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A.I.

OUTLAW CRITIC IS FIRST TO ADMIT, “I ACTUALLY THOUGHT A.I. WAS PRETTY FUCKIN GOOD”

SEATTLE, WA– Online film writer and cult hero Vern admitted earlier today that he thought Steven Spielberg’s artificial intelligence drama A.I. was “pretty fucking good, though.” This makes the ex-con and recovering alcoholic the first person he knows to admit liking the movie since its release two weeks ago.

“A lot of motherfuckers said it was too sentimental,” Vern wrote on his mildly popular film “web sight”. “But it’s about a robot who wants his mommy, what else is it gonna be like, asshole [punctuation his].”

Vern responded to pathetic accusations of studio bribery by saying that he wishes it were true, because then he could afford to buy the new dvd box set of Bruce Willis’s Die Hard trilogy.

a. introduction & apologies

First of all I would like to apologize for being gone for so long. Second of all I would like to apologize for coming back and not reviewing the films of Badass Cinema, but instead some Stevie Spielberg picture about a baby robot. And thirdly I will not apologize just because you motherfuckers are wrong.

And fourthly you boys who haven’t seen the movie PLEASE stop reading this now, I don’t want to give anything away. Come on go read some other garbage please thank you.

A.I. Artificial Intelligenceb. vern goes against the grain on this one

Now don’t get me wrong this is a flawed piece. I’m not saying it’s as good as Kubrick’s pre-humous films. I mean all that nonsense about the rock concert and robo Chris Rock didn’t work and maybe the whole Pinocchio of the future angle coulda been done a little more subtle-like. But the whole section about David living with the family, and the zombie robots cannibalizing the garbage pile, and David’s discovery of the other Davids, and jumping into the water, and ESPECIALLY (I’m on some Galileo shit with this one because NOBODY agrees with me here) the 2000 years later epilogue, now THAT was some good shit as far as little boy robot movies go.

c. a side note to nostalgic children of the ’80s

For example compare it to the famous movie D.A.R.Y.L., this is way better, in my opinion. Although you ’80s brats with your goonies dvds pre-ordered from Amazon will probaly disagree there, but that’s only because you are diseased by nostalgia. Look, just because a movie seemed good at the time doesn’t mean we should drop all standards of quality and hail it as a new classic. For crying out loud there were people who thought slavery was good at the time. You goonies fans should be ashamed of yourself. This is 2001, there is no excuse for goonies, and women are allowed to vote. And you can’t stop them no matter how hard you try, you fuckers. The people are 5 billion strong and growing.

d. on sentimentality

Anyway the main thing I heard was that people thought A.I. was “too sentimental.” And I don’t get that. What I think this did better than most robotical type pictures was to illustrate the tremendous tragedy of the whole artificial intelligence situation. Here is this poor bastard robot PROGRAMMED to love. And here is the family that bought him, so he is their new toy. HOW are they supposed to learn to truly love him? You can’t really blame them.

There is not a section of the movie where this little robo bastard has much fun. He is creepy and weird, and dangerous to the family. If you look at it from their shoes they don’t have much of a choice but to throw him out. And at the same time, how dare they? There is not a right thing to do in this situation.

I really like when the real son comes home and just treats David like shit. That’s what kids do to other kids, so of course they’re gonna do it to a robot. The son sleeps in the bed now and David just leans up against the wall like a toy.

Then fast forward to after David has been thrown out, and met a robotic gigolo murder suspect, and tried to find his maker Dr. Hobby, and etc. Dr. Hobby is thrilled to recover him, and he is so proud to have made him and tries to be sweet but like everyone else in this movie, he just doesn’t fucking get it. David doesn’t want to be told what an amazing machine he is. Because he wasn’t programmed to want that. He was programmed to want his mommy.

Then he goes underwater and finds an old Coney Island statue of the Blue Fairy, and he sits there and prays to it for 2,000 years. Because what else could he do.

e. the controversial ending

That’s a great, tragic fairy tale moment and most people think it should be the end of the movie. But they’re wrong though, is my only quibble.

