A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
***.2 GM
Starring: Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O'Connor, Sam Robards, Brendan Gleeson, William Hurt, Jake Thomas

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I'm not a Stanley Kubrick aficionado, having only seen "Dr. Strangelove," "A Clockwork Orange," "Eyes Wide Shut" and most of "Full Metal Jacket" and "Spartacus," but I've seen enough to know how this might have differed if he was alive and in charge of this film instead of "Happy Ending" Steve Spielberg, and seeing as how the last half an hour or so of the film is the main issue I had with it, I'm going to go out on a limb and say Kubrick would have done it better, or at least more interestingly.

David is a highly-advanced robot boy designed with the ability to love, thus 'filling a need' for childless parents everywhere (although part of the whole childhood cycle is watching your kid GROW UP and become an adult, which seems conveniently left out of the thought processes of these robotech folks). David is the test bot, given to a family whose son is in some sort of cryogenic coma. They react oddly to him, but start to get used to him, until the real son comes back, they have conflicts, and Dave is left to fend for himself in the woods, meeting other robots, trying to find the magical Pinocchio "blue fairy" to make him into a real boy so mommy will love him.

The whole concept of artificial intelligence and the ethical quandaries surrounding it make for really interesting subject matter ripe for all sorts of exploration. The paranoid and threatened human factions resorting to violence, cities populated almost entirely with robots, the uneasy and awkward interpersonal relationships with them, headache-inducing family dynamics, rebellion, warfare, nooky-bots... there's so much to do that it impedes the ability to be thorough, so it's no surprise that some of the directions the story started to go weren't taken as far as I'd like. But I'm a sucker for post-apocalyptic shots of modern-day cities and things like New York City being underwater, so some of my troubles were assuaged just by simple things like that keeping me occupied.

Aside from no real suspense about any danger David was in (yeah, as if a little boy will die in a Spielberg film) and the under-untilization of Jude Law's Gigolo Joe sex-bot character, I was still interested in the subject matter, but it seems like the story had a somewhat logical, if a bit disheartening, ending with David pleading to the unresponsive blue fairy of Coney Island (which, having been underwater for eons, would be covered with seaweed and moss and gunk and barnacles and most likely be undistinguishable, but I'll let that one slide) until the end of time/battery-power, but no, it seems that wasn't enough to spread around the appropriate 'all can still be right with the world' message or something. No... instead, an iffy, unimpressive (well, visually impressive, but not in any other way) epilogue is tacked on, with highly advanced robots (or, perhaps, aliens) discovering David two thousand years later and giving him one last day of happy good times to spend with his mommy, but not until they've spouted off a litany of assurances to the audience that human beings are indeed immense super-geniuses in which the key to the meaning of the universe lies, rather than just another closed-end biological experiment that fell victim to their own tragic flaws.

Something about this sort of human arrogance really sticks in my craw. Yes, there are a lot of compelling things about humanity, yes, there's an amazing capacity for intellect, emotion and development, and I'm happy to be alive and human, but I'm not so wrapped up in who I am and which particular hunk of sentient protoplasm I happen to be encased in to realize that, when taking the entire goddamned universe into account, we ain't that special.

This might be best expressed in a quote I once read from George Carlin, of all people. "Humans are the only species that systematically tortures and murders its own for pleasure and personal gain. In fact, we are the only species that systematcially tortures and murders its own, period. We are serial killers. All our poems and symphonies and oils on canvas will never change that. Man's noble aspect is the aberration. Those who argue that art and philosophy are proof of human worth neglect to mention that, in the scheme we have devised, artists and philosophers are completely powerless and largely without prestige. Art, music and philosophy are merely poignant examples of what we might have been had not the priests and traders gotten hold of us."

Depressing, maybe. Bleak, yeah. Disheartening, sure. But most likely the truth. Don't think that makes a crowd-pleasing movie, though, so make sure to crank up the 'ain't humanity great' trumpeteers and make the talking teddy bear a little cuter.

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