Sunday, June 23, 2013

AI (2001 )

Stanley Kubrick started work on AI with scifi great Brian Aldiss decades ago but he abandoned the project when he discovered that the visual effects industry hadn’t reached the ability to put what he was dreaming on screen. As Eyes Wide Shut was winding down Kubrick began to turn his attention back to the project since Hollywood could at last literally make his dreams a reality. Sadly Kubrick passed away before he could return to the film.

Fortunately for us Steven Spielberg picked up the gauntlet or at least the script and in tribute to his late friend, made AI a reality.

The film is a variation on Pinocchio, with an android child turned out into the world and effectively looking for his family. His guiding principle is a blue fairy, much like in the book, though in the film it’s something a tad darker.

For my money this is one of the best films Spielberg ever made simply because it doesn’t feel like a Spielberg film. For me the best films that the master director has made are the ones that don’t feel like everything else he did. I despise that such a great filmmaker frequently takes short cuts and riffs on himself. More often than not he turns out films that can be identified as belonging to him Jurassic Park, War of the Worlds, The Indiana Jones Films, Schindler’s List, and 1941 all feel like they were made by the man. Things like Empire of the Sun, Lincoln and AI don’t.

I love that watching the film I can’t tell who the man behind the curtain is which means that for me the film is not one that I can really second guess. The film has a coldness to it that is perfectly in keeping with the work of Kubrick but which is nowhere to be found in any of Spielberg’s films. I think the fact that the film is so incredibly cold and clinical is what keeps the film out of the hearts of many people who will admit to admiring the film more than liking it.

For me the film is a near perfect film for the first two hours, the problem is that the film begins a slide to a conclusion through a series of seemingly never ending conclusions. More simply put the film ends about four times in the final half hour, with the actual ending nowhere near as good as the “Blue Fairy” one that is one of the first endings.

I completely understand why the film doesn’t end with the Blue Fairy. It’s not a happy ending, even if it is the right one. It’s so good that I’ve gotten into the habit now of turning off the film when the film fades out at that point. Actually the point of this piece is to say that when you get the chance to finally see or see AI again, turn off the film when you get to the Blue Fairy. Just turn off the film and go on with your life. Sure it’s not happy as the later endings but that’s where the film has to end. It must, its right, emotionally that’s the end. Trust me you’ll agree with me…just do it.

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