Because remember, this is not just a stevie spielberg movie. This is based on a plot outline created by Stanley Kubrick and a bunch of underfed sci-fi Writers he had locked up in his basement for about 12 years. I would like to announce that, although none of you agree, this 2,000 years later is the section of the movie that is most worthy of the late Mr. Kubrick. Stanley would be rolling in his grave if he heard what people were saying about this portion of the movie. Only it would take him like 15 years to do it. But it would be worth the wait because it would be one of the best grave rolls you’ve ever seen.

Mr. Kubrick did not like to structure a movie the same way any jackass would. The huge jumps in the story, from an intimate family setting to a pornographic city and then to after the next ice age, that is very Kubrick. Just like when he jumped from a bunch of monkeys banging bones together to a manned space station in the famous movie, what’s it called, 1984 I believe. That was a movie that could’ve been narrated by God, if they had been able to get Him to do it. (Orson Welles did a voice in a transformers cartoon, so why not?) It was willing to tell the embarrassing story of the human race, from beginning to end, despite mainstream Cinema’s penchant to tell stories that take place in one particular time period, and do not span over hundreds of thousands of years of evolution.

A.I. maybe doesn’t have the same goals but if it’s the story of a boy who never grows up, why not go all the way with that concept. Unless you’re some kind of pussy who wants to make a boring, ordinary movie, and my friends, Stanley was not that. That was why he turned down police academy 2 when they offered it to him (or was that david cronenberg being offered top gun? I can’t remember.)

What I wanted to see out of Stanley Kubrick’s A.I., but did not expect to see in Stevie Spielberg’s A.I., was something like these weird see-through robot aliens at the end. At last somebody uses the computer graphical technology to create creatures that I really have never seen before. So what if they’re shaped kind of like the close encounters aliens? Look beneath the surface, pal. There are weird little machine parts floating around and they have tv signals in their faces and they drive cars that are made out of somebody’s geometry assignment or something. I mean WHAT THE FUCK? If you woke up in this time period you would have NO idea what the fuck is going on. Are these aliens? Are they robots? I don’t know! That’s what 2,000 years from now WILL be like – weird. It won’t be just flying cars and rocket dogs. You won’t be able to catch up.

Also I’m glad they didn’t have any jokes about “We are going to the movies to see The Matrix part 250”. That would be dumb.

f. the ending is sad

Anyway this brings me back to what I was saying about how SAD this movie is. After 2,000 years, David sort of gets what he wants – he gets one day with his mom. I know the explanation of how this is possible is a bunch of corny mumbo jumbo, but who cares? (Well, you, obviously. But not me.) 2,000 years later, mom sort of gets what she deserves – to be happy under weird, scientific experiment type circumstances, not knowing what is going on or what her horrible fate will be.

And then she goes to sleep, and the movie is over. But we know she will never wake up. And David will be stuck on a world with no humans, and no robots that even look like humans, and yet he will always and forever be programmed to want to be a human, and to see his mommy, who has been dead for 2,000 years.

Let me give you an analogy. If any of you out there are those freakos who collect laser discs, and are so sad that they are going extinct. Just wait until there are none at all, they’ve all rotted away, and there’s no chance they will ever be printed again. Not even Die Hard. And that’s your only hobby.

Your programmed to love something that hasn’t existed for hundreds of years.

And think about this too: it took another ice age and 2,000 years of technological advances for anybody to understand David’s basic human need to see his mommy. That’s how Kubrick saw the human race, and I mean, I have a hard time arguing with him. I think Spielberg did a good job of subduing his style to make the movie a little more like Kubrick would have liked it to be.

g. the 3 types of Spielberg pictures and the Stanley Spielberg style

I believe there are three type of Spielberg pictures. The best are the Young Spielberg Pictures, the really well put together type thrillers like Jaws and Duel. Then there are the Manboy Spielberg Kiddy Picutres like The Extra-Terrestrial E.T. and Indiana Jones and the etc. etc. that everybody likes. And thirdly there are the historical pictures, like Amistad and Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, which I would say something meaningful about but I fell asleep as soon as I saw the american flag in private ryan and I never seen the other ones.

Anyway as far as I can tell A.I. doesn’t fit into any of those categories, so it is the new style which I will call the Stanley Spielberg style.

