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A.I. Artificial Intelligence
(Full Screen)

review by Zach B.

 

 

 

Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 145 minutes

Starring: Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O'Connor, Brendan Gleeson and William Hurt

Screenplay by: Steven Spielberg
Based on the screen story by: Ian Watson
Based on the short story by: Brian Aldiss

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

 

Studio: Dreamworks

Retail Price: $29.99

Features:
Disc 1: Creating A.I.
Disc 2: Acting A.I., Designing A.I., Lighting A.I., Special Effects, Robots Of A.I., Special Visual Effects And Animation: ILM, The Sound Of Music Of A.I., Closing: Steven Spielberg: Our Responsibility To Artificial Intelligence, A.I. Archives, Cast and Filmmakers Biographies and Filmmakers, Production Notes

Specs: 1.33:1 Full Screen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English DTS 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, French Subtitles, Scene Index (32 Scenes), 2-Disc Set

Released: March 5th, 2002

 

 

Steven Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick... two masters of the cinema who seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum. While each have had their fair share of successes, critical kudos and critical bombs, they are essentially two different filmmakers. Spielberg likes to manipulate the heart strings with stories that inspire the mind and heart, while Kubrick always likes to keep you guessing with his brand of darkness, the evils of the human heart and cold emotions.

This is what makes "A.I." such an interesting project. It's Spielberg's first film since "Close Encounters Of The Third Kind" where he is credited as the sole screenwriter AND director. While Kubrick has passed away, it is widely known that Kubrick was also fascinated with Spielberg's films and the two did some major collaboration on "A.I." for quite a long time (Kubrick began to develop it himself back in 1983). Kubrick wanted Spielberg to helm the film. After he died, however, Spielberg took full control of the project claiming to respect Stanley's vision while adding his own in. Adding Kubrick and Spielberg together sounds like quite an awesome idea for a movie, let alone a vision. Two incredible and well respected filmmakers to bring to life a single movie. While Kubrick can't judge for himself, let alone all that he was involved with was the idea for the movie, developing portions of it and elements of the script, we can clearly see his ideas and visions throughout the film, truly making it one unique collaboration despite Spielberg controlling the puppets strings. Yet, you really do feel it's a movie from both of their ends. At times separate from one another and at other times mixed in. How does "A.I." measure up? Let's see...

Haley Joel Osment plays David, a robot who is made to look like and act like a real, live living boy. David is a prototype robot and the first of his kind. He is shipped to the Swinton home where two parents, Monica and Henry are coming to terms with their son Martin who has some kind of sickness and is being frozen until he's all better. While Monica at first rejects David and knows it will never replace Martin, she soon grows to like him. However, to make David love her back she has to touch certain parts of his body and recite a variety of interesting words. She does this, and David instantly becomes attached to her. However, the unthinkable then happens. Martin is defrosted and begins to heal. This, of course, causes jealousy among David as Martin teases David to the bone. David begins to feel that Monica loves Martin more, and Martin often tricks David making David seem like the bad guy and often misunderstood. However, in a pretty sad and emotional scene, Monica abandons David in the forest. David feels however Monica will love him as much as Martin if he can become a real boy. David is inspired by the fairy tale "Pinocchio" and feels if he can find the Blue Fairy like in the story, he can become a real boy. This begins a journey like no other where David must start to realize and accept the cruelty of the world in addition to struggling to stay alive.

"A.I. Artificial Intelligence" has been one of the most secretive movie projects in years and was one of the summer of 2001's biggest projects (one of the few films during that time that was not a sequel or a remake).Surrounded by buzz ever since Spielberg said he would take over the project from Kubrick, the film has been backed my an incredible marketing campaign from great teaser trailers, great teaser TV spots and a *HUGE* portal of web mythology, the biggest since the indie sleeper "The Blair Witch Project". This is also a pretty important film since it's Spielberg's first movie since "Saving Private Ryan" and as I mentioned, another shot at screenwriting which he has not done since "Poltergeist" (and again, the last time he was both credited writer and director was for "Close Encounters Of The Third Kind").

Yet despite all the marketing and anticipation it had going for it, "A.I. Artificial Intelligence" failed to spark the interest in audiences that it most likely deserved. The film had a strong first place opening in its first weekend out, but its take of nearly 30 million was still a bit underwhelming. From there, the film dipped and dipped. And while reviews were positive for the most part, "A.I.:Artificial Intelligence" is a prime example of what the term "word of mouth" means and that it still does exist. I was hard pressed to find people who liked the film during its release, and I am sure many were turned off by it and that it wasn't what they were hoping for and expecting. So those people told their friends that they didn't like it, and well, the film only grossed around 75 million domestically. Certainly that's not a bad amount, but for Spielberg? Given his force and all the marketing, it was incredibly lackluster. And even though the film wasn't much of a commercial success, it didn't get much notice in the awards season either which I found to be quite disappointing.

