A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

Genres - Drama, Science Fiction  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Drama, Psychological Sci-Fi, Tech Noir  |   Release Date - Jun 29, 2001 (USA)  |   Run Time - 145 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom, United States  |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Karl Williams

A.I. is a heady but surprisingly mournful blend of styles from two filmmakers whose disparate artistic points-of-view mix uncomfortably yet produce fascinating results. This highly anticipated science fiction fable is a somber meeting of Pinocchio (1940) and the dystopian visions of humankind's downfall that fueled such futuristic films as Soylent Green (1973), Logan's Run (1976), and Blade Runner (1982). Despite the obvious parallels with the Disney feature, this emotionally wrenching picaresque is a lot closer in cynical spirit to the latter films, the story's dim view of humanity's woes astonishing coming from director Steven Spielberg, whose tastes until recently ran to the sickly sentimental. Blame it on Stanley Kubrick, whose sardonic take on humankind might have made this long-simmering but aborted project even darker still, had he lived to complete it. His and Spielberg's world views are ill-suited bedfellows and the final result shows it: depressing but poignant, by turns silly and heartbreaking, with an ending that will either leave viewers giddy with awe or giggling with glee (or both). Still, while the film unfolds schizophrenically, it also benefits from this multiple-personality aesthetic by creating a welcome, though never quite satisfied, ache for the hero's woes to be assuaged. Spielberg sets viewers up for rousing psychological completion à la E.T. (1982), but channeling Kubrick, he heads for a slightly different destination. So it is that in an age when all films must, according to corporate dictates, end happily or in buckets of tears, the quiet dignity of the film's final curtain call is a stunner. Notice must be paid to young actor Haley Joel Osment, probably the best child actor since Jodie Foster and one of a miniscule handful ever to succeed on acting talent and not apple-cheeked, adorable precocity. A.I. is not the classic it should have been, but it's one of the most unusual, eccentrically enchanting films of either director's resumé, and probably the biggest-budgeted experimental film ever made.