In a Stanely Spielberg picture the cuteness factor is played down. For example, the character Teddy. In an ordinary studio picture he would’ve been the cute sidekick. But in Stanley’s picture, all he does is move cute because he was manufactured that way. His voice is old and sad and he doesn’t talk much. He is like a sad old man with the only difference that he doesn’t tell stories about war or diarhea.

h. a note to moriarty of the ain’t it cool news

Mo criticized the very end, saying that people will say it’s ambiguous but that really it ain’t, and that the movie can stick its ending up its ass (unless the ending of a movie is a movie’s ass, in which case I guess just stick it up the beginning of the movie) [paraphrase].

But I have heard enough interpretations of the ending to know that it IS ambiguous. Because what DID it mean that David started to dream?

  1. He has “become a real boy”, by somehow learning to dream. (Then he will wake up and what good is it to be a real boy in a world where there are no humans? And lots of ice?)
  2. He is happily dreaming at the side of his mother’s corpse. Not pretty. I’ve seen Ed Gein, I know what happens next.
  3. He dies along with his mom. This interpretation is a real mind puzzler for young cynical boys trying to hate pat hollywood endings. On one hand, it is a happy ending, the enemy of young cynical boys trying to hate pat hollywood endings. On the other hand, it is an ending where a cute little boy dies. How do you know if you like it or hate it? Nobody knows.

500 years later.

Hello, my name is Vern X and I am the Vern of the future. Just the other day this robotic tapeworm came out of my stomach and we were talking about early Cinema. I was telling him how at the time A.I. came out nobody except Vern really appreciated it. And he was like, no way, why? And then he shot a laser out of his ass.

I explained that the flesh flair part of the movie was considered pretty silly with bad choices that dated the movie and that people didn’t really enjoy the tragedy and creepiness of the rest of the movie. He thought it was funny that people would care about the flesh flair part being corny because, really, all movies of the 20th-22nd century are so campy and laughable that it is ridiculous that anybody even made a distinction. Ha ha the acting is so hammy and the dialogue so crude.

Then we watched a bunch of Martin Scorsese movies and just laughed. Ha ha what a bunch of idiots they all were back then, ha ha. And then we went to shoot off death rays. But they are the size of a grain of rice and you have them built into your nostrils.

the end

from space, your friend Vern X

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Friday, June 22nd, 2001 at 9:25 am and is filed under Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

27 Responses to “A.I.”

  1. wonderful, wonderful.

  2. Damn good little movie that got fucked because well, people got wrapped up in the irrelevant debate of which was Kubrick and which was Spielberg.

    The only flaw might be that whole Flesh Fair spectacle. Not the idea or plotting its all good, but with the way the fans were shot….looked like a WWE Raw episode or something. And I just wonder how people can get hot and ready for out of date robots getting destroyed.

    Now if it was out of date robots fighting out of date robots in a gladiator format…YES! Dana White would jump on that bastard if he could.

  3. See I disagree RRA, I can apprecaite the level of craftmanship involved in putting this movie together and I can admire Spielberg for trying something really different, but the movie just doesn’t click. For me, the biggest issue was always that I just couldn’t give a shit about David’s struggle. As much as the movie says over and over “He has feelings, he has feelings, he’s real” I just never bought it. He loves because he’s programmed to. He has all the emotional depth as a dildo with a speaker in it. Maybe when he tries to kill himself at the end, but that’s way to little to late.

    There are great scenes. When she abandons him in the woods, Christ that’s harsh. And even if I don’t think the ending clicks all that well, I can admire the ambition and Spielberg’s willingness to play the story into the nth degree, sanity be damned.

  4. Sorry Vern, I guess I’m with the nerds on this one. I like the design of the epilogue, but the mumbo jumboness of bringing mom back for a day was just waaay too contrived for be to be able to emotionally buy into. It’s like they thought of an appropriately tragic ending, but forgot to actually write in the details until they had to film it.

    It’s a decent enough idea but I’m not sure it actually adds anything to the “blue fairy” ending. (although I do like your suggestion that it offers some kind of weird karmatic retribution against the mother). I’m often told that I should shut up because it was Kubrik’s idea to end the movie that way (and for other, unrelated reasons) but I don’t care whose idea it was, I find it clumsy and heavy-handed.

