- A. I. Artificial Intelligence
- Warner Bros. , 143 minutes, June 2001 Concept: Stanley Kubrick; Executive Producers: Jan Harlan,Walter F. Parkes; Producers: Bonnie Curtis, Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg; Director: Steven Spielberg; Screenplay: Steven Spielberg, Ian Watson (screen story), based on the short story “Supertoys Last All Summer Long,” by Brian Aldiss; Cinematographer: Janusz Kaminski; Assistant Director: Sergio Mimica-Gezzen; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh; Costumes: Bob Ringwood; Makeup: Ve Neill, Robin Slater, and Stan Winston; Sound: Richard Hymns; Special Effects: Jim Charmatz, Michael Lantieri, Evan Schiff, and Stan Winston; Special Visual Effects Advisers: Scott Farrar and Dennis Muren; Editing: Michael Kahn; Production Manager: Patricia Churchill; Cast: Haley Joel Osment (David Swinton), Jude Law (Gigolo Joe), Frances O’Connor (Monica Swinton), Sam Robards (Henry Swinton), Jake Thomas (Martin Swinton), Brendan Gleeson and Daviegh Chase (Lord Johnson-Johnson), William Hurt (Professor Hobby), Jack Angel (Teddy, voice), Clara Bellar (Nanny Mecha), Keith Campbell (Road Warrior),Kelly Felix (Butler Mecha), John Harmon (Medic Mecha), Ben Kingsley (narrator), Katie Lohmann (Pleasure Mecha), Paul Issac (Crash Test Dummy), Chris Palermo (Red Biker Hound), Miguel Pérez (A. R. T. repairman), Chris Rock (Comedian Mecha), and Robin Williams (Dr. Know, voice)In the near future, the greenhouse effect has melted the ice caps and submerged many coastal cities, including New York. Although natural resources are limited, technology has advanced rapidly to serve the reduced population. In particular, robotic sciences are producing appliances that serve every human need. Machines clean the house, tend the garden, babysit the kids, even provide sexual satisfaction for lonely men and women. Yet, no matter how sophisticated are these synthetic creatures, they do not have feelings. In an attempt to correct this failing, robotics scientist Professor Hobby (William Hurt) of Cybertronics Manufacturing devises “David,” an eight-year-old robot, a “mecha,” the first robot that can do something no artificial life-form has ever been capable of doing: experiencing love, and, hence, being able to speculate, to dream. David comes to Henry and Monica Swinton (Sam Robards and Frances O’Connor), who are facing the seeming loss of their cryogenically frozen, terminally ill son, Martin.No sooner do David and his “parents” try to adjust to each other, than Martin is resuscitated and reunited with the family. Friction immediately develops as Martin teases and taunts his robot “stepbrother. ” When David seems unable to blend in with the family, Monica abandons him in the woods and tells him to wander out into the world and not come back. David, familiar with the story of Pinocchio’s transformation into a real boy with the assistance of the Blue Fairy, is convinced that if he can seek her out and become “a real boy,” he can return and earn his mother’s love.Several adventures await the young vagabond. He is captured by a robot hunter named Lord Johnson- Johnson (Brendan Gleeson) and taken to a “Flesh Fair,” where spectators cheer on the ritualized destruction of discarded robots. But when these latter-day Luddites mistake David’s pleas for help as coming from a real boy, they demand his release. David and his new friend Joe (Jude Law), a “lover” robot—that is, gigolo robot—flee the area. Anxious for information about the whereabouts of the “Blue Fairy,” David persuades Joe to take him to “Rouge City,” a frenzied, neon-lit pleasure palace, where they consult an electronic oracle named Dr. Know (the voice of Robin Williams). Armed with information about the fairy’s whereabouts, they head for the “city at the end of the world where the lions weep. ”That destination turns out to be a ravaged, deserted, halfsubmerged Manhattan. There David meets Professor Hobby, his maker. Hobby praises David’s unusual “human” abilities and explains that he is manufacturing a new line of duplicate “David” robot models— all designed to bring love to childless families. David is horrified, and in a Luddite frenzy of his own, destroys one of them, by now aware that he is hardly the unique creation he had supposed himself to be. Fleeing in an amphibious helicopter, David and his teddy bear plunge into the watery depths surrounding Manhattan. Deep, deeper they go. Finally, ahead, he sees the remains of a sunken Coney Island. And there, farther along, is a Pinocchio exhibit, complete with a Blue Fairy—or, at least, the statue of one. David sits in his vehicle, contemplating the angelic figure that is just out of reach. Urgently, he keeps whispering his prayerful plea,“Please make me a real boy . . . please make me a real boy . . . ” Two thousand years pass. David and the Blue Fairy have survived the long standoff. It’s a curious tableau: Immobilized, he gazes at her figure limned in the ship’s headlights; and she stands nearby, silent, rigid, promising, yet irrevocably out of reach. After the seas have frozen over, strange