by Sam Juliano
The idea behind A.I. was originally conceived by Stanley Kubrick, who subsequently entrusted the proposed project to Steven Spielberg. When Kubrick died suddenly in 1999, his widow successfully persuaded Spielberg to assume complete artistic control of the film, including the direction. Set in a future time when progress in robotics poses a conceivable menace to the human species, David (Haley Joel Osment), a robotic boy, is the artificial life form who is capable of experiencing love. As a prototype, he is given to a couple whose real son is mired in what appears to be an irreversible coma. After a discordant initiation David and his mother bond, at which point the “real” son miraculously awakens from the coma, rejoins to the family, and tricks David into engaging in dangerous things. The father concludes that they must return the robotic boy to the manufacturer for destruction, but the mother arranges for his escape via abandonment. For the duration of the film David seeks to be reunited with his mother, and for a time is joined by “Gigolo Joe,” a robot designed to function as a male prostitute. David becomes frozen I an the ocean, and millennia later–long after the extinction of the human species–robots of the future rescue him and allow him to reunite with his mother for one day that will last in his mind for eternity.
A.I. Artificial Intelligence, fueled by some profound philosophical themes and issues of motherhood, is arguably one of Spielberg’s masterworks, and for this writer it ranks with Schindler’s List, Empire of the Sun and E. T. on the short list of the director’s greatest achievements in cinema. Like the other three, it is extraordinarily moving, and it paints yet again a piercingly provocative view of childhood and of the human condition, tinged with an overwhelming sense of sadness. The film is based on a short story by Brian Aldiss entitled “Supertoys Last All Summer Long,” published in 1969, and it draws considerable influence from Disney’s Pinocchio.