    Actually, though, that’s pretty much my only major complaint. Some nitpicky stuff, but really it’s a unique and fascinating movie overall. Although it doesn’t quite reach the pinnacles I think it wants to, its one of the most interesting, engrossing, and ambitious not-quite-there’s of all time. The problem with nerds is usually not that they’re entirely wrong, but that they can’t accept something which is flawed but brilliant. It has to either be the best thing ever or a worthless pile of shit. This is a movie I always enjoy revisiting, even though I ultimately found it deeply flawed, and I hope that some time allows other to revisit it and enjoy it for what it is.

    Brendan — Initially, I sort of agreed with you. Who cares what he’s “feeling,” just switch him off and recycle him. If you can’t buy the idea that his programming counts as “feeling” then the movie’s sunk, and I’ll warrent it’s a hard sell. I mean, he’s programmed to want to love/be loved, but does a program really care if it can’t do what it’s intended to do? It just has to try, because it’s programmed to do the action, not care about the result. My computer keeps mysteriously trying to connect to server “malachi” but can’t. I don’t feel sorry for it, though.

    The first time I watched it that’s exactly what kept running through my head the whole time. Later, I just decided to watch it with the commitment to just accept that his “feelings” are legit, just because it makes it more interesting and tragic. And if you buy that angle, you’ll find it much more engaging… I suggest you try it, just in an effort to actually enjoy the movie as much as possible. And, as a side note, I think the ambiguity of whether or not we should care about robotic “feelings” is an interesting one for the film. It doesn’t necessarily force you to believe that they SHOULD get equal value with humans, and that’s to it’s credit.

  5. Mr. Subtlety that’s a good point, the next time I watch it I’ll keep it in mind. Towards the end of the movie, when he started expressing something besides “I love you Mommy” I started to get involved and give a shit. I’ll add the scene where he finds another version of himself and flips out and smashes it to shit as one of the good scenes. You start to wonder if maybe in the pursuit of human affection he’s starting to actually resemble the human he’s meant to mimic.

    I just feel like both Spielberg and Osment fail to really convey that. We never see David start to question himself and his nature, we never see him start to plug into humanity in any really deep, emotional way. He just says “I want to be a real boy” 50,000 times and then he goes into the future. I don’t know, I’ll try it your way the next time I watch it, hopefully that’ll do it. I think there are real issues with that movie, problems that would have been prevalent even if it had been Kubrick that wound up making it. But we’ll never know.

  6. What is up with you two?

    I bought the emotionalism. Yes its hokey I suppose, but this Spielberg. What else is new?

    I mean yes he’s programed to “love” or whatever, yet he’s doing what he’s supposed to do. Yet what he’s after throughout that whole movie that I think most kids or anyone really wants: To be loved by somebody. That’s probably why the best Pixar or Disney movies work is because they played on their childhood fears and nightmarish scenarios. Hell that (outside of CARS) describes every Pixar movie.

    You guys weren’t bothered when the boy gets fucking abandoned in the woods? Or that he’s replaced, the same reason he was there in the first place? Then the whole isolation, alienation and hanging around with fellow robots…and then finding out that despite his beliefs/programs, he’s not so unique. Or is he?

    “We never see David start to question himself and his nature”

    Brendan – What about that scene when after he finds out the truth and is told by his “father” that he’s a robot….what does he do? He goes ahead looking for that Blue Fairy. I mean if you were in his boots, you would be convinced of your reality after all that right? And its not like a robot can disbelieve like a human can.

    Yet he continues on his quest, one that he knows or was told was a total sham. Why?

    Because robot or flesh, he’s STILL a kid. Programmed or raised, he still holds onto a childlike (oh geez!) concept of magic and superstition and that he’ll go back to his original mission. Which is why I think at the end, he “died.” He was back “home,” his job was done. The End. Oh and that cyborg Teddy gets a cool (literally) future to wander.

    I remember another thing in AI that did bug me at the time: Robin Williams’ cameo. Basically its Dr. DNA, given the Annoying Code.

  7. RRA in my first post I said that the moment you mentioned where she abandons him is extremely affective and “fucking harsh” as I so poetically put it. And in my second post I mentioned how once David gets to the lab and confronts the other him and the science, I started to buy into him and his struggles.