beings arrive. Tall, sleek, slender as willows, they are robots far advanced beyond their earlier prototypes. Humanity has disappeared, and they are the only remaining inhabitants of the planet. In David they see an entity that actually knew and walked among human beings. By means of telepathic probings, they learn of David’s wish to return to his mother. They inform him that they can recreate his mother (from DNA in strands of her hair on the teddy bear), but that she can only survive for one day. David agrees to the conditions. His mother awakes from a sleep in a home that has been built according to David’s memory. Mother and son enjoy a day together and celebrate his birthday. At the end, she falls asleep, and David, in bed beside her, closes his eyes, at last able to sleep, dream . . . and die . . . ? The film is neatly divided into three sections—a domestic drama, a road picture, and a digitally enhanced dream. Each has its own peculiar tone, or atmosphere. The first is a soft-edged pastel fable of childhood. The second marks David’s induction into an adult world of hard colors, frenzied brutality, and cynical corruption. And the third loses itself in the dreamy, cosmic blur of David’s transcendence. Beyond all the hardware and technical glitz—particularly impressive are the scenes in second part of the Flesh Fair and Rouge City, and in the third part of a submerged Manhattan—are several basic metaphoric superstructures, at once scientific and poetic. The first is a fable about the love between parents and children. In the film’s opening scene, after Professor Hobby discusses the fashioning of a robot designed to love, a colleague asks him a very important and profoundly disturbing question—will humans be willing to love the robot in return? It is clear in the film that Monica Swinton is deeply divided in her feelings toward the robot boy who unreservedly loves her (his feelings are irrevocably “imprinted” in his circuitry). It is significant, perhaps, that the only way he can receive her love is by means of the DNA manipulations that bring her back to life for a day. She is not the same person now, no longer ambivalent in her love, but seemingly lost in a loving bliss that seems, ironically, almost mechanical. Is the disturbing message here that, in order to love him, she must become something of an artificial life-form herself ? It is worth noting that another film about a robot boy, Simon Wincer’s underrated D. A. R. Y. L. (1985), poses a different solution to the problem of mutual love between man and machine: The boy “Daryl” (an acronym for “Data/Analyzing/Robot/Youth/Lifeform”) is unable to live happily with his foster parents as long as he is “too perfect,” that is, too smart and too willing to please (like the robot David in Aldiss’s original short story, Daryl does not know that he is a robot). His lesson in living with humans consists in learning how to disappoint his parents, how to fail in his endeavors. The perfect machine has to learn to become an imperfect human. The lesson for Daryl’s parents, in turn, is to love him for his faults, as well as his virtues. At the core of films like A. I. and D. A. R. Y. L. is a question that has distinct theological overtones: Inasmuch as mankind was created to love God, does that necessarily mean that God will love him in return, no matter how imperfect—sinful—he may turn out to be?Many parents and children will recognize this as a metaphor for the institution and processes of adoption. The need the Swintons have for a boy is only partly satisfied by their acquisition of the robot David (the film never uses the preferred designation, “android,” which customarily refers to a biomechanical construction with synthetic flesh). The opening scenes of the film make it clear that no matter how hard he tries, and no matter how much the “parents” desire it, he may never be able to integrate completely into the human family, especially with his adoptive brother. David, in turn, yearns not only for mother love, but for contact with his “father,” his maker, Professor Hobby. No adopted child or adoptive parent can watch these scenes without recognizing the parallels. (Curiously, David’s relationship with his adoptive father is never explored. Mr. Swinton remains a vaguely defined figure whom the boy calls “Henry. ”) A second, but related, metaphor is the Pinocchio story. Although A. I. ’s allusions to it are frequent and obvious, one must be careful to distinguish between the original tale by Carlo Lorenzini, first published in 1880 in the Italian journal Giornale dei Bambini under the pseudonym “Carlo Collodi,” and the 1940 Walt Disney film version (which itself departs drastically from the deeper meanings of Collodi’s story). The issue is confusing, since both David’s mother and Dr. Know allude to a Pinocchio story—but which one? For the record, Collodi’s tale is about a puppet boy, a ruthlessly selfish, rough-and-tumble character who must endure a series of moral tests to become a real boy to his “father,” the toymaker Geppetto. After being separated from Geppetto, he is