But back to the movie itself. It's not easy to talk to about "A.I." but I'll do my best. Let's just say that this movie is pretty much a futuristic Pinocchio, and it's refreshing to know Spielberg does acknowledge that by bringing up the original story throughout the film. What I did like a lot about it how you can feel and sense the Kubrick-ness to the movie. The opening, to me, feels like Kubrick. The body of the film is like a combo of the two while the final act is pure manipulative Spielberg. This movie brings a lot of their movies to mind... "Hook" (the teddy especially), "2001", "The Shining", "A Clockwork Orange", "Close Encounters Of The Third Kind", "E.T." and quite a few more. Spielberg is not known as a writer and I don't think he's a good one as a matter of fact, but I must say the dialogue in the movie rings very true and doesn't sound corny or dumb. While I will give points there to Spielberg and while I did enjoy the movie very much, there's some really deep flaws within the script. Spielberg has a perfect structure throughout the movie. He develops characters and settings well, but once David is abanonded and David's quest for the Blue Fairy starts, it's really all down hill from there. Everything happens too easily for David and there's no sense of real challenge for him. The places and events that occur really could have been fleshed out and really could have added a ton more to the story, and while Spielberg does things with them I found myself wanting more satisfaction out of them. Not to say it's not bad, it's good, but there really needed to be more development and fleshing out.

This brings to me yet more points with the story. The character, Gigolo Joe, did need more development and more interaction with David. Joe is David's companion (not to mention the creepy Teddy Bear that I really loved) and is a lover robot (gasp! finally, some sexual things in a Spielberg movie!) who's programmed to pleasure women (gotta love that neck move/thing). There needed to be more of him and a sense to his connection with David. Their goodbye was was way too easy.

The ending though... the ending is pure Spielberg. I liked the ending, but ultimately, I found it very unsatisfying and disappointing. I felt it was out of place with the rest of the film. It wraps the main theme up in a totally different way as Spielberg tugs at your heart strings, as he does try to give closure to the subject matter. While your heart may soar and your eyes may get flooded, it doesn't wrap so many other things up and features an incredible amount of loose ends as far as characters and events go. I did like the ending despite being out of place, but it did annoy me.

There is a lot to like about "A.I." that just further proves how great of a storyteller Spielberg really is. The acting is simply phenomenal and I feel really was Oscar® worthy. If you thought Haley Joel Osment was great in "The Sixth Sense", he's going to blow you away here. Osment continues to show his tremendous depth and range. He's just so incredibly eerie and creepy as David, he really deserved an Oscar® nod as far as I'm concerned. Frances O'Connor, Jude Law and William Hurt all really stand out despite their much smaller roles within the film. Connor and Law are certainly the most impressive supporting players in the film, given what they do and what they do convey within their characters. There are also some very nice and fun voice cameos from some major stars.

Spielberg brings his great, polished techniques to the movie that really excel and I also felt were Oscar® worthy (he did score a Golden Globe nod though). The lighting is incredible as it is used to symbolize so much, not to mention the fantastic editing so you don't miss anything. The camera shots are so unique and brilliant and Spielberg's direction and visionary is top notch. There also some great robotics, computer animation and special effects that blew my mind. It all blends so seamlessly you get such a a sense of awe and it feels like it's all playing right in front of you. John Williams also creates one of his best scores ever that really accompany the film and give it a further sense of wonder and life. It's beautiful, it's haunting and it's just great to hear (his score did get noticed through it all).

"A.I. Artificial Intelligence" may not be Spielberg's best film, and it's certainly not his worst either. But no matter what, fans will never be happy and will always find flaws within the film, especially when compared to the late Stanley Kubrick. Still, it looks visually stunning and has some great acting. While the script may have uneven points, it does bring up some interesting issues that are ready for discussion and can be compared with cloning in a sense: can we love something that may seem so real but really isn't? "A.I." raises all the right issues, especially as technology advances farther and farther. It's not a perfect movie by any means, but pretty damn good.