    I’m not bothered by the story being emotional and sentimental. As you said, it is Spielberg and there’s not enough unironic heartfelt work being produced. But that doesn’t change the fact that David is a non-character. He’s a wind-up toy with a sweet little face and wet eyes. He has all the depth of HAL, but his programming takes him in the opposite direction in his relationships with humans.

    Maybe I’m just cynical, I won’t rule that out. But I don’t think so and i hope that’s not the case. I love sentimental stuff and if I watch a movie that I think has its heart in the right place I’ll forgive any number of narrative deficiencies (Be Kind Rewind, Science of Sleep being easy examples). Like I said in response to Mr. S, at some point I’ll revisit the movie with his points in mind and hopefully it’ll click. I WANT to be moved by AI (and every movie) and maybe next time I will be.

  8. Maybe that whole issue you guys brought up is so irrelevant to me. The boy robot is acting like…a boy. Its such a non-issue in my perspective.

    But whatever. I’m reminded of people who absolutely adored, hearts on sleeves, Fincher’s BENJAMIN BUTTON. Which is a technical high craftsmanship in everyway. Yet the story…doesn’t work for me. That and I never got over how nobody in that universe makes a big deal of anything about the guy’s aging problem.

    Back to Spielberg, I also…back in high school when I saw it at least…loved his EMPIRE OF THE SUN. Like AI, I dont remember it being as good as his best obviously, but something about it worked for me. And hey, you got kid Christian Bale on par acting wise with John Malkovich. And Cyrus the Virus isn’t exactly jobbing here.

  9. But see RRA, it is an issue for. He’s not a real kid, they make that very, very clear. He’s a machine that thinks he’s real and that’s what drives the entire story. So the fact that the basic arc of the movie doesn’t click is a dealbreaker for me. I’m glad it wasn’t ever an issue for you though.

  10. You know whats another movie that make clear that the kid was artificial yet wanted to be the real thing? PINOCHIO.

    That silly little walking birdhouse.

  11. But see RRA, that’s just it. Pinochio ran around trying to be a real boy but his personality and decisions were HIS personality and his decisions. David has servos in his head that tells him he is in love with this lady and everything is just based off of fulfilling a program. UNTIL he gets to New York and is confronted by himself, when he actually starts expressing HIMSELF and not what all the 1’s and 0’s. If you ask me, Spielberg didn’t explore that future enough. Cut out all the useless stuff with Joe on the job and the flesh fair, and give that time to exploring David’s discovery of his own soul.

  12. “His”?

    How do you know Pinochio’s emotions/personality weren’t installed by his creator Geppetto? Or the Blue Fairy with their magic nonsense? Hell that robot bear was basically A.I.’s Jiminy Cricket.

    Look mate, if you didn’t feel anything with AI, that’s fine. I’m not arguing that. One can’t really.

    I’m just trying to understand the logic being deployed here.

  13. RRA- I mean, the question is whether a machine programed to “feel” actually DOES “feel”. Is David basically equivalent to a human child, with real feelings and needs, or is he just a love terminator, who will pursue the idea of a family for 2000 years because that’s what his core programming tells him to. You can program current A.I. technology to seem very sympathetic and human like, but, in the end, as they say in SHORT CIRCUIT, it doesn’t actually get happy or sad, it just runs programs. If it says something heartwrenching, its because it’s programmed to SOUND heartwrenching, not because it actually “cares” about its position in the world.

    I mean, he says he loves, misses, etc, but of course he doesn’t quite react like a human child would, either. He’s infinitely patient, infinitely forgiving, infinitely fixated on one goal. Can a child which is programmed to always feel love no matter what really be said to experience love? You could imprint him on a vending machine and he’d say he loves it. His “love” has nothing to do with people or even his own wants, but with a fixed directive which makes certain he will always feel that way. It’s like a machine version of a love potion. Sure, someone will act and maybe even feel love, but is it “real” if it has no context at all?

    So, sure he would say he loves you; that’s what a machine programmed to make people feel loved WOULD say. And sure, he’ll try to get back home, that’s what a machine programmed to imprint on a family WOULD do. But it’s not the same as independently wanting it because of actual feelings one way or another. I admire Spielberg and Osmet for actually making David a kind of creepy, opaque character, because I think it actually raises questions about consciousness and humanity which are worth asking, without necessarily offering the easy answer that ‘of course David has “real” wants’. On the other hand, if you decide, like I did, David actually is just a particularly sophisticated number- cruncher, then the movie ends up feeling a little pointless, like watching a computer try to calculate pi. It’s going to keep trying, damn it, even if we know it won’t get there… but does it really care if it gets to the answer? It just has to try. I think Brenden and I didn’t feel all that bad for the computer David, who just runs a program called “love” infinitely. When I watched it deciding to buy into autistic child David, THEN, his story becomes much more tragic.

