I have often seen reviewers call certain films "overlong". I try never to use this terminology, for its usually just an excuse for reviewers who can't pinpoint just why they didn't like a film. But the simple fact is: "A.I.: Artificial Intelligence" runs too long and has too much to say.
"A.I." started as an idea of Stanley Kubrick's stemming from a reading of the short story "Supertoys Last All Summer Long". He contacted Steven Spielberg, proposing that he produce the film, Spielberg direct and that they both write the script. This kind of collaboration is a match made in film hell. Why? Even at his most profound ("Schindlers List", "Saving Private Ryan"), Steven Spielberg has always been an entertainer. Films like "E.T.", "Jaws" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark" are the bulk of his resumee. On the contrary, Stanley Kubrick has always been an artist. His lighter films are darker than many other directors could successfully handle- "Dr. Strangelove", for example, is one of the funniest pictures ever made. But lurking underneath all that humor are serious political warnings, sending out a message too important to ignore. Spielberg and Kubrick started writing in secret- faxing each other pages they had completed. Unfortunately, Stanley Kubrick died before the script was finished. That meant Spielberg was on his own, having to translate Kubrick's imagery to the screen by himself. This match of two masters of film (from completely opposite ends of the spectrum) would inevitably result in something brilliant or a terribly uneven work. "A.I.", Im afraid, is more of the latter.
The film consists of three acts. In the first, a mother (Frances O Connor) with a critically sick child takes in a robot child named David (Haley Joel Osment). David is an experimental robot- he has been programmed to love. As soon as he is given the proper commands, he becomes engaged with one purpose- to love his mother. I liked watching David's home life and how the parents react to him; but when the couples biologic son comes home from the hospital, he seemed out of place. I felt like his character was milked for all it was worth, using the older-brother-tricks-younger-to-get-attention cliche too often just to keep the story moving. Due to eerie undertones and strange decisions in direction, I wouldn't have been surprised if David went psychotic and started killing people.
The second act of the film is the most fascinating. David, after putting people in danger one too many times, is abandoned in nearby woods. David is convinced that if he can find the Blue Fairy from "Pinocchio", he can become a real boy and earn back his mothers love. We are also introduced to Gigolo Joe (Jude Law), a lover robot (hence his name). Don't expect anything too vigorous or graphic from him- Spielberg has always been somewhat timid about sex in his films. Joe is told a flesh fair is on the way- a circus of robot destruction. Needless to say, Joe meets up with David- who is released from the flesh fair that captured him because of how real he looks. Since David refuses to leave Joe, they both start a conquest together to make David a real boy. This is the segment of the film I enjoyed. Gigolo Joe, acting as a sort of sexy C-3PO, is so experienced in the world ahead of him. To see him lead David, a scared little (robotic) boy into the outside world was astounding. It is interesting how their relationship mimics the Kubrick and Spielberg's.
The final act is where "A.I." starts to catapult into absurdity. During this act, David leaves Joe to search for the Blue Fairy. "A.I." becomes overly sentimental; it seems to go on for an eternity (2000 years, to be exact) before a conclusion is finally met. The film breaks all the rules it has set up to create David's character so that they may coax tears out of the audience. But instead of crying, I felt myself shaking my head. This segment was annoying, embarrassing and, lasting about 45 minutes, nothing less than painful. It proves what one would naturally think- this film has no heart. How are we supposed to care for a computer, no matter how advanced? Replace David with a laptop, and you'll see where I'm coming from.
Two things shine about "A.I.", no matter how unnecessary much of it is. The special effects, for one, are amazing. The future Spielberg gives us, even though it seems like the same future we get from many science fiction films, is one good looking landscape. The visuals are the most innovative since "The Matrix". Consider a scene in the beginning, set in the robot-building headquarters. A man presses the roof of a robots mouth, and her head splits in two, revealing an advanced computer. This is all done seamlessly. Another gem is the acting from Haley Joel Osment. He gives no less than the best performance of his career, portraying David with an eerie precision that is so rare among child actors.
"A.I." is a fair film in search of a great one. So much of it could have gone toward a masterpiece. But unfortunately, anything admirable about "A.I." is lost among shameless sentimentalism and unneeded mumbo-jumbo.