AI was not well received by crit­ics in much the same way that a grenade is not wel­come in a detach­ment. The atti­tude seemed to be run, run away from this before it explodes chaot­i­cally.
AI 1

Well, that wasn’t how I saw it, and it had damn lit­tle to do with how cute Haley Joel was back then — it was much more per­sonal. Any kid could have been in the part. I can think of sev­eral I know now who mean a hell of a lot more to me than any robot boy ever would, kids I’d love to take home and feed and clothe, pro­vided they scooped their own poo out of the lit­ter tray and didn’t start too many fires.

It was the story that hit my per­sonal buttons.

The ten­sion brought about by the weight of “real” kid against “adopted” kid was sharp enough; but when Mom left David in the woods — even though he was just a machine — all my pro­tec­tive instincts were on full power.

Which, if you’re a man who trea­sures his inde­pen­dence above all, is a bit weird.

I really had to think about that. I had to won­der, as I watched that tor­tured boy weep­ing and beg­ging not to be left alone, why I felt so god­dmaned sym­pa­thetic to him. It wasn’t just the per­for­mance; it was the idea of aban­don­ing a child all alone in the woods to fend for him­self … or die. Isn’t that how a lot of Grimm sto­ries begin?

But hell, that was part of the magic, for me, in this film. It con­nected to me — or I to it — in ways it’s very hard for me to entirely under­stand, even now. That wasn’t the begin­ning of my wish to adopt. It was when I real­ized it was more like some­thing I needed than merely wanted. I wanted to scoop up that poor robot kid and take him home.

Well, why not? I don’t have a Roomba.

But that is one crit­cism I have of AI. I can­not believe that Mom would stay by one boy for years as he strug­gled in cryosleep against a dis­ease — and aban­don another so eas­ily. It seems more than a lit­tle emo­tion­ally dis­hon­est. Sure, I under­stand that she had begun to mis­trust the machine, believ­ing it to be mal­func­tion­ing, but her response — leave it alone in the woods rather than have it shut down at the fac­tory — was sim­ply improbable.

That’s not the only prob­lem this movie has. For one thing it’s a lit­tle schiz­o­phrenic; it can’t decide if it’s Pinocchio, a coming-​​of-​​age yarn, a moral­ity tale or a boys’ adven­ture story. Added to the weird­ness in devel­op­ing a robot kid who can lie sub­merged in a pool for hours and not break down — yet some­how ceases to func­tion on ingest­ing a lit­tle spinach — is the out­ra­geous amphibi­copter, a fly­ing sub­ma­rine that vio­lates at least fifty-​​seven major laws of physics. And, of course, we have the inven­tor, who for some rea­son decided to make a mechan­i­cal copy of his dead son rather than, oh I don’t know, adopt a liv­ing and needy human child.

That’s part of a recur­rent theme in AI, though; all of the humans involved in the story are insanely, seli­fishy solip­sis­tic. They’re the future equiv­a­lents of fuck­wits who tool around in SUVs today, not car­ing a shit for any­one else on the entire god­damn planet as long as they can truck their fat asses around in over­sized hyper­lux­ury. In this regard the robot David is actu­ally one of the most human char­ac­ters in the story, as is Gigolo Joe (Jude Law).

The other major issue with the movie is that it has three quite sep­a­rate and dis­tinct end­ings. It’s a lit­tle like the embar­rass­ing senile uncle that comes over dur­ing the hol­i­days and drones on enddlessly while every­one around him wears fixed, frozen and slightly ter­ri­fied smiles, wish­ing to Christ the old man would sim­ply shut the fuck up and die already. Any one of the end­ings would have suf­ficed, but some­how Steven Spielberg just didn’t know how to ter­mi­nate the film when and where he needed to.

AI is an imper­fect movie, which is not at all sur­pris­ing. It was an idea that Stanley Kubrick had been noodling with off and on for a cou­ple decades before he died, and Spielberg tried to pull it into light as a kind of ill-​​begotten trib­ute. It could have been worse; on the other hand it’s arguable that the world wouldn’t have been worse off for the film never hav­ing been made.

I can see, though, why he didn’t let it go. It’s a com­pelling story, one that both pisses you off might­ily (for its imper­fec­tions) and tugs at your feel­ings (well, it is a Spielberg film, after all, and he’s a mas­ter­ful manip­u­la­tor) as you watch it. The video’s tol­er­a­ble and worth a look if you get tired of WWE or some­thing over the week­end. Better AI than, say, Napoleon Dipwad.

EDIT: Reality check — the con­clu­sion did leave me blub­ber­ing help­lessly. Just sob­bing like a school­girl. So there is that, for what it’s worth. It’s sweet, and if you’re open to it, it’ll tug away at those famous heartstrings.


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