    BTW, I love that a random comment on any of these old movies can set us off on a long discussion about them. Just one more reason this site is the greatest.

  14. Is love in humans not an abstraction of a biological imperative? Are we not merely biological machines programmed to love in order to perpetuate the species? I think the point of the movie is that it doesn’t matter WHY we love, just so long as we do. Life’s all about finding pattens in the chaos, and it doesn’t matter if they exist or not, because the patterns we see are a reflection of ourselves.

  15. I guess what I’m saying is, it doesn’t matter whether he feels or is programmed to feel, they’re both the same thing.

  16. I’m with you on this one, Mode_7. The point of all artificial intelligence in serious sci-fi is to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes a person a person. You take away all the normal signifiers (carbon based, born of a woman, etc.) and what are you left with? If a robot walks like a person, talks like a person, feels like a person, is it a person? In this case, I don’t think the fact that David was programmed to feel emotions really makes him different than us. His emotions, though synthetic, still feel plenty real to him. Every individual’s mind being a hermetic system, none of us really know what “love” feels like to anyone else, so how can we say that the what a sad robot feels is somehow less significant than what we feel? Like that Bowie song says, he’s immune to your consultations. He’s quite aware of what he’s going through.

  17. Mode_7 — Yeah, I think that’s what Kubrick was imagining (and Vern suggests the same thing in his review) but then again, even if we’re “programmed” to love it doesn’t necessarily mean that I think that all programs are equally worthy of sympathy. Or that programmed love and love earned by actual experience (even if its our programming that gives meaning to experience) are the same thing or even in the same ballpark. Maybe we don’t have any more free will than David does, but I think it’s not entirely unreasonable to recognize humans as “sentient” and software as not sentient, and to value one over the other. I’m not convinced that David amounts to more than a particularly sophisticated software mimic of emotion. At the very least, his experience of “love” must be so radically different from human’s that calling it the same thing is almost meaningless. Since he doesn’t have any personal reason for his feelings, and he can’t ever feel differently, it’s more like a drive than an emotion, and that’s what makes using “love” a little disingenuous. He’s programmed to love, we’re programmed to eat, that squirrel from ICE AGE is programmed to have zany misadventures with an acorn. It’s something like instinct. But David may have more in common with the squirrel than with any human idea of love. Or maybe not; you can interpret the movie in two way pretty easily, which is both a great strength and a potentially fatal weakness, given that the drama works much better one way than the other.

  18. Mr M — unless, of course, it doesn’t feel like anything to him, he’s just very well programmed to mimic human emotion. The cool thing about the performance is that its so cold and weird that it’s hard to tell what we should think. I mean, I never doubted that R2 or 3PO had real emotions (even though that makes it awkward that they’re basically slaves). But does David even “feel” anything at all? Or is he just a computer that processes information and then acts based on the way it hypothesizes a human would act given a certain criteria? Is he even a he, or an “it”? Humans can build things of great sophistication that still catagorically lack consciousness, let alone emotion. They have their drives, too, but does that add up to the same thing? I think you could argue that it does not at least as easily as you could argue that it does.

  19. I can see your point, but isn’t that true of all of us? Do we really know if anyone else is really feeling what we’re feeling? For all I know, I could be the only sentient being on earth, surrounded by playacting automatons. Assuming that others aren’t real inside is what makes sociopaths.

    What I’m saying is, this is a great fucking movie if it brings up these issues AND has such incredible visual spectacle.

