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Blu-ray: A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) by Steven Spielberg

The story of “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” takes place in a future world in which the ecological apocalypse has caused earth’s ice caps to melt and cities like New York and Amsterdam have been flooded. Technology has produced androids, so called mechas, that are physically almost indistinguishable from humans. A group of scientists have now created the next generation mecha which even is able to love: a robot-boy called David (Haley Joel Osment). After having been rejected by the human family that originally adopted him, David starts a quest for humanity and subsequent motherly love and happiness, inspired by the story of Pinocchio and aided by his robotic teddy bear and a lover-mecha called Gigolo Joe (Jude Law).

The movie is based upon a short story called “Super-toys Last All Summer Long” by Brian Aldiss and was originally envisioned as a movie by Stanley Kubrick as far back as the 1970s. After having worked on the script for several year’s Kubrick had come to the conclusion that the film would fit the style of his friend, Steven Spielberg, better. Probably feeling a bit embarrassed getting this proposal from a man he deeply admired and who had had a profound effect on him as a filmmaker, Spielberg convinced Kubrick to stay at the helm. After Kubrick’s death Spielberg felt the obligation to direct the film, even postponing the production of “Minority Report”.

To start with, “A.I.” is a great action sci-fi flick. The acting is superb, there are plenty of thrills, laughs, drama, the special effects are incredible and it is the roller-coaster of an action movie Spielberg is known for. At the same time “A.I.” is a thought provoking film as well, graciously investigating big themes. The movie touches upon the very definition of humanity. What makes us human? Is it our intelligence? Our knowledge perhaps? Is it our soul? Our ability to love? The film explores what love is and how it influences our lives. What motivates us? Love can give a purpose but can also cause desperation and make us do crazy things if it remains unattainable. How does mortality fit in? Does life still have a meaning if everything one once knew is gone? What happens when we die? Do we live on somehow? The means of this exploration are the fundamental differences between humans and androids as dictated by the science fiction genre. Being a master of science fiction Spielberg plays with these sci-fi conventions to challenge his audience.

For instance, unlike humans robots are unable to love according to sci-fi rules. By adding the human element “love” to the constitution of androids, Spielberg forces his audience to feel and contemplate the value of this and other elements of human nature. Steven Spielberg uses different moods and styles to underline the differences and similarities between humans and androids. In certain scenes Spielberg emulates the clinical style and tempo used by Kubrick in “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968) which is to be associated with robots. He alternates this with a warmer, more  emotional quality of filmmaking, identifiable with humans and often encountered in his own work. It works amazingly well. At all times Spielberg is in complete control of the film and consciously uses the differences between his and Kubrick’s sensibilities and styles to make his point. A disturbing factor (for us humans) is that the androids seem to be more at home in a warmer and loving environment than the humans. Mechas seem to have less of the bad qualities of mankind. They have not been programmed for egotism, greed, cruelty or jealousy although David’s ability to love seems to stir up this situation.

Another staple of science fiction is that unlike androids humans face the problem of mortality. Our mortality has a big influence on our lives. As we grow older preparing ourselves for death and a possible after-life becomes more and more important. It is unsettling to the viewer to see that the androids will stay young forever. The passing of time does not affect their lives at all. For example, when close to being terminated at the “Flesh Fair” one android simply asks the other to shut off his pain sensors. It is that easy to them. The irrelevance of mortality to androids is also emphasized by the big leap in time towards the end of the movie. Since the story is told from the perspective of David, the android, it shows time does not matter to mechas since they virtually last forever. At the same time it is painful for the viewer since we all know this does not apply to us humans. There is no better way to make mortality felt than the passing of great number of years.

“A.I.” even contemplates the end of humanity as we know it while at the same time suggesting that the spirit of people lives on in their creations. Apart from this being a soothing thought it is especially true for creative artists like filmmakers. Their sprit and thoughts do live on in the movies they have made long after their passing. In this sense the movie is the best homage Stanley Kubrick could get from his friend Steven Spielberg.

The blu-ray reviewed here is the French edition but the menus will appear in English if your blu-ray player is set-up for that language. The blu-ray is of great quality. The image and sound leave nothing to desire and it contains interesting extra features. In a way I find it a shame that Spielberg never does commentary tracks for his films but on the other hand a commentary would limit one’s own thoughts about a movie and that would be a shame for a great film like this.

Frederick von Schtupp

Rating: 9 out of 10


Movie details:

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O’Connor, Sam Robards, Jake Thomas, Brendan Gleeson, William Hurt, Meryl Streep

Country: USA

Year of release: 2001


Edition details:

Released by: Warner Bros

Country: France

Year of release: 2011

Disc: Dual layered blu-ray, MPEG4 AVC, 1080p

Region code: A, B, C

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Running time: 146 mins

Language: English, French, Portuguese, German, Spanish, Italian

Subtitles: English for the hearing impaired, French, Finnish, Danish, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Portuguese, German, Spanish, Italian, none

Special features: Creating A.I., Acting A.I., Designing A.I., Special Visual Effects and Animation: ILM, The Sound and Music of A.I., Closing: Steven Spielberg: Our Responsibility to A.I., 2 trailers, 3 Storyboards (Joe's Goodbeye, David's Leap, David and the Blue Fairy), Chris Bakers Portfolio, Production Design Portfolio, ILM Portfolio, Portrait Gallery Photographs by David James, Steven Spielberg Behind-the-Scenes Photographs by David James

Packaging: Blu-ray case with slipcover