Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001)

(In theaters, July 2001) The traditional fault of filmed science-fiction is the preponderance of visuals versus content, of gosh-wow over serious extrapolation. A.I. is a useful lesson in the lesser-known danger of going too far in another direction and ending up with a pretentious snoozefest. To put it simply, the nonhuman thing has been done already. From Star Trek’s Data to TV’s Alf (with countless other examples), I think we’ve seen every conceivable modern interpretation of the Outsider/Pinnochio myth. We didn’t really need another one, and needed even less a film that boldly went where every other SF writer has gone before. Thematic failure compounded by an overabundance of stupid non-questions (“Can humans love objects?” Well, try taking my teddy bear away from me and you’ll die.) and contrived non-questions (“Well, we’ll grant you your biggest wish, but babble-babble-babble it’ll only be for a day. Sorry. Nature of the universe. Sucks, doesn’t it?”) It wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t all done in an entertaining fashion, but no… Stock up on caffeine before starting the film, because otherwise it’s a straight trip to sleepyland. It’s a shame -and a telling impression- that I wanted a film about the Teddy and Gigolo Joe secondary characters rather than the one I ended up seeing. It really doesn’t help that the film ends fifteen minutes after its logical ending, with a grating end sequence that it awful in all sort of different ways, but most egregiously by telling you what’s going to happen, and then spending ten minutes doing exactly that. And notice how I haven’t yet said anything about the manipulative sentimentalism of the production. Much has been said about this Spielberg/Kubrick “collaboration”, but in the end, Spielberg on Kubrick is like pouring a ton of sugar on a concrete slab. Interesting concept, but not an intrinsically entertaining experience.

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