  20. I really should rewatch this movie. But let me just say this: as much as it may be a visual triumph and bring up lots of interesting ideas, can it be argued that the movie isn’t a failure in terms of character and story? I stand by my early comments that David is a non-character, a blank with nothing to be invested in. Everyone else is a cipher, they exist solely to make a big speech about some point of view they have and then disappear off the face of the earth. William Hurt? My man Brendan Gleeson? They don’t do anything. Hurt seems like he’s playing a character but he’s not. What does it matter that his son is the model for David? What does that say about him or about David or about robotics or anything like that, other then that David was never anything more then an echo and an imitation. And Gleeson is The Guy Who Hates Robots. No real reason, nothing in the way of character history or development. He just shows up for one scene to make a big speech about how robots suck and then disappear off the face of the Earth.

    And Spielberg may be a great director (OK he’s DEFINITELY a great director) but the man is not a writer. Sorry Steven. By about the third time he has celebrity voiced CGI swoop around and explain the plot to the characters I had pretty much given up. And as a director he botches some of his more interesting ideas and points. The existence of the flesh fair and everything that happens makes no sense, and it’s just bad decision after bad decision, from that random rock band, to Chris Rock, to the completely unearned 180 that the crowd pulls. The distant future? That’s a fascinating, provocative place for a movie to go, but he fucks up by completely failing to convey what in blue fuck is going on. He makes his robots look exactly like the aliens he made so iconic in Close Encounters, he relies completely on CGI characters making big speeches to explain everything.

    And fuck the ending. It’s not ambiguous, it’s not ‘deep’ it’s bad storytelling. David’s story doesn’tend with him that night, unless for whatever reason he dies in some metaphysical sense, in which case, simply turning off the light inside his bedroom does not adequately convey this, or why this is a complete ending.

  21. You know, I originally picked this for the #8 spot on my current “Best of the Decade” list, but – man, I just can’t get over those last lopsided fifteen minutes.

    So, I picked Oldboy instead, and I think we’re all the better for it, really.

  22. Mr M – but the thing is, Sociopaths are only sociopaths if they’re WRONG. Nobody gets mad that we fail to empathize with an old computer we’re throwing out. And the issue gets confused as soon as you begin to build computers which are programmed to ACT very much like humans. Especially since we see a lot of other bots at the “flesh fair” which are NOT as sophisticated as David is, and are much more clearly just machines replicating human actions rather than acting of their own will. So the movie does (I think) establish that not everything which looks like emotion actually IS emotion, not everything that appears to be sentient actually IS sentient. And if we accept that, it’s not a huge leap to see David as the same thing, just with a more sophisticated program to better sell the illusion. And that doesn’t even get into the question of wether emotion is “real” if its pre-programmed. Is happiness and contentment brought on by shooting up heroine really the same thing as happiness and contentment brought on by legitimiately feeling it in reality?

    Again, I can see it from your perspective too. But I think they’re both legitimate ways of looking at the movie, and I think its intentionally set up that way. Is David a piece of hardware that has outlasted its usefullness, or is he a lost little boy who can’t die? Osmet isn’t really going to tell us, and I don’t think Kubrick was either, though I think Spielberg wants us to believe the latter.

    Brendan – Actually, David being a cipher is pretty much exactly in keeping with Kubrick’s typical leading characters, as is the episodic structure which doesn’t offer many clues on the motivations of some characters. Maybe it doesn’t work here for you, but I think it was deliberate and in keeping with Kubrick’s usual formula. That doesn’t always pair too well with Speilberg’s style, though, as the celebrity cameos and iffy ending prove (I know the end was Kubrick’s idea, and I believe it was also his idea to have Speilberg direct, but that doesn’t mean it was a GOOD idea. Whatever Kubrick was imagining for that last scene, I can’t imagine that Spielberg really pulled it off). I don’t find the overall story or script to be a major stumbling block; more like a few minor creative decisions (celebrity voices, etc) and then that ending, which unfortunately is just a little too contrived for me to be into. However, I would agrue that it’s a fitting end to David’s story, given that he finally got what he wanted. Its emotional closure, even though you know he’s just going to keep on ticking for another 2000 incredibly lonely years starting the next morning.

  23. Mr. S you may be right but I’m going out of my way to not mention Kubrick. Spielberg directed the movie (and sort of wrote it) so that’s how I’m judging it. Lord only knows what Kubrick’s AI would have looked like.