 

Presented in 1.33:1 full screen (a separate anamorphic widescreen release is also available), I must say I was a bit disappointed with this transfer as it's not up to Dreamworks' usual high standards. It's not terrible or anything, but I think it does not exactly reflect the film's visuals truly. Yes, it is a hard movie on the visual side since it is not so consistent. There are many dark schemes, many sorts of blues and all kinds of patterns in the art direction. Be it the isolated forests, the lights and wonderment of the cities or the somewhat subdued colors of suburbia, there's a lot that is offered as far as visuals throughout the film.

The problem with the transfer besides it chopping up some really lovely and intricate shots (which is quite annoying) is that it's much murkier and darker than it really should be, and this becomes quite distracting and annoying very fast. There are also some blemishes and dirt pieces here and there, but the transfer's greatest flaw is that it's overloaded with shimmering and edge halos. The abundance of these nearly drove me insane, as the noise level on the transfer is pretty high. The image itself is also a bit soft for my tastes. But with that said, the transfer does a lot right. Fleshtones look wonderful, color saturation nicely captures everything (be it the neon streets or nature portions) as it is bold, has depth and very fitting and detail is downright impeccable (I noticed a lot of stuff in the background I didn't the first time). If you can just get past the flaws, you'll see that there is a lot to like here. A solid job well done... but try to stick with the widescreen.

 

The audio certainly does not disappoint here, as Dreamworks offers a bevy of sound options for the movie: English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround and yep, an English DTS 5.1 track (and why not? the first disc is just the film sans one feature). I like to think of "A.I. Artificial Intelligence" as an interesting film as far as sound. There are plenty of opportunities for surrounds, but the film also has more subtle, gentle and peaceful moments where it is drowned in a mystical serenity. Each 5.1 track perfectly capture the loud and soft moments, with a nice balance between sound effects, music and dialogue so nothing is ever distorted or drowned out.

Dialogue is quite clear and John William's powerful, even eerie score sounds particularly haunting yet true through all the channels in each mix, a nice sign of some good mixing. The old-time kinda songs that are heard throughout the film (such as in Gigolo Joe's introduction) also sound pretty nice through the channels. Williams' score rises up and moves down at all the right times. But even with that said and with all the clearness of the dialogue, the surrounds do pack a major punch. What Rogue City offers in its scope, the horrors of the Flesh Fair and Joe's escape pack some great moments to show off any home theater system. Subwoofer use is nothing short of excellent and the surrounds really do pack a fine punch, bringing you into the sweeping moments. In the end though, I found the DTS track to be more superior. I found it to be filled with more depth, pack a bit more punch and be a bit more realized. Still, each 5.1 track is quite nice and will nicely accompany the film no matter which one you choose. Also included are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

 

It's always nice to see such a big movie come out in a decent time frame and have just the right amount of supplements. Given Spielberg's feelings toward DVD, you won't find a commentary here but do have enough that nicely packs this edition to feel quite complete. The only extra on the first disc is Creating A.I. Featuring executive producer Jan Harlan (Kubrick's brother-in-law I believe), Steven Spielberg, producer Bonnie Curtis and producer Kathleen Kennedy, this piece discusses the film's backdrop and uses film clips, on-the-set footage and stills. The origins of the project here are discussed in nice detail here and how Spielberg and Kubrick collaborated, making this is a very solid and intriguing look of what the film is and how it came to be.

On to disc two now. Acting A.I. is broken up into two portions: "A Portrait of David" and "A Portrait of Gigolo Joe." Using some behind-the-scenes clips, Spielberg, Osment and Law are interviewed here. The actors talk about their initial meetings, their roles, working with Spielberg and important aspects to the film. Hearing each actor talk about their role and as they give their thoughts is quite interesting and entertaining, and I especially liked how articulate Spielberg is in how he wanted to make the characters. Good stuff here. The David portion lasts about nine minutes and the Joe one about six.

Designing A.I. is broken up into two sections as well: "'A.I.': From Drawings to Sets" and "Dressing 'A.I.'". The first lasts about seven-and-a-half minutes, and has interviews with concept illustrator Chris Baker and set designer Rick Carter. Baker is quite enthusiastic and also very interesting as he talks about meeting Kubrick (he chose him to work on the project) and working with him. Carter also offers some interesting tidbits on designing the sets and how everything works. Film clips highlight the piece too. The latter piece also uses film clips and features costumer designer Bob Ringwood. Ringwood discusses his thoughts on the movie, his impressions and how he created different sides to the story with the clothes. Great, interesting stuff.

