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Directed by
Steven Spielberg
146 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1.5 stars

A.I. - Artificial Intelligence

Synopsis: In the not-too-distant future Planet Earth when has been drastically impoverished by environmental changes and the wealthy are able to buy their survival. Professor Hobby (William Hurt) and his team develop David (Haley Joel Osment) a prototype of a boy robot who can be programmed to bond with his parents. Henry Swinton (Sam Robards) and his wife Monica (Frances O'Connor) are given the unique opportunity to foster David while grieving over their own son, Martin, languishing in a coma. Martin recovers and David, rejected by his new parents, heads off on a mission to become a real boy.

If you imagine that Stanley Kubrick's early involvement in this film (he is credited as a co-producer) would lighten the leaden hand of Spielberg you'd be sorely disappointed. At his worst, the king of schmaltz is like a child trapped in a man's body - his imagination is jejune but his powers of realisation are considerable. In this film he's a philistine with a mommy fixation.

The film is divided into 3 parts - a drab scene-setting opening in which a dully affluent couple "adopt" and then abandon David the cyber-boy, a Blade Runner-ish middle section, which, if crassly raucous, at least offers some diversion, and finally, an E.T.-meets-2001 finale, set in the distant future. From the opening scenes of William Hurt talking earnest psuedo-academic babble to a gaggle of complacently pretentious students one knows one's in trouble. Wading through the humourless, deadly predictable remainder takes another 140 minutes.

Perhaps one can detect shades of Kubrick in the sombre darkness but what is on screen is essentially Spielberg - less drama than spectacle, not emotional engagement but illustrated narrative, not messy real life but perfectly crafted fairytale-like simplicity all amounting to a stylistically derivative studio production. In case you hadn't noticed, I could find nothing in this to admire. From the rambling, deadly long script with its stilted dialogue to Haley Joel Osment's squeaky-voiced, desperate-to-please futuristic Pinocchio, it was annoying when it was not boring. Only Jude Law as Gigolo Joe provided some much-needed panache. What mystifies is why a story about a talking teddy bear and a robot child's mission to become, as we hear about 100 times, "a real boy" is being treated as an adult movie. Given the present state of cloning technology and the ethical debate surrounding it, the premise of this film is oddly anachronistic, a 1960s view of the future (the idea orginally came from a story by sci-fi writer, Brian Aldiss).

Part fairy tale, story-part sci-fi, it's a mish-mash of elements from the two genres, skilfully-filmed with, as you'd expect, excellent production standards. But engaging or exciting it's not. The scenes of a future submerged New York with the twin World Trade Center towers iconically protruding from the seas are, however, doubly disturbing as a vision of the end of the world as we know it




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