Spielberg’s A.I. Wants More

Cast: Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O’Connor

Director: Steven Spielberg

I’m torn about A.I. It reaches for high places but doesn’t quite make it. A condensed summary of the plot: it is some time in the future, and humanoid robots, called mechas, are built and sold by a company. A man (Sam Robards) purchases a boy robot, David (Osment), because his son lies in a coma and he believes that the mecha can take his son’s place at home. But his wife (O’Connor) does not quite take to the robot, even when a “love” chip is turned on. The humans treat the robot with indifferent cruelty at the best of times, and eventually the wife takes the mecha out into the woods and leaves it. The rest of the movie is taken up with the robot’s voyage to return to the human it was programmed to love. Along the way it meets up with another mecha (Law), who helps it.

It would be easy to call the robot “a boy” and say “he”, “him”. I’ve tried to avoid that, although (I think) the movie tries to sympathize with the robot. Certainly the mechas are the most sympathetic characters. As for the humans, all are unpleasant, and perhaps they were written as such. I must admit that I admire Law’s mecha above all others. David is driven by its programming, but Law’s mecha rises above its programming and gives us hope for the mechas, if there are any others with its spirit and drive. I must point out that Haley Joel Osment does an outstanding job with the character of the “boy” robot, somehow bringing the mecha to life.

I’m tempted to recommend A.I., but in the end I think you would do better elsewhere. It has a few perfect moments, and their trip to New York is visually stunning. The ending is oblique, maddening, and open to your own interpretation.

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