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A.I. Artificial Intelligence - Blu-ray Review

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A.I. Artificial Intelligence - Blu-ray Review

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4 stars

There’s no denying the intelligence of Steven Spielberg’s A.I. nor is there any denying of the film’s passion toward the subject of human responsibility toward technology.  The subject broached isn’t a new one – Stanley Kubrick covered the same territory with 2001: A Space Odyssey – yet, A.I. (cleverly released in 2001) presents us with human twist to the aspect of responsibility toward our technology.  What happens when the technology is, for all intents and purposes, so very human?  It’s a film that usually incites some pretty strong reactions from its audience.  Some appreciate the collaboration between Spielberg and the late Kubrick (a project he worked some twenty odd years on) and some don’t appreciate the shared vision.  Regardless, there is no denying that the film is a masterpiece of mood and method.

Adapted from Brian Aldiss' 1969 short story "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long", A.I. tells the story of one family’s recovery from unexpected tragedy and their neglect of the technological humanity they’ve been presented with.  Who am I kidding, though?  That’s only a quarter of the narrative.  David (Haley Joel Osment) is not – to borrow an idea from Pinocchio - the family’s real boy and yet, as designed by scientists, can receive and give love.  He has been placed with the family to help with their grief.  When their real son awakens from his coma, the family decides to put David and his electronic Teddy (voiced by Jack Angel) out to pasture and abandon him.

In the second act, the darkness of the story (the abandonment of a mother to her child) takes over and gnaws on each segment as David goes in search of the Blue Fairy (something he remembers from his mother’s readings of Pinocchio).  David believes that only her powers can grant him his wish to become truly alive.  It’s an unknown world he and Teddy embark upon.  Yet, the distorted gloss of the future is suddenly present in fits of neon and Bladerunner-esque moments of landscapes and Rouge City dangers.  Testing the strength of the audience, this change is maybe best represented by the pleasure mecha that is Gigolo Joe (Jude Law), a prostate-programmed robot designed to fulfill any female desire.  Joe isn’t all for the sex action, though, as he joins David in his quest to become the human boy his mother will love.

And, in the third and final act, we see the consequence of human evolution.  Yet, to reveal more would be unfair to the narrative and to those who have yet to see A.I. in all its glory.  Are there problems here?  Certainly.  The leap into the future (2000 more years forward) seems a bit convenient and, if reports are to be believed, this is where Spielberg takes the story over from Kubrick with his own needs as a storyteller dominating and gives us a vision of David which some of us never needed.  It’s his movie after all.  It’s to be expected, though, because ever since Close Encounters of the Third Kind – a film Spielberg confesses that, if made today, would have a much different ending – he can’t seem to find an out that entirely works for the hardened souls among his audience.  On more than one occasion, he extends the story and settles for the childlike awe factor or circumnavigates his problems with conclusions through the use of narrative bookends and skirts the problem altogether (although he recovers some of his mojo with the high of Munich).  I’m no purist of Spielberg and I certainly have my limits when it comes to understanding some of his choices and associations (Michael Bay??  Shia LaBeouf??), but I recognize and celebrate him as a leader among the cinematic profession.

To say that A.I. is a fractured fairytale is a bit of an understatement.  Certainly, the tale of Pinocchio is at its heart and is the driving force behind David’s quest for acceptance and love, yet the movie has a fair share of fits and bouts of growing pains before it decides to settle into that story.  Divided into thirds, the film is easier to digest and relatively stronger in gaining an appreciation for as it never – even under the direction of Spielberg – smoothly navigates into each quarter of the film; the beginning feels very Spielberg with its white hazes and snowglobe-like atmosphere of discovery.  It’s all very innocent and childlike – as it should be for an introduction.   The middle sections feels a little more like the seedy Kubrick of Clockwork Orange (even if Spielberg took out the sex scenes with mecha Joe that Kubrick has intended), and the end is awash with moments of the two – though largely unbalanced - with even a little spacey George Lucas thrown into the mix.

