The short story “Super-Toys Last All Summer Long” by Brian Aldiss First published in Harper’s Bazaar in 1969 ingrained the seeds of the Film A.I within the mind of the late Stanley Kubrick (A Clockwork Orange, Eyes Wide Shut, Full Metal Jacket and The Shining to name but a few ).
Kubrick had been wanting to do this project for almost two decades but in his lifetime the technology he required to breathe life into this now visually opulent masterpiece was not available to him.
Over the years, he spoke in some detail with Spielberg about A.I. and, after his death, Spielberg decided to bring Kubrick’s project to fruition, hence the film is presented as An Amblin/Stanley Kubrick Production.
Make no mistake, A.I. is thematically challenging as it tells a dark story of a future where near perfect Mechas (Androids) have been created to serve humans, and a time when pregnancies have to be licenced due to population control brought on by rising sea levels and sinking coastlines attributed to greenhouse gases.
A.I.’s story is centred around one Mecha, in the form of a 11 year old boy called David (Haley Joel Osment) who will be the first of its kind to be given the ultimate emotion, unconditional love.
David is the Cybertronics creation of Professor Hobby (William Hurt) as a possible solution for couples who cannot afford a licence to give birth.
The couple that Professor Hobby decides will be the test subjects for this revolutionary Mecha proto type is an employee, Henry Swinton and his wife Monica (Sam Robards and Frances O’ Connor) who already have a child, but he is terminally ill and for the last five years has been in cryogenic suspension.
From the moment David enters the Swinton household Henry tells Monica if she decides to keep David, Monica will need to follow an imprinting protocol consisting of seven particular words that needs to be said to David, in order, and when this is done David will feel the unconditional love of a son towards her.
Once these words have been said the process is irreversible, and David would love her forever. If they then decide they did not want David any more he could not be put up for adoption but instead he would have to be returned to Cybertronics for destruction.
(I found myself feeling uncomfortable and unsure as to what to think about their dilemma. Maybe Spielberg wanted the viewer feeling awkward just as Monica does).
At first she is so against the idea of loving a Mecha as she would her cryogenically frozen son.
But when David makes Henry and her laugh at dinner, Monica decides she still has so much love to give and could love David despite him being an android.
The story take a dark turn when the couple’s son Martin (Jake Thomas) Wakes up from his frozen slumber and returns home and the sibling rivalry begins with Martin doing his utmost to destroy his mother’s love for David.
One of Martins many underhanded and hurtful way of trying to get to David was to get his mother to read the book Pinocchio to them both (the Pinocchio theme features heavily in the film). But instead of David being upset, he gets besotted with the story and draws parallels of himself (an android) with that of Pinocchio the wooden boy who eventually gets transformed by the blue fairy and becomes a real boy.
Eventually Martins actions leads to David almost killing him in a swimming pool accident and Monica and Henry realise David has to go. Instead of returning David to Cybertronics, Monica and Henry decide that Monica will take David to the woods and abandon him. Monica is totally heartbroken and distraught at the thought of losing David. (The whole subject matter is disturbing and left me feeling all choked up).
It’s this quest that sets David off on an incredible journey as he tries to find the Blue fairy to become a real boy as he feels only by doing so will his surrogate parents truly love him.
He undertakes this adventure with his Super Toy called Teddy (who acts more like David’s conscience just as Jiminy Cricket did for Pinocchio), a walking, talking and wise cuddly bear( that had been given to David by Monica). Eventually they come into contact with other Mechas of all shapes and sizes, none more vivid than the late generation lover Mecha Gigolo Joe (Jude Law) who is on the run as he has been framed for a murder he didn’t commit.
David first meets Gigolo Joe at the Flesh Fair a futuristic and colorful styled arena of death where Lord Johnson-Johnson (Brandon Gleeson) kills robots for public entertainment.
After a narrow escape from destruction, the duo heads to Rogue City where Joe and David attempt to discover the whereabouts of the Blue Fairy, in the hope that she can turn David into a real boy.
Whilst in Rogue City they go to Dr Know (it’s like a cartooned futuristic Ask Jeeves) and asks the question ‘where I can find the Blue Fairy? Then it’s off to the flooded city of Manhattan, where Professor Hobby is there waiting unbeknown to David the professor has been tracking him.
David’s journey comes to an end as he realizes he is unique as the emotion of love enables him to have dreams and aspirations something that no Mecha can have as they only follow preprogrammed commands and responses. He also discovers there is a whole production line of Davids waiting to be dispatched once it has been proved that his implant of unconditional love was a success.
Gigolo Joe gets arrested before David finds a statue of the Blue Fairy within the confines of what was once Coney Island. It is here that David freezes (for 2,000 years) while waiting for the Blue Fairy to do something, anything. (To make his dream to come true).
The fairy tale style ending is thought provoking, very sad and upsetting as it highlights the length one will go to for love and acceptance.
A.I. is a thoughtful masterpiece that has been much underrated. Sure Spielberg has undertones of all his other work within A.I but that’s the magic of Spielberg. He brings something different to the table, he brings movie magic, that feeling that makes you feel like you did as a child being told an amazing and imaginative story first time, That feeling you use to get when you watched a Walt Disney production like Beauty and the Beast or Peter Pan, but the difference with Spielberg is that he works this magic with human actors in film form like no one else.
The special effects are wonderful, as one would expect from a science fiction film with Steven Spielberg at the helm. The special effects are done by the master himself, Stan Winston.
There is no doubt that A.I. is an ambitious film that never quite hits the mark but does enough for you to pay attention. A.I. is littered with the age old moral questions, is there a god? What is life? What is love? This film will stay with you for a while after you’ve experienced it. This is one of those films you must see, its bleak and dark outlook of a future society reacting to rising sea levels may not be science fiction, but science fact.