A.I. review - or, how Spielberg conned me out of 2.5 hours of my life

From: Technotranscendence (neptune@mars.superlink.net)
Date: Wed Jul 04 2001 - 00:04:22 MDT

This is a review from a friend. He's given me leave to pass it along to
this list.


Daniel Ust

From: David Euchner
Sent: Tuesday, July 03, 2001 2:43 PM
Subject: A.I. review - or, how Spielberg conned me out of 2.5 hours of my

There is no need for a "spoiler alert" in this message.

This is because after having seen A.I. this afternoon, Jessica and I are
finding it quite impossible to find any way to "spoil" this movie that
Spielberg did not do himself. I promise you, I went into that theater not
as Stanley Kubrick's #1 fan looking to bash Spielberg, but as a movie fan
looking to enjoy a movie. I am not a professional film critic and I stand
nothing to gain by bashing a movie. But I decided that I had to see it in
order to give an honest review, and here it is.

Put it this way - if you've seen Pinocchio, and you've seen E.T., then
imagine what the two merged together would look like and you get A.I. For
those who wanted science fiction, it wasn't there. For those, like me, who
wanted an exploration of the moral quandaries surrounding the development
of scientient robots, it was a serious letdown as the issue was not
explored in the least.

Instead, the entire movie was about "a robot boy who wanted to be made into
a real boy so his mommy would love him - and the Blue Fairy from the
Pinocchio story would make it happen." I'm not kidding, I'm not
exaggerating. Interspersed in the film are plenty of cheap "Kodak moments"
such as a silhouette against the moon a la E.T., and other ripoffs of other
movies which are not even remotely subtle.

The score was awful - just plain awful. I whispered to Jessica "I wonder
who this is, it's cheesy like John Williams but it doesn't sound like his
stuff." Sure enough, it was John Williams (though I did not know this
until the closing credits). It was awful because of the complete lack of
seriousness in a film whose topic deserved at least a sliver of seriousness.

Because the script (authored by Spielberg) was so simplistic, I imagine it
was difficult to get any serious actors to want to be in the film - for
this reason, other than Haley Joel Osment the only actors cast with any
kind of pre-existing established reputation were William Hurt and Jude
Law. And Hurt's character was cast to the wind, leaving only Osment and
Law to carry the film. Osment did as much as he could, but his shoulders
are not THAT broad (literally and metaphorically).

The rest of the acting was as poor as the script would allow. The mother
(Frances O'Connor) and father (Sam Robards), both previously unknown to me,
will soon vanish from my mind, for their performances were simply
incompetent. Martin, played by some other child actor, was OK for a child
actor, which in this film made him stand out above the rest of the
supporting cast. The surprise casting move of the movie was for a
cartoonish Einstein holograph called "Dr. Know"; the voiceover was done by
Robin Williams in much the same flavor as Gilbert Gottfried's annoying
voiceover in Disney's adaptation of Alladin. And finally, the only other
character who appeared in more than one scene was the robotic teddybear
Teddy - who was essentially the Jar Jar Binks of this movie.

The special effects were excellent - but as Mr. Ust says about The Phantom
Menace, "See why money and lots of effects can't make a bad story
good." All of the technical facets of the film were top-notch first-rate -
but the technicians are limited by the artistic vision of their director,
and in this movie special effects functioned as little more than eye candy.

The reason why I love Kubrick films is because of the way he could make a
picture say a thousand words, and because of the way at 24 frames a second
he could give an audience a most intense catharsis (I won't say "the most
intense" because of my lack of knowledge of foreign film, but certainly
more intense than any other American director). He didn't just tell a
story in his films; he taught us something important about ourselves or
about the world in which we live. There was one reason why Kubrick had
never "co-directed" or given any kind of creative control of his projects
to anyone else; in the end, the finished product that was shipped out was
HIS vision - and though all of his movies are distinct, they are all
distinctly HIS.

A.I. had Kubrick's name listed as a producer, and in my opinion this is a
grave blasphemy. When Spielberg deigned to pick up where Kubrick left off,
he had a moral responsibility to the memory of Kubrick and to the body of
work that Kubrick left behind (including 2001: A Space Odyssey, which also
explores the moral issues surrounding artificial intelligence) to make the
most brilliant film of which he was capable. At the very least, with Blade
Runner nearing its 20th anniversary I think that the least Spielberg could
have done was to try and outdo the depth that Ridley Scott provided to his
human characters as well as his replicants.

On the contrary, I don't think there can be any doubt that Spielberg didn't
put the slightest effort into making a decent movie. I haven't seen Saving
Private Ryan, but I have seen Schindler's List and Amistad and I know the
man is capable of better than this. He was clearly coasting through the
project and looking to make a quick buck off of Kubrick's reputation.

In short, on a 10 scale, Jessica rates the film a 2 and I rate it a 3. Our
rationale for not giving it a 1 is the same: when the special effects
people put this job on their resumes we don't want anyone to think that
they did a poor job.

We advise everyone to skip this at the theater, and if you have to see it -
borrow an illegal copy. Spielberg must not make another dime off this film.

Most sincerely,


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