Lighting A.I. is a nice four-and-a-half minute bit with Spielberg's longtime cinematographer, Janusz Kaminski. Featuring some nice on-the-set footage and stills, Kaminski talks about his involvement with the movie and the different "looks" to it. Very insightful stuff. Special Effects lasts nearly eight minutes and features interviews with special effects supervisor Michael Lantieri. He talks about what he did and goes through some pointers in bringing part of the Flesh Fair to life. Nice stuff.

Robots Of A.I. features Spielberg giving meaning to what Mechas are (complete with film clips), but the main portion of this featurette is going through designing the robots with one of the best gurus in the business, that's right, Stan Winston. Some on-the-set clips are included plus behind-the-scene footage of the creation of these. Effect supervisor at Stan Winston Studio J. Alan Scott also gives some information on creating the machines. Here's a hint for you: it's a lot more complex than it looks. Fascinating and wow - what hard work these geniuses do. There's also a bit on creating Teddy, complete with an interview with the voice of the character, Jack Angel. This all lasts around a good 14 minutes.

Special Visual Effects and Animation: ILM is broken down into five segments: "An Overview," "The Robots," "The Miniatures," "The New York City Sequence: Shot Progression" and "Animating 'A.I.'" ILM visual effects supervisor Dennis Murren, associate visual effects supervisor Doug Smythe and other of those ILM geniuses talk about the creation and many portions of what it goes in to creating such complex, amazing special effects and how they do it. Nicely edited and broken down perfectly, one can really get a sense in what it takes and how some of this amazing stuff was accomplished, and how it looks so real. Just wonderful and well worth watching every segment even if you're the slightest bit interested. Film clips and stills help illustrate the process in addition to behind-the-scenes footage.

The Sound Of Music Of A.I. is broken down into two segments: "Sound Design" and "The Music." The first is a nice demonstration (with clips and stills of course!) from sound master Gary Rydstrom. Rydstrom talks about while his job here was unusual and what he did, but the real treat here is him showing off what he does best and his rather insightful takes on what sound means in life and to the movie. Last six minutes and forty-five seconds, this is well done. And then we have the latter, also using film clips and stills (as well on-the-set footage) and lasting around six minutes. Here John Williams talks about Spielberg's filmmaking approach and how it fits music. Williams talks about what magic he worked with the film (it is really beautiful) and how all the pieces fit together as far as the overall themes of the music and movie, as well as how this score is different than the usual score he does for good old Steven. Got to love Williams.

Steven Spielberg: Our Responsibility To Artificial Intelligence is a little two-and-a-half minute bit as Spielberg talks about his own views on how we should treat robotics as if they were real and whatnot. Nice insights we get to hear as the DVD credits play. While that's all nice, one must see the A.I. Archives - they are incredibly impressive. You can see two of the film's wonderful trailers here (in non-anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound), storyboards for "Joe's Goodbye," "David's Leap" and "David and the Blue Fairy," Chris Baker's Portfolio outlining some major characters and points in the movie, an incredibly extensive and impressive Production Design Portfolio, the really nice ILM Portfolio, a Portrait Gallery and Steven Spielberg Behind The Scenes (both with photographs by David James). WHEW! Here you really see how much effort, planning and collaboration it takes to design such an impressive movie. Rounding the disc out are Cast and Filmmaker Biographies and Filmographies plus some well-written and interesting production notes.

In all, there's a lot of solid stuff here as you can definitely feel and experience the evolution of the project as you look at the storyboards and watch the featurettes. Everyone gives great interviews as they talk about their own parts to help bring this project to life, and there really is never a dull moment in the supplements - something which is downright amazing. There is a lot of articulation and a lot of depth here, and fans of the movie are sure to enjoy it. Even if you weren't thrilled with the movie, you'll be sure to get something new out of the movie and get a different perspective as well as appreciation if you go through what's here.

 

Even though "A.I. Artificial Intelligence" was a box office disappointment, strong critical notices and had many movie fans divided, I'm curious to see what the film's status will be in ten years time as far as general reaction and what it will be remembered for. Will it have faded from memory? Will it be a cult classic? Will anyone remember that Stanley Kubrick was involved with it? That remains to be seen. This DVD is a must rent if you have never seen it, and a worthy purchase if you liked the movie. While the sound mixes are good and the supplements incredibly strong, I couldn't help but feel disappointed by the transfer. Nonetheless, "A.I. Artificial Intelligence" is a different kind of movie experience: it's something that you'll never expect or probably experience for quite awhile, as the blending of two cinematic masters come together to create a unique film ... one that this critic personally loved.