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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - Edition No 907 

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A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

SYNOPSIS:
Earth’s natural resources are depleted – but human resourcefulness is in full flight, engineering ways of coping with everyday life with the help of robots. Couples need permits to procreate but the one thing robots don’t yet have are emotions. Love and affection are the last frontiers of AI . . . until Professor Hobby (William Hurt) and his team at Tufts University develop David (Haley Joel Osment) a prototype of a boy robot who can be programmed to bond with his parents, love his mother and love her forever. A Cybertronics employee Henry Swinton (Sam Robards) and his wife Monica (Frances O’Connor) are given the unique opportunity to foster David while grieving over their own son. David soon learns – through a wild adventure in the company of robotic Gigolo Joe (Jude Law) - that humans and robots are on different sides, and he’d prefer staying with his mum. If he can survive...

Given the collective intelligence of the filmmakers – from the late Kubrick to the present Spielberg and all the team – it is ironic that A.I. fails to generate the level of emotions their robotic boy is supposed to display. It’s not so much about Artificial Intelligence as Artificial Emotions. We are hardly ever engaged emotionally, and dramatic power comes purely from the action sequences; the only things the characters drive are futuristic cars. Not only does the script suffer from verylongitis, schmalz and sentimentality, it lacks the inventiveness and sharpness that the subject matters demands. For example, David acquires a wise old Teddy, a supertoy from some previous generation, which exhibits all the hallmarks of wisdom and foresight as well as emotion that David is supposed to pioneer. This kind of carelessness – and predictability – don’t belong in a film that aspires to tell a story of great relevance and magnitude. It destroys credibility, of course, but also lessens our respect for the whole enterprise. Yet there are redeeming aspects, including Frances O’Connor as the mum, who stays natural (in both looks and character) and William Hurt in a couple of short but effective scenes. Osment is as good as ever, a young actor whose screen charisma remains undiminished since The Sixth Sense. As you would expect from a sci-fi fairy tale, there are some remarkable scenes created in the VFX lab, including a seamless transformation of a human face into a robot which is opened up for examination. But these thrills are small compensation for the overall disappointment the film generates. Do go and see it, though, because if you can lower your expectations, you will find parts of it interesting, if nothing more.
Andrew L. Urban

Steven Spielberg's story telling talents are at the forefront of A.I., a bewitching, thought provoking film that, while arguably flawed, is nonetheless a spectacular entertainment. The mood is beautifully created with effective use of light, selection of shots and focused direction of a superb cast. Spielberg's choices always favour the interesting, rather than the predictable, and the background and resulting subtext of the late Stanley Kubrick's interest in the project, delivers a gritty and complex edge. There are some wonderful ideas, and while the basic concept of Artificial Intelligence may not be brand spanking new, much of the film is unique and individual. Andrew (above) must have switched off his emotional barometer during the course of the film; I found many scenes extraordinarily moving. One such scene is when (beautifully backlit) Monica instigates the non-reversible process of bonding between child and mother. The execution is simple, the result an amalgam of emotions waiting to be released. I found it easy to open up to the concept and take the trip. The main drawback for me is Spielberg's intermittent self indulgence (145 minutes is very long) and a script that struggles to find its resolution. But the characters are wonderfully crafted and when we enter the world of the Mechas and Rouge City, it is one as distinctive and individual as that of Dark City, Who Killed Roger Rabbit or indeed the magical world of Oz. The fantasy world is meticulously created; I can still see Gigolo Joe, whose simple shake of the head starts the music, creates the mood and changes his hair colour. Haley Joel Osment is magnificent as David, fulfilling all the wonder of a wide-eyed child with the detachment of an outcast. It's a terrific role for Frances O'Connor, perfect as Monica - a role that will surely catapult her into absolute stardom and I love Jude Law's ultimate man ('Once you've had a love robot, you'll never want a real man'); his Joe is a Ken doll with attitude. A.I. is a great yarn, a fantasy-filled sci-fi adventure with a heart. And when you leave the cinema, you will no doubt be humming John Williams' haunting melodies – those gentle, rich and emotion-building notes that are the antithesis of artificial.
Louise Keller



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 0

Read Andrew L. Urban's

interview with HALEY JOEL OSMENT

Read Jenny Cooney Carrillo's interview with STEVEN SPIELBERG

Read Jeff Goldsmith's interview with BRIAN ALDISS

See the TRAILER

A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (M)
(US)

CAST: Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O'Connor, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Robards and William Hurt, plus the voices of Robin Williams & Ben Kingsley, Meryl Streep, Chris Rock (and Anthony Hopkins uncredited)

DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg

PRODUCER: Bonnie Curtis, Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg

SCRIPT: Steven Spielberg (Ian Watson screen story, Brian Aldiss short story, Supertoys Last All Summer Long)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Janusz Kaminski

EDITOR: Michael Kahn

MUSIC: John Williams

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Rick Carter

ROBOT CHARACTER DESIGN: Stan Winston

SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS & ANIMATION: ILM

RUNNING TIME: 145 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 13, 2001







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