Feb 12 2010

Article XIV – In Which Bruce Willis is Dead (Murdered by a Robot Child)

Not the Will Smith movie...I Robot?

I have finally broken the cycle of reviewing post-apocalyptic films!  No nuclear explosions/dragons/ominous amnesia winds in this film.  No rescuing the president from downtown “prison” New York.”  Indeed – no end-of-the-world in sight.  Just simple robots wanting to live in peace.  And be left alone.  And to be understood by humans.


So, this week is the pre-apocalyptic film A.I. Artificial Intelligence, we will examine why robots are evil, why child robots are creepy, and why I can never see Jude Law in the same way again.

My “review” this week is going to deviate from the normal format I’ve fallen into over the last thirteen articles.  NO MORE, I say.  Today, the history behind the film comes first, THEN the summary, then the rest of the crap you guys don’t read. A.I is based on a Brian W. Aldiss short story called “Super-Toys Last all Summer Long.”  As you should come to expect from me, that’s about as far as my research goes – I sadly did not read the story, so I can’t give you a lengthy and condescending comparison and monologue on how the story was so much better.  Stanley Kubrick began working on it in the 1970s but realized that technology was not to the point where he could tell the story properly, so he put it away and did a bunch of other movies first.

Eventually, he handed the project over to Spielberg  (some no-name director with a talent for BRINGING DINOSAURS BACK TO LIFE) in 1995 because Spielberg knew how to direct movies that could make people feel good instead of terrible, which is the clear distinction between the two directors.  Sticking close to Kubrick’s style and the original film treatment, Spielberg wrote the feature script by himself and ended up making the film.

Now that you know the history – the summary shall commence in 3…2…1…

David is a child robot made by William Hurt and given to a couple whose child is diagnosed with a terminal illness and placed in cryogenic freezing until the cure can be found.  Imprinted to love, David is eventually abandoned (good riddance) and goes on a quest to find the Blue Fairy of Pinocchio lore to turn him into a “real boy, so my mommy will love me.”  Creepier words…I know.

He has an adventure in which he meets Gigolo Joe and Robin Williams’ voice and that guy from Troy, 28 Days Later, In Bruges, and Gangs of New York.  Eventually, he makes it back to the creator and is lauded as a success – indeed, the first artificial intelligence.  He is trapped at the bottom of the sea eventually, and 2000 years pass.  And then…HA, you’ll have to watch the film suckers!  Man, I’m awesome at stringing along an audience and then making them pay money for the final payoff.  I should make movies.  Or write scripts. I’m lookin’ at you Hollywood.

I think robot children is a sick idea.

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty.

There’s not much in this film that stands out.  As you watch it, you can see the Kubrick moments, and you can see the Spielberg moments.  Some of the film is incredibly dark.  Other bits of it are incredibly cuddly.  An example?  The Flesh Fair.  This is exactly the kind of stuff that Kubrick would have excelled at.  The darker side of human nature, the prejudice against robots (his idea, not mine), and the ideas behind what moral obligation a person has to their own creation.  Spielberg’s moments include a lot of soft focus, weepy, cuddly moments where you almost almost feel sorry for this soulless abomination created by man.  I’m glad that this film was able to be made, since it’s a clear example of what happens when two opposing styles clash in a film – but the result isn’t the greatest thing (still better than that overrated sliced bread.)

The acting is fair, Jude Law is pretty awesome as a robot, and Osment does an equally amazing job.  The rest of the characters in the film don’t necessarily stand out.  I will say that I did believe William Hurt would definitely be the one to bring about the robot-fuelled apocalypse.

The set design reminds me, again, of half Kubrick inspired and half Spielberg – with all the warm moments being the latter and all the darker moments being the former.  The future looks like A Clockwork Orange to me.  Which also kind of looks like 2001: A Space Odyssey.

I guess the major thing is that I’m not the biggest fan of Spielberg’s most used and recognized thematic material.  In general, I prefer his spectacle and filmmaking techniques to his story.  With this film – I don’t really get much of the spectacle, and what I do get is Kubrick’s awesomeness.  The entire end of the film kind of falls all over itself, making most of the story obsolete while still giving a sentimental edge to it.  It’s almost as it there’s a logical ending to the story (with voiceover and everything!) and then it just keeps going for another half hour – just to give us our happy ending.  A lot of the pieces just don’t fit for me.  And I was World Champion Jigsaw Puzzle Master of the World in 2004, 2005, and 2007.  I like my pieces to fit.

Okay, now let’s talk about what you’re all reading this article for.  Myself.  Do I like this film?  Kind of?  It’s hard to explain my feelings on it.  I feel like it’s an incredibly ambitious project – the story and the subject matter are awesome, if a little terrifying for having something to do with robots.  The ideas the film tries to deal with never get fully articulated or realized, just sort of skimmed.  Essentially, I kind of feel like the film tries to pack too much in without ever actually exploring its main themes.

So sick of writing clever captions. (insert your own werewolf robot joke here)

Take, for example, the best moment in the film – when William Hurt talks to David at the end of the world.  This moment of the robot realizing its full potential should be full of emotion and excitement – Hurt’s miscalculations about David’s feelings and the realization that you’re not unique or one-of-a-kind should be the best moment in the film.  There’s a tiny bit with David walking about the room looking at the models of himself.  THEN ALL OF A SUDDEN HE’S OUTSIDE.  AND THEN HE COMMITS SUICIDE.

While it is the right thing to do if you’re a robot – it ruins the moment.  And my column.  Then the moment is saved when Gigolo Joe is abducted by the police and says “I am…I was.”  Although bone-chilling, this is another good moment in the film…followed by another terrible bit with David.

Essentially, the film was full of ups and downs, ins and outs, apples and oranges, men and women, humans and robots, and other diametrically opposed things.

Did I like it?  Maybe.  I liked it on my second viewing, and will probably like it on the fourth.  The first and third viewings didn’t do it for me though.

My advice?  You will only like this movie on even numbered viewings.  The data supports my hypothesis, which I have just tested and observed.

That’s a little scientific method, for all you laymen out there.

3 Responses to “Article XIV – In Which Bruce Willis is Dead (Murdered by a Robot Child)”

  • Maggie Says:

    I bawled for the last two hours of the movie. Cried myself silly. As the credits rolled I was hunched over in my chair crying like my son had died.

    …I’ve never seen it again.

  • Ann Says:

    It was a good sci-fi movie exploration that has multiple layers to it. I believe that it could be cleaner cut but there is no doubt that the viewers are left into discussion. So I enjoyed most of the movie till it got to the end.

  • Bonnye Says:

    Absolutely agree with your review and thought the same thing upon my first viewing. I was thoroughly disappointed that Kubrick didn’t get to finish his version. I haven’t re-watched it but maybe I will if there’s a chance I’ll enjoy it, as you’ve promised. If I do pay money to see it again though, I expect to be compensated by you if your theory proves unfounded, in the form of a full functional robot child.

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