imprisoned by the puppeteer Stromboli, meets the ne’er-do-well and worldly Lampwick, indulges in the excesses of the Land of Toys (“Pleasure Island” in the Disney film), reunites with his creator inside the body of a gigantic shark (“Monstro the Whale” in the Disney film), and finally becomes a real boy by dint of the magic of the Blue Fairy. As commentator Douglas Street notes, “It is evident that for this character to receive a reward in the end, he must be taken through a rigorous process of purgation and education. ” He must learn to redeem himself from his lazy, disobedient selfishness by learning the value of truth, compassion, and work; he must return in kind the selfless care and nurturing that had been provided him by Geppetto and the Blue Fairy; and, finally, he must learn to discriminate for himself between good and evil.A casual glance at A. I. reveals Professor Hobby to be Geppetto, Lord Johnson-Johnson to be Stromboli, Gigolo Joe to be Lampwick, Rouge City to be the Land of Toys/Pleasure Island, the submerged helicopter to be the shark/Monstro the Whale, etc. As for the Blue Fairy, she appears in a number of guises—in this case, in the virtual image projections of Dr. Know’s bazaar, the underwater figure of the angelic woman, the virtual figure fashioned for David by the robots, and, finally, as David’s mother (it is his reunion with her that transforms him at last into a real boy). Beyond these surface features, however, the deeper parallels with Collodi break down and those with Disney take over. David, the robot boy, never develops in any moral sense at all. He says repeatedly that he wants above all only to reunite with and be loved by his mother—a wholly understandable desire, to be sure, but one that in this context merely reaffirms his essential self-centeredness. So fierce is this desire that nothing and no one can stand in the way of his quest. It is a degree of self-indulgence that results in outright disregard and cruelty to his companions, even to himself (as in the scene where in a ranting Luddite rage he smashes one of the rival robots built to replicate himself ). At no time during David’s odyssey is it even suggested that he has achieved any of those virtues that Collodi’s Pinocchio has learned it takes to be a “real boy,” such as admission of his selfishness, a discriminating sense of values, and a compassion and empathy for others. “The hero here . . . has no conditions to meet and no temptations to overcome,” acknowledges critic Andrew Sarris. “He is instead a monomaniacal pilgrim in search of little-boyhood only as a means to an end, that end being the love of a real-life mother. Hence, there is no moral to the film, only the excitement of an emotionally driven adventure. ”What both Disney and Spielberg-Kubrick leave unanswered is a profound question: What happens when the puppet creation achieves the sought-for humanity? Must it then be subject to man’s ills and to the aging process? Must it—like its counterparts in myth and folklore, the water spirits Undine, Rusalka, and the Little Mermaid, for example—sacrifice immortality for a mortal lifespan? At the end of the film, has David merely fallen asleep, or has he paid the ultimate price of death for his reunion with his mother? The issue is confronted squarely in an earlier film that somewhat resembles A. I. , Christopher Columbus’s Bicentennial Man (1999):The robot man, Andrew Martin (Robin Williams), is not content to be a mere mechanical domestic. He demands a series of “upgrades,” acquiring fleshly outer skin, an expressive face, a nervous system, even sexual parts (although reproduction is beyond his technology). However, his petition to the World Congress to be officially recognized as human is refused. Finally, passionately in love with a mortal woman, he takes matters into his own hands: Refusing to watch her wither and die while he remains immortal, in a desperate final move he injects his body with tainted blood that will kill him within a few years. The film ends with him lying beside his dying beloved, both their bodies breathing their last. At issue no longer is that man will do anything to live forever, but that a machine will do anything—even die—to truly live for a few scant moments.Thirdly, A. I. is but the latest in a long line of speculations about the future relationships between man and robot. Since Karel Capek’s seminal R. U. R. (1921), Jack Williamson’s classic novel The Humanoids (1949), and many stories by Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and Philip K. Dick (to cite just a few of the many literary precedents), great concern has been voiced about the relationship between man and machine—between the fallibility and organic perishability of the former as compared to the enduring mechanical perfection of the latter. It seems likely that humans will be conflicted between the lifeextending benefits of machine technology—replacing their own body parts with mechanical substitutes (becoming, in effect, cyborg-like creatures as envisioned in the Robocop films)—and the terrifying possibility that machines