Osment performance as the robotic boy is certainly one of the marvels of the film and works perfectly against Law’s masterful performance of Jiminy Cricket-incarnate.  Both are beyond convincing as robots and in winning the audience over.  Yet, the remarkable performances – based on where Spielberg eventually delves in the final act - merely result in asking questions about humanity and technology the film can’t possibly answer – which is completely unlike Kubrick.  It’s a unique film to be sure, but – even at its three-hour running length – it certainly feels very, very incomplete.

{pgomakase}

{2jtab: Film Info}

A.I. Artificial Intelligence - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexual content and violent images.
Writer
: Ian Watson
Cast:
Haley Joel Osment; Frances O'Connor; Sam Robards; Jake Thomas; Jude Law
Genre: Sc-Fi; Drama
Tagline:
David is 11 years old. He weighs 60 pounds. He is 4 feet, 6 inches tall. He has brown hair. His love is real. But he is not.
Memorable Movie Quote: "I love you, Mommy. I hope you never die. Never."
Distributor:
Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date:
June 29, 2001
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
April 5, 2001

Synopsis: It is a time when natural resources are limited and technology is advancing at an astronomical pace. Where you live is monitored; what you eat is engineered; and the person serving you is not a person at all. It’s artificial. Gardening, housekeeping, companionship -- there is a robot for every need. Except love.

Emotion is the last, controversial frontier in robot evolution. Robots are seen as sophisticated appliances; they’re not supposed to have feelings. But with so many parents not yet approved to have children, the possibilities abound. And Cybertronics Manufacturing has created the solution. His name is David (Haley Joel Osment).

A robotic boy, the first programmed to love, David is adopted as a test case by a Cybertronics employee and his wife, whose own terminally ill child has been cryogenically frozen until a cure can be found. Though he gradually becomes their child, with all the love and stewardship that entails, a series of unexpected circumstances make this life impossible for David.

Without final acceptance by humans or machines, and armed only with Teddy, his supertoy teddy bear and protector, David embarks on a journey to discover where he truly belongs, uncovering a world in which the line between robot and machine is both terrifyingly vast and profoundly thin.

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{2jtab: Blu-ray Details}

A.I. Artificial Intelligence - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
4 stars

4 stars



Blu-ray Experience
4 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - April 5, 2011
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)

The 1080p transfer isn’t the sharpest-looking Spielberg film ever to grace the blu-ray format.  Maybe that’s due to Janusz Kami?ski’s washed-out photography work.  It maintains – even as it shifts into the darkness of Rouge City – a sort of dreamlike quality I never noticed in theatres.  The black levels are rich and constant and, while the neon colors aren’t the most vibrant, the use of red occasionally is a nice sweep.  The DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 mix is nice, but there are times where the background noise overpowers the dialogue and, with this being a dialogue heavy film, that can be a bit distracting.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None.  Zip.  Zilch.  Disappointing, I know.

Special Features:

There is nearly two hours of special features loaded onto the blu-ray and they are epic in scope and cover all aspects of the film, yet suffer when they try to cover exactly what Kubrick did with the film prior to Spielberg’s involvement. The featurettes covering the special effects and the making of the film are the best, though.

The breakdown of supplemental material is as follows:

  • Creating A.I. (12 min)
  • Acting A.I. (14 min)
  • Designing A.I. (13 min)
  • Lighting A.I. (4 min)
  • The Robots of A.I. (14 min)
  • Five Special Visual Effects and Animation Featurettes: ILM (480p): An Overview (5 min), The Robots (3 min), The Miniatures (4 min), New York City Sequence (3 min), and Animating 'A.I.' (8 min)
  • The Sound and Music of A.I. (10 min)
  • Closing: Steven Spielberg: Our Responsibility to Artificial Intelligence (42 min)
  • Two Theatrical Trailers
  • A.I. Visual Archives

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