You know that a film is truly great when you want more story than you get but realize that any more would ruin things. When a film sets your imagination ablaze and inhabits it. When you’re not confined by the image on the screen but when that image and that narrative allows your mind to wander vast avenues and consider a multitude of possibilities. Further commentary will come in time but Ebert thought it a mistake to follow David and not his parents. While this has made me wonder whatever became of his parents to me it doesn’t detract from the narrative in the least. There’s no story there, really. The world that exits in this futuristic society was shielded out in the Swinton home it was like living in quarantine. In science fiction and to an extent in the fairy tale some kind of social commentary is necessary or at least beneficial and very little of that could have been done within the home. While this film does explore philosophical issues it also deals with emotional depths which could better be explored through going in the outside world and commentary about human nature is best made through juxtaposition in that we learn about ourselves through following and identifying with a robot.
The world this film creates is vast and in a single moment can leave you to ponder for quite a bit of time and that’s what makes it great, a perfect example of this when we see pictures of David in Dr. Hobby’s office. We see the inscription on one reads “In Loving Memory.” Immediately we know that David was his child and he has died and he has created this robot that can love as a gift to the childless couples of the world and also so he can recreate the encapsulated memory of his son that he has in his mind. This is where the film gets its flippant comparisons to Frankenstein but in this film neither he nor David are truly destructive in any way. All Dr. Hobby wants is a perfect recreation of the love he’s lost and thus in that regard David is his Blue Fairy and the things he says to him in the end reflect a lot on his own nature, for Dr. Hobby wants something that can never really happen as well.
In a really great move Spielberg has made transportation difficult and distances seemingly tremendous. On the gondola there is reference to the Trenton Incident, Gigolo Joe and David escape from a Flesh Fair outside of Haddonfield, also in New Jersey, the same place we will find the corporate HQ of Cybertronics and yet “the end of the world where the lions weep” is in Manhattan. So we have a very difficult way getting around in this drowned world the distances are still the same yet the environment is quite different. It’s a great touch that adds to the surrealistic fantastical quality of the film. Crossing the Delaware also plagues the two as they start off on their journey. They are walking through the woods just moving and they spot the moon again. David asks Teddy if it’s moving and neither of them knows because visually they are still robotic and have no depth perception. In this portion of the film is where Gigolo Joe and David start to get to know one another David explains his plight simply “Henry didn’t like me” and “Martin came home” already we are getting more humanistic emotional qualities out of David. He can assess people’s views of him and why he was put out to pasture, so to speak. This tandem also creates some comic relief for us. They are both made to have understandings of completely different aspects of life: David of childlike, domestic things and Joe of adult, sensual things. When David reveals to him that the Blue Fairy is a woman he says “I know women!” providing us with a much needed laugh. He also tells David of a place known as Rouge City he tells him it’s dangerous because they’ll have to go towards the moon but he knows that’s where he can find her. After doing a little dance David asks “Why do you do that?” to which Joe responds “It’s just what I do.” Showing him as being yet again inhuman but in this conversation he makes reference to Dr. Know and when they talk about him we get some of the best most memorable dialogue in the film such as, “We ask Dr. Know… there’s nothing he doesn’t.” This is where the film starts to draw comparisons to The Wizard of Oz. Some people who worked on the film even looked at it through that guise. Forgive me for raining on practically everyone’s parade but that comparison absolutely offends me for two big reasons: The first being, I just don’t like that film I think it’s one of the most overrated pieces of junk ever created. That being said I believe that even in its narrative A.I. is broader than and not as simplistic as Oz. In that film the characters come to the end and The Tin Man had a heart, The Lion had courage and the Scarecrow had a brain and the only one who really learned anything was Dorothy who found that there’s no place like home, yadda, yadda, yadda. There’s no psychological transformation in that film here we have a character who was supposed to simulate humanity without actually achieving it but yet he actually does and to an extent so does Joe.
Using a very ingenious tool Joe flashes a pointer which emits a projector beam of a woman dressed in lingerie who is dances on a passenger’s lap so that they may get a ride to Rouge City. Another wonderful touch which was originally an idea of Chris Baker, the conceptual artist on the project since the mid-eighties, and this was the phallic highway which enters the inviting mouth of a woman and takes people into Rouge City, and a very Spielbergian touch of the guys all saying ‘Aaaah!’ as they enter the tunnel.
Thus, the story has entered another very new and very unique setting where ILM truly flexes its muscle.
Note: this is a recapitulation of a paper I wrote in film school. It will be posted in installments. This is Part Six. Part One can be read here.
Artificial Intelligence: A.I. will be released on Blu-Ray on April 5th, 2011.