might ultimately usurp humankind and take control of the world (envisioned in films as various as Joseph Sargent’s The Forbin Project  and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner ). Perhaps, conversely, man himself will wage war on his machine creations (James Cameron’s The Terminator). Less melodramatically, perhaps, robots will start making robots, and each generation of “copies” will depart farther from the human original. Finally, as A. I. suggests, humans will either evolve into robots, or they will die off and be supplanted altogether by immortal machines (while the memory of their mortal makers gradually fades away). The servants will become the masters. A spectacular irony, in that event—and again, there is a suggestion of this in A. I. —is that perhaps the robots would themselves turn into creators and endeavor to construct human life forms.A more cinematic extension of this is revealed in the current state and future implications of moviemaking. More and more films are either subordinating human elements to special effects and digital technologies, or replacing actors outright with digital imaging that can seem just as “human,” if not more so, than their fleshly counterparts. Ironically, critic Armond White sees in A. I. ’s craft and imagery (if not in its themes) the hope “that people will be reawakened to the magnificence of the film medium before it all crashes down into digital-video slovenliness, zero craft, and impersonal storytelling. ”Like the character of David, A. I. hovers between two worlds, that of STEVEN SPIELBERG’s Pinocchio/ Disney-inspired fairy tale and Kubrick’s grim vision of a dehumanized world. After buying the rights to Brian Aldiss’s short story “Supertoys Last All Summer Long” (1969), Kubrick began planning a screen adaptation as early as 1980. Sporadically, over the course of two decades, and with the assistance of collaborators as various as Aldiss himself, Ian Watson, and Kubrick’s personal assistant LEON VITALI (from whom he first got the idea of the “Pinocchio” allusions), he developed script ideas and commissioned thousands of artist’s sketches and storyboards. In 1995, ultimately convinced that cinematic special effects technology was not yet up to the task, he shelved the project and turned to the film that would be his last project, EYES WIDE SHUT. Near the end of his life, however, Kubrick’s interest in A. I. revived, and he consulted with Spielberg about a possible coproduction with Spielberg as director and himself as producer. “Stanley thought Steven might be the right person to direct this for several reasons,” says JAN HARLAN, Kubrick’s brother-in-law and producer. “Using a real child actor is possible for Steven, who would shoot this film in twenty weeks while Stanley knew he would take years and the child might change too much. . . . [He also] saw in Steven one of the all-time great filmmakers of the next generation. ” Another reason was Spielberg’s mastery of the computer-generated imagery so necessary for the requisite effects of the film.After Kubrick’s death, Spielberg was determined to complete the film. He had not committed to a project in two years, since Saving Private Ryan (1998), and he had not written a screenplay since Poltergeist in 1982. When Warner Bros. chairman Terry Semel gave A. I. a green light, Spielberg called in many of his longtime colleagues, producer Kathleen Kennedy, special effects wizards and designers, editor Michael Kahn, Dennis Muren and Stan Winston, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, and composer John Williams. Setting down to write his own script, armed with Kubrick’s 90-page treatment and surrounded with thousands of drawings and storyboards, he was concerned with balancing his own creative priorities with Kubrick’s original intentions. Available to him, but not previously to Kubrick,was computer-generated technology. “When he sent me his first treatment, I said,‘How are you going to do some of this stuff ?’” recalled Spielberg. “And he said, ‘I don’t know if we can yet. But we will be able to, soon. ’ Now, he’s right, anything is possible. With the computer you can do anything, you can show anything. The only limit is your own imagination. ”Whereas Brian Aldiss’s eight-page story had merely sketched out a poetic impression of a mother’s difficulty in relating to her “adopted” eightyear old robot boy, Spielberg fleshed it out with additional characters and situations. What resulted was far different from what Aldiss had envisioned during his own talks with Kubrick in the 1980s. For example, Aldiss had rejected the allusions to the Pinocchio story, preferring to confront his character of David, who hitherto had been unaware of his mechanical identity, with the revelation of his true nature. “It comes as a shock to realize he is a machine,” writes Aldiss. “He malfunctions. . . . Does he autodestruct? The audience should be subjected to a tense and alarming drama of claustrophobia, to be left with the final questions, ‘Does it matter that David is a machine? Should it matter? And to what extent are we