It's time to finally admit it: Stanley Kubrick is one of the most overrated figures in film history. Critics seem loath to speak ill of the dead legend, but it's time somebody said it out loud. Kubrick made his last great movie over 37 years ago-- the masterful "Dr. Strangelove"-- though "Full Metal Jacket" was pretty good.
"A Clockwork Orange" and "2001" are certainly the result of a singular cinematic vision, blah blah blah... But face it, the fact they are considered classics was helped along by the widespread popularity of hallucinogenic drugs at the time-- and the fact that they were big stuff as the current generation of baby boomer film critics came of age.
Now comes "A.I.: Artificial Intelligence," a pet project of Kubrick's which was completed by Steven Spielberg, who considers Kubrick a mentor.
It's actually kind of fun to watch the critics tie themselves in knots over this movie. Hardly anyone says it's a great movie. The most oft used term is "uneven,"-- which is stating the case mildly. But no one seems to want to be the first to point out that the Emperor is stark naked.
If you're looking for a discussion about "the clash of cinematic views between Kubrick's coldness and Spielberg's sentimentality" look elsewhere; (critics have even used "schizophrenic" in POSITIVE reviews about this movie) as degree of difficulty points should only be given in gymnastic competition. The question here is: Is "A.I" a good movie?
The simple answer is: No. Absolutely not.
"A.I." is set in a politically correct (if you live in Red China) future after global warming has melted the ice caps, flooded the cities, and displaced millions causing them to starve. That supposedly means that robots become practical, because they provide labor without another mouth to feed. Gee, with global warming, wouldn't there be lots of good farmland in, say-- Saskatchewan? Wouldn't humans who are smart enough to make lifelike robots find new ways to grow food? We're not supposed to think about that-- just accept the Malthusian premise that the modern nations held on to their prosperity by limiting population and licensing childbirth.
The film stars the great child actor Haley Joel Osment of "The Sixth Sense" as David, a robot who is programmed to love. He is tested by a couple (Frances O'Connor and Sam Robards) whose son, Martin (Jake Thomas) is in a seemingly permanent coma. The theory is that having a doll around that can say "I love you" more convincingly than talking Barbie will somehow be good for the depressed mother.
Aside from this dubious idea-- and David is supposed to be a prototype for a product for childless couples-- no one in the movie asks this important question: How does having an eternal 11 year old satisfy this need? Who the heck wants THAT?
Then Martin recovers and is understandably suspicious of what his mother calls his "brother." In fact, Martin is the only one who gets it right, "You're the new supertoy, huh? What can YOU do?" It reminded me of the scene in "Stuart Little" when after the parents bring the mouse home from the orphanage and everyone at the party fusses over it, until the real son cries out, "Is everybody crazy? He's a MOUSE!"
Predictably, Mom choses Martin over David, and-- in a shamelessly manipulative (and illogical) scene-- abandons the robot in the woods. David, who is familiar with the Pinocchio story-- sets out to find the Blue Fairy who will make him into a real boy his mother will love. On his journey, David hooks up with a sex toy robot, Gigolo Joe, (Jude Law) who acts as his cynical (was he programmed for THAT?) Jiminy Cricket.
This movie has no idea what real love is. It fashions itself after "Pinocchio," but misses the central point. Pinocchio was made into a real boy after an act of self sacrifice. That's what made him human, that's what love is all about. Like lesbian rock stars who really really want to have a child to feel like real women, David supposedly really really wants to be loved, so that he can feel like a real boy. But that's selfishness, and the supposedly emotional coda shows just HOW selfish David's "love" really is.
The movie goes seriously awry by not focussing on how it affects humans to consider what they GET out of child rearing instead of what they GIVE to it; and by not asking what the bad effect is on people to divorce sex from love, marriage, or any other emotional component and concentrate soley on the, shall we say, mechanical aspects. "A.I." only flirts with ideas, and ultimately it engages them as superficially as Gigolo Joe does the women he services.
Tack on the most arbitrary, ponderous, and pretentious coda in recent memory, and "A.I." will have you leaving the theater shaking your head in disbelief. Despite the critics' fawning, look for bad word of mouth to sink "A.I" pretty quickly.