As Joe and David are approaching Manhattan the amphibicopter flashes a warning that they are entering a ‘Mecha Restricted Area,’ And how about Manhattan in this film, thankfully Spielberg left his film alone even though it came out but three months prior to the attacks on New York City. Even prior to that these images were bittersweet in my estimation in that while the city no longer bustled with life its towering wonders still stood. Upon entering we see the torch of the Statue of Liberty sticking out from the water and the Twin Towers greeting Joe and David. It is referred to as the Lost City in the Sea but as we can plainly see later life is possible in the buildings that can reach above the risen oceans.
Eventually, Joe and David find the meaning of the second metaphor when they fly up and see various Lion statues with water pouring out of their eyes and mouths. They almost seem to be centurions guarding the lost city and all the people who vanished and yet David still has yet to see everything “for the world’s fuller of weeping than you can understand.”
In this section the score again brilliantly complements the visual imagery. This is John Williams’s most restrained score and you really have to listen to it to even pick up on it yet it is more beautiful than most he’s ever written. The passage from the W.B. Yeats poem is inscribed on the door before David is set to reach what he thinks is the goal. Here again we will find one of the more disturbing scenes the film has to offer. There is a turned chair and David asks “Is this the place they make you real?” The chair spins around and he sees himself the ideas about his uniqueness and likely his humanity has been demolished. This is another one of Spielberg’s great appearing acts and is probably a small part of the reason the word magic is so often associated with him. David can’t take it he picks up a lamp and smashes its face in and knocks its head off and sends it sliding across the floor to Joe’s feet. As he says this his he yells “I’m David!” repeatedly. His attack and violent impulse is completely human but after the deed is done he can’t stop swinging his arms because of his robotic nature. In one scene we see how David’s nature is still split and his fighting to be free of his robotic side and to be human. This is the essential struggle of the film and the real question that is posed. Can the love he has, the feelings, be real and not just programmed?
Here is where Dr. Hobby comes in and takes him aside. He tries to explain to David what’s been going on. In his professorial opinion he has achieved his humanity by chasing a dream, being self-motivated, acting on intuition and in his own naïve way making a metaphor for his happiness. That he demonstrates the “basic human flaw wishing for something that doesn’t exist.” He tries to rationalize with David saying that in essence he is his Blue Fairy. David, however, is operating on a different level he is going all off of emotion and on the intelligence he was programmed to have and can’t follow any of what he is saying and even if he can he refuses to believe it.
After all of this and Dr. Hobby addressing his uniqueness and his son’s David delivers one of the most confounding and thought provoking lines of dialogue in the film: “My brain is falling out.” I equate this to something I like to call “The Guinea Pig Syndrome.” First of all, David is confounded he’s being overloaded with information he can’t process. Second, the one thing I think he truly does understand is that on this journey in which, he almost died and went through a lot of hardship, he was being used by corporate big wigs in Cybertronics to test just how wondrous a creation he was. Dr. Hobby then goes to get his team and leaves David alone.
First, he unknowingly passes photos of David Hobby and I think it is very fortunate, and then the Cybertronics logo and sees a line of Davids ready for packaging. Some hung from mid-air like pieces of meat. Here is truly faced with how unoriginal he really is and it’s something that scares us all. He walks into the face of an incomplete David. Then down the hallway with the Mecha ready for shipment. The slogan emblazoned across the top “At Last a Love of Your Own,” Then Darlenes on the other. The perversion of Dr. Hobby’s dream is complete. When he originally designed David it was in honor of his late son now he’s just completing the set for profit. In a moment of true horror one of the David’s start to shake and he runs away.
David sits on the edge of the building looking down at the water. David falls. This is in essence a suicide attempt. With the Cybertronics statue holding its arms out to the heavens David falls to hell, or so we think initially. Then Spielberg gives us one of the great symbolic shots of the film as we see David’s figure falling superimposed on Joe’s face simulating a tear that Joe is not yet ready to shed. Again as he sinks we see a statue as he goes down the idea of protection first enters our minds. In one move that is directly borrowed from Pinocchio, a school of fish swirls around David and takes him in the right direction lifting him out of the bowels of a sunken Radio City Music Hall. Underwater David sees something and reaches out towards it at the same time he’s reaching towards us. This is yet again another one of the most beautiful shots in the film with David coming towards us in silhouette and the light shining out around him. The light signifies almost a supernatural righteousness about him as if we know he will be protected. A large light comes up from behind him again as he looks at us but we know he is seeing something amazing. A hook pulls him away. Joe has rescued him but he has been found and will be taken away. In the ultimate act of friendship he clicks submerge on the amphibicopter and sends David down. He says his goodbyes closing with one of the best lines in the film “I am…I was.”
David is left on his own to finish the quest.
Note: this is a recapitulation of a paper I wrote in film school. It will be posted in installments. This is Part Eight. Part One can be read here.
Artificial Intelligence: A.I. will be released on Blu-Ray on April 5th, 2011.