<b>Review of Spielberg's AI</b>

Steven Spielberg's new movie AI

AI, Steven Spielbergís latest cinematic work, I heard grossed 30 million dollars last week. Well, this film may have been a box office success for Spielberg and company, but as a film about the promising computer science field of Artificial Intelligence, it was definitely a flop. Worst, it was not really even about AI at all. But thatís not bad enough, itís a film that doesnít know where itís going or what it really wants to say.

The last time I saw a movie having anything to do with AI proper, it was The Matrix, and I had my pronounced opinions on that Hollywood dud. I thought it used the serious field of AI study as a contrivance to make a mundane Hollywood drama about evil-machines-against-soulful-mankind. Or in other words, a special effects thriller with a shallow plot and theme. It borrowed shamelessly from almost every film on computer technology. With this one, Mr. Spielberg has taken on the AI field. By the way, where are all these artificial intelligence films coming from anyway? I mean, is some computer scientist making the rounds of Beverly Hills cocktail parties getting directors like Spielberg excited about the field? I can remember 10 years ago, if you had said AI to anybody outside the computer science field, they would've said uh caramba? Then, they would scratch their heads and maybe say, oh, no I know... How's it goin' hey? At which point, if you were in the know you would have changed the subject. Anyway, I ask you does he enlighten us on this area of human development? God No! Does he take the subject matter to heart and teach us something meaningful about artificial intelligence? An emphatic negative here! This film is actually a confused conglomerate. It seems to be a post-modern fairy tale, that first incorporates the thematic elements of Pinocchio, next The Wizard of Oz, then sets these stories in the context of artificial intelligence research. To what end, I donít know. But wait, maybe it isnít that. You see, after the watching this film for 2 hours, I couldnít make heads nor tails of what it was really about. I mean there are so many loose ends in this one. I remember leaving the theater thinking of that big rooster character in the Bugs Bunny cartoons. I could hear him saying: I say, I say naw, boy, naw, dat ainít way to do it, boy! Then he puts a hand to the side of his mouth and whispers: Boyís got a mind like a Georgia tobacco field.

Lets put artificial intelligence aside for the moment and consider human intelligence. Itís a truism that a cornerstone of human intelligence is the desire to understand and make meaning out of the exterior world in which it resides. Well, man oí man this film challenged my innate human intelligence, let alone anything artificial. So, with that said, let me surprise you and say, I liked the first hour of this film. I really was touched by Haley Joel Osmentís portrayal of a robot. The tender love story between him and his surrogate mom Francis OíConnor was captivating and touching. He captured the gestures of a automaton quite skillfully. His growing knowledge of himself and the family to which he belongs pulled me in. Osment is a talented child actor with a promising future. Yet, after building this emotional endearment, and constructing a well-worn Hollywood theme, Spielberg wastes it. The direction the films takes after this opening setup, is the cinematic equivalent of a non sequitur. The child robot embarks on an adventure to humanize himself, which becomes more absurd with each sequence.

It is interesting to note, that while The Matrix, saw AI as being inherently evil, Spielberg portrayed it in the opposite. We, human beings are the evil antagonists and the robots are sentient beings oppressed and ravaged in AI. Quite generous Mr. Spielberg, but you changed the plot at least twice and introduced and discarded principal characters like storyboard wipes. I mean what about that evil brother? I thought when little David was being set up by him, it would be a good-boy vs. bad-boy flick. Nope. That plot line is abruptly truncated. Next, Dave, the robot boy and a new character, Joe (Jude Law) are thrown together. Eventually,(with a little sadistic cruelty to mechas for the required ingredient of blockbuster violence) Dave and Gigolo Joe are off to see the Wizard, to make little Dave human. I think, okay the kidís gonna be made real flesh and blood. Don't know what this British- accented Gigolo Joe is in the film for, but he's kinda hip with that neck click thing. Will little Dave be made human? Not yet. Then, thereís the Blue Fairy myth from Pinocchio. Why this device is employed would take a movie to explain. Spielie, what did ya do? Did ya write this tripe from your 6th grade reader of something? And then there are those Sears sexless manikin types. I guess they are presumably our successors. Our successors you say? Yeah, see there's this ice age, and...uh, I won't even try to explain it. They are our descendants so to speak, of a new ice age. They are advanced AI life forms.I mean I think they are, aren't they Spielie? And all this material isn't explicitly stated, even with the British accented voice-over. You gotta figure this junk out. I always think when a voice-over is used near a movie's conclusion, the screenwriting must be so confusing, that the director uses this device just to keep the audience apprised of where the film is going. Remember Aliens 3? That was a classic example of bad screenwriting. Well a classic example until this one. What the hell is Spielie saying here! Don't ask me. I guess, the viewer is suppose to feel: this is an epic drama of a robot boy striving to be human? To borrow a line from Osment in his mantra to the Blue Fairy to be human, I say: oh, please Blue Fairy, please explain this movie to me, please Blue Fairy! please! It made me feel like Spielberg should never try to write his own screenplays.

AI is a film that pretends to explore Artificial Intelligence, specifically the field of robotics. AI is actually a badly written, child's tale, whose only good point is Haley Joel Osment's performance.

It doesn't deserve much more comment than that. And thatís a wrap for sure.

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7/1/2001 Ken Wais