all machines?’” By the mid-1990s the working relationship between Aldiss and Kubrick was over, their issues unresolved.Instead, Spielberg emphasized the theme of David’s search for mother love—prior examples of the “mother ship” in Close Encounters and the searches by Jim and Peter Pan and the Lost Boys for their mothers in Empire of the Sun and Hook immediately come to mind. And whereas Aldiss’s story had concluded with David’s apprehensions over the consequences of his mother’s giving birth to a child, Spielberg’s script transforms the boy into a fugitive, expelled from his home, encountering many perils on the way to a reunion with his mother. It is the kind of dramatic odyssey that appears in Empire of the Sun, where the adventures of the innocent boy Jim’s friendship and the worldly Basie parallel David’s relationship with Gigolo Joe. This relationship perhaps suggests the core reality of the friendship between Spielberg and Kubrick. As critic Lisa Schwarzbaum notes, “While David yearns to pedal home to Mommy, Joe knows with inhuman sureness that he’s programmed for a cold, vertiginous, Mommy-less world of violent Kubrickian sensation. ”In addition, the aforementioned allusions to the Pinocchio story were deeply personal for Spielberg. Not only had it been a thematic thread in Close Encounters (quotations from the Disney music appeared several times), but it imparted to the basic story line the fairytale-like quality he desired. “It was like getting my wisdom teeth pulled all over again,” Spielberg said, summing up the writing of the picture, “because Stanley was sitting on the set back behind me saying,‘No, don’t do that!’ I felt like I was being coached by a ghost. I finally just had to be kind of disrespectful to the extent that I needed to be able to write this, not from Stanley’s experience, but from mine. Still, I was like an archaeologist, picking up the pieces of a civilization, putting Stanley’s picture back together again. ”Still, evidence of Kubrick’s presence is everywhere: in the prancing demeanor of the beautiful Gigolo Joe, more elegant and delightfully amoral than any human; the ruthless scenes of persecution of the robots at the Flesh Fairs; the haunting image of David’s amphibious helicopter forever locked in a stalemate with the frozen image of the Blue Fairy; and especially in the final section, in which the robot beings dispassionately regard the relics of a vanished humankind. “Stanley was convinced that one day artificial intelligence would take over and mankind would be superseded,” writes Brian Aldiss, recalling their acquaintance during the early stages of the A. I. treatment. “Humans were not reliable enough, not intelligent enough. ”Critical reactions to A. I. were mixed. “If you were wondering how Spielberg’s pop exaltations would consort with Kubrick’s dread and metaphysical dismay,” writes David Denby in the New Yorker, “the answer is: strangely, confusingly. ” In the final analysis, Denby describes A. I. as “a ponderous, death-of-theworld fantasy, which leaves us with nothing but an Oedipal robot—hardly a redemption. ”Apart from his own quibbles, Andrew Sarris (who admits he has never had undue reverence for either Kubrick or Spielberg) applauds this Oedipal element as “a beautifully formulated meditation on the eternal intensity of filial love. ” He praises the “unwavering convictions” of the performances, resulting in a movie that is “an overwhelmingly haunting experience as well as an exquisite work of art. ” Moreover, he notes, “For myself, I regard A. I. as the most emotionally and existentially overwhelming Spielberg production since the ridiculously underrated and underappreciated Empire of the Sun (1987). ”Armond White in the New York Press applauded it as a “breakthrough” in “raising fairytales to the level of great art. ”References■ Aldiss, Brian, Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction (New York:Atheneum, 1986);■ ———, foreword to Supertoys Last All Summer Long (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2001), vii–ix; Bailey, J. O. , Pilgrims through Space and Time (Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1972;■ Card, Claudia, “Pinocchio,” in Elizabeth Bell, Lynda Haas, and Laura Sells, eds. , From Mouse to Mermaid:The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995), 62–71;■ Denby, David, “Face/Off,” New Yorker, July 2, 2001, 86–87;■ Lyman, Rick, “A Director’s Journey into a Darkness of the Heart,” New York Times, sec. 2, June 24, 2001, 1, 24;■ Schwarzbaum, Lisa, “Sci-Fi Channel,” Entertainment Weekly, June 29–July 6, 2001, 109–110; Sarris, Andrew,“A. I. =(2001 + E. T. )2,” New York Observer, July 4, 2001, 1;■ Street, Douglas, “Pinocchio—From Picaro to Pipsqueak,” in Douglas Street, ed. , Children’s Novels and the Movies (New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Company, 1983), 47–57;■ White, Armond, “Intelligence Quotient,” New York Press, July 4, 2001.J. C. T.
The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. Gene D. Phillips Rodney Hill. 2002.
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