    But how about we measure the ending against another sci-fi movie that people seem to love from a famous fimmaker: Close Encounters of the Third Kind. That’s a movie that juggles a lot of characters, that tackles long-debated, unanswerable questions about the universe. And it builds to a big, profound conclusion. But the thing is, Roy Schneider’s character’s story doesn’t end with him getting on that mothership. Humanity’s relationship with UFO’s probably doesn’t conclude with the Devil’s Tower incident. There are dozens of questions to be asked about the nature of those aliens and what it is they are doing (then again I haven’t seen the movie in a while so they may have explained it). But regardless, the ending of that movie is the conclusion of the story. You would never want to have anyone explain the answers to you. With AI, I just wanted to Wikipedia the book it was based on to see if THAT guy had decided what he wanted his story to mean.

  24. About David being programmed to love, which makes him different from humans…

    Well, I would argue that ALL humans are genetically programmed to love, and all children are genetically programmed to love their mothers. In fact some mothers treat their children like shit both physically and mentally, and yet the children love their mothers, despite all the reasons to not to.

    If David were a real human boy, and he would be abandoned to the woods by his mother, certainly in the immediate aftermatch of the event, the real human boy would feel desperate need to reconnect with his mother, and to win back her love. In fact those needs and wishes could easily become the primus motor for the rest of his life, at least on a subconscious level. Even as an old man, he would likely still emotionally feel the massive trauma of the event, and the need to get back to his mother.

    I can be well argued that humans are essentially just very complex machines, who are programmed to certain type of behaviour. Just like David. The “freedom” of our thoughts and actions is not really freedom at all. If you are a real human boy, you can’t *choose* to not love your mother. Your genetic programming prevents you from doing so. Youg might eventually stop loving your mother in your life, but it won’t be a conscious choice. It will just happen, or not happen, due to effects of your environment and genes.

    The freedom you have in your thoughts and actions is very strongly limited to a certain range due to the way you have been built. Much like David.

  25. I never bought into David’s emotional struggles, because I was didn’t really think that I was supposed to. I figured this was a movie about robots and the pointlessness of programming them to love, not one about how robots really can love.

    I also never thought David was unaware of his robot-ness. I thought he knew he was a robot all along, but didn’t care… he followed his program like a good little robot, loving his mommy unquestioningly. And then once he was rejected he wandered around pointlessly and weird stuff happened.

    The fact that I couldn’t buy into the whole “robots have feelings too” thing obviously hurt the movie badly for me, seeing how the last half of the movie was all robots except for David’s maker. I actually think the first part of the movie with David and his family was the best part by far because it dealt with real people’s interaction with this weird thing straight from the uncanny valley.

    I cared about ten times as much for WALL-E than I did for David. And I thought BLADE RUNNER did a better job exploring the “what is human” angle and had more genuinely touching moments (even though they were not robots, they were genetically engineered replicants with unknown amounts of cyborg robotics built in).

    To tell you the truth I was baffled by the ending of A.I. with the TV-head robots until I read Vern’s review and he explained they were robots, not crazy aliens. And then it made sense and I appreciated it, except for when they brought his Mom back to life somehow (with a robot replica that can only live for one day??? Why?)

    But the movie would have been better without Chris Rock and Robin Williams, and a lot of the goofy, bloodless violence against robots and the sexless sex with robots. Really, do women want a sex-bot that has recorded 1920s music built in?

    To quote Futurama, the episode where Fry gets rich:
    Fry: “I have learned that I don’t need people to make me happy, I just need things.”
    Bender: “I’m a thing!”

  26. A quote from Dune (Messiah) more in sync with the debate you guys have been having:

    “Any delusions of Free Will harbored now must be merely the prisoner rattling his cage.”

    Hey Vern how about reviewing DUNE?

  27. I’ve rewatched this movie recently and I’m sorry to say most of my original complaints are still intact. David and Joe are non-charcaters with nothing about them giving me anything to care about or root for. At the end of the day I couldn’t give a fuck whether or not David meets the Blue Fairy and gets his Mommy or not.

    And the themes of the movie are laid on thick without an ounce of subtlety. Actors more or less just stare directly at the camera and lecture the audience about love, humanity and spirit or whatever it is Spielberg thinks the movie is supposed to be about in that particular scene.

    The best thing I can say about the film is just what a technical mastery the film is. It oozes menace from shot to shot in a way I don’t think any either Spielberg movie does.

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