped and thrown out of the window I found myself hoping the film would end soon. It didn´t. As though romantic robot kid fairytales and "Flesh Fair´s" full of drunk idiots abusing old, apparently harmless robots wasn´t enough Spielberg decided to throw caution to the wind and create the worst ending I have ever seen to a film.

David finds out he is not unique and so jumps in the ocean. He just happens to find a statue of the blue fairy from Pinocchio (in downtown Manhattan?) and so he sits watching it in some kind of multipurpose submarine/plane thing. He gets trapped there. All of a sudden the narrator´s voice comes back in (after an absence of over an hour) and tells us that he sat there for two thousand years while humans died out (again glossing over why and how we died out). Fast forward to the future and aliens dig up David.

The aliens think humans have the secret to the meaning of life (yeah right). They are totally naive and benevolent and don´t even seem to be able to lie. Not content with how ludicrously surreal the whole affair has become Spielberg has the aliens bring back the dead mother for David. The catch is that she can only live for a day. Why? They have some hair-brained story about the fabric of space-time, which does not make sense at all. So they actually bring the two thousand-year dead mother back to life so she can spend the day with the robot. Miraculously she doesn´t ask any questions about where she is or anything, which is just as well because Spielberg obviously had no way of answering them. The narrator has to cut in for another schmaltzy spiel about dreams and souls and finally we are released.

This film is the work of an oversized ego. It is the kind of production that makes you sick when you realise that these idiots are given millions to spend and all they can produce at the end of it is a boring schmaltzy pile of rubbish which makes no sense. I noticed that not content with producing and directing Spielberg also penned the screenplay. That explains it, what makes him think that he is capable of writing a decent screenplay? Clearly he isn't capable and should have let someone who knows what they are doing convert this into a story that at least makes sense.

The acting throughout is very good, considering the stupidity of the characters they are being asked to portray. The effects are impressive, as you would expect from the budget but there is very little else I can say that is positive. If you want an adult film, which actually explores the implications of artificial intelligence then Bladerunner cannot be beat. The best things about this film are pale imitations of Bladerunner without the depth. I also thought for the first while of the film Spielberg borrowed heavily from another terrible film, Millennium Man, which was also very emotional and cheesy. He also seems to have a pathological need to avoid anything real or negative, why should the aliens admire humans when we have killed each other for centuries, persecuted and ultimately destroyed our planet with global warming? Why no mention of what happened to us? Why no explanation of the robot smashing circus? There is a weak mention of some kind of anti-corporation sentiment but it is never expanded on. Ultimately the film falls flat, a lightweight piece of badly written entertainment and a pale shadow of what it could have been.


Reviewed by Simon Hill

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