Thursday, July 12, 2001

Movie Review: A.I.

So much potential. So many great ideas. Amazing performances, especially by Osment, who manages to carry this 2 1/2 hour beast on his tiny little shoulders. Such a great look. All of it wasted.

I found A.I. slow, cold and clinical. In a word, it was very Kubrick. I know I'm suppose to love and revere the great Stanley Kubrick, and while I appreciate his talents as an artist, his contributions to the world of film, and his ability to make people think, frankly his movies bore the ever-lovin' shit outta me. I'm glad they exist, I understand why people like them, but I absolutely can't stand most of them.

People are complaining that A.I. is too much Spielberg, not enough Kubrick. My personal opinion is the opposite. As much as I wanted to, I could not emotionally connect to anything in this film, much like 2001, or Clockwork Orange, or (especially) Barry "Snoozefest" Lyndon.

David is a robot who loves, and wants nothing more than to have his love returned by his mother. The theme is love. Emotion. So why didn't I care? It wasn't for lack of good performances. It was the detached style in which it was filmed. I was forced into the role of objective observer. I hate that. When I see a movie, and again this is my personal opinion, I want to be manipulated. Art is manipulation. Whether it is an altered perspective or unique use of color in a painting, or lines in a drawing directing your sightline to a particular subject, or a specific chord progression in a piece of music, or a precisely worded, stirring monologue in a play--art needs to reach in and grab you and fuck with your insides. Why didn't A.I. do this? Yeah, it was a thing that made me go "hmmm". Yeah, it was visually and aurally amazing. Yeah, I had to sleep on it and think about the ideas. But where was the heart? This kid wants to be loved by his mother. How pure and simple and wonderful a theme. Why isn't this touching? Easy: Kubrick. Or rather Spielberg's emulation of Kubrick.

To this day, E.T. makes me weep like a baby. Every time. When that little rubber spacegoblin tells Elliott, "I'll be right here," and his finger lights up, and the score swells, I fucking lose it. That film is the primary reason I am still paying off a $100,000 education based on watching and making movies. And it's as shamelessly manipulative as they come. A lot of people resent that, and feel that filmmakers are cheating in some way by deliberately tugging on heartstrings. I understand that, but I disagree. All art needs to be manipulative in one way or another.

I am not saying A.I. is an exception. The story manipulates like nobody's business. I mean, come on, they resurrect the mother at the end for just one day so that David can finally hear her say, "I love you" and thus complete his journey. The End. But it's filmed in such a cold and detached way that I couldn't care, no matter how much I wanted to -- and that is so not Spielberg's style (I could sense him fighting it now and then--particularly with Teddy and Gigolo Joe). You can get away with movies that don't make you care as long as they are fast-paced, action-packed or funny (that's why I kinda like Strangelove and Spartacus), but with a long, slow, sprawling drama, if the audience doesn't care, it is death. It ultimately amounts to a colossal waste of time. And I didn't care.

(And don't get me started on the ending with the bizarro Robots O' the Future. The first ending, trapped under the ferris wheel for all eternity, would have been best.)

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