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A.I.: Artificial Intelligence

posted by B on 6/30/01

Steven Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick are two of, if not the, greatest and most profitable directors of all-time. From the humor of Indiana Jones whipping out a pistol and blowing away the stupid guy with the swords to the chilling image of Major Kong riding the bomb to it's target, their films have represented and effectively destroyed the spectrum of emotional moviegoing.

The last time I was in the theater to see a movie directed by Stanley Kubrick I watched Tom Cruise wander around slowly and aimlessly, NOT getting laid for hours and hours while a cat walked across his piano. BING! (long pause) BING! (long pause) BING BING BOOOOONGGG....

The last time I was in the theater to see a movie directed by Steven Spielberg I watched a sassy but ever-so precocious little black girl do gymnastics and drop-kick a Velociraptor through a window. And JEFF GOLDBLUM was there! And the dinosaurs didn't kill him. TWICE NOW. The film writes itself. Goldblum, deadly animals, ravenous death. What's going on here?

I guess what's going on is that the public's taste in movies has become so confusing and diverse that even the most acclaimed artists of our time can't figure out what to do. Why should Darren Aronofsky bother drawing parallels in the way that different hearts and minds are dragged into the gutter by the gut-wrenching reality of addiction when people will pay eight fucking dollars to see Vin Diesel drive a car fast? BUT IT'S GOING SO FAST!!!1 The CAR!!! AND HE'S MAD ABOUT IT!!!! Sure, Hollywood is producing just as many genuinely golden films today as they have before, but it seems harder and harder to get the American public to encourage the people who care more about creativity than porking Fiona Apple. What do you think would happen if Paul Anderson was put in charge of a film about humanity and love? Breakfast at Tiffany's would've ended with a slow-motion gun fight, or a plague of locusts.


A.I.: Artificial Intelligence

That's exactly what Steven Spielberg's summer blockbuster "A.I." is -- a film...no, a fairy tale about humanity and love. Originally Kubrick's pet project, Steven picked up the undertaking of the film when Stanley saw a test screening of "Eyes Wide Shut" and passed away. So, even though Kubrick's really got nothing to do with the picture, it has been (and should be) viewed as Spielberg's standard mushy we're-gonna-live-we're-gonna-love sifted through the icy fingers of the late master. It's really not a bad combination. This way, we don't have Haley Joel Osment dancing around in a derby while Bruce Willis rapes all the dead people.

There. I got that joke out of the way early. Much like the HILARIOUS ZINGER of comparing Christina Aguilera's Moulin Rouge makeover to Twisted Sister's Dee Snider, I end up wanting to shadowless kick myself in the nuts for taking the easy way out. Here's a fun game. Bring up the fact that "the kid from the Sixth Sense is in that new movie A.I." and watch to see who makes the "I see dead people" joke first. Put a bullet between his eyes. Rinse, and repeat if necessary.

Don't think of a second that the emoting little man can't handle the load of a project this ambitious. As hyped as he might be, the kid's got genuine talent and a demanding presence on the silver screen. Hell, he even almost made "Pay it Forward" a good movie. But who really thinks watching Bon Jovi slap around Helen Hunt is a reason for me to feel bad? If I directed "Pay it Forward" Richie Sambora would've been there holding Hunt while Jon Bon punched her in the stomach. That would've made a billion dollars. But I digress.

Osment is our lonely robot boy protagonist "David," the first mechanical child created with the ability to love. According to the wordy scientists who explain things to us, the government has begun regulating procreation and the robot child is the way to ease the yearnings of desperate parents. A.I. takes place in an unnecessarily close future, where the polar ice caps melted and buried much of the world under water, and where humanity is slowly destroying itself. Seriously, some of the most unbelievable visuals you'll see is during the copter flight into Manhattan. You see glimpses of it in the commercial (i.e., the Statue of Liberty's torch peeking up from the ocean's surface) but that's only the beginning. From the Las Vegas on crack Rouge City to the underwater ruins of Coney Island, A.I. achieves the brilliant goal of being unnerving and undeniably fucking gorgeous at the same time. Kinda like Christina Aguilera. Hah, she looks like the guy from Twisted Sister!


Mocha Choka Lata Ya Ya!

So anyway, the film's first act involves David's raison d'exister and the relationship with the family that adopts (or more accurately, tests) him. Even this early in the film the coldness begins to hit you. When grieving mother Monica shoves David into a closet so she doesn't have to look at him you start to wonder what the kids in the audience would think...and during the scene in which David is abandoned in the woods you begin to wonder why kids are in the audience at all. Deeper than that, you begin to wonder why you'd want to HAVE kids at all. Spielberg goes that extra mile (as he usually does, sans gymast/raptor battles) to create a definite statement about parenting. The film is, at heart, the story of parents...who is willing to take care of whom, and why. Even after she disappears forty minutes into the movie, Monica has more emotion and characterization than even the most Bon Jovi battered Helen Hunt.

As A.I. becomes more disturbing and downhearted, we're introduced to two of the most engaging characters in recent screen history - Jude Law's impressive turn as Gigolo Joe, the pleasure bot, and Teddy, a robotic super toy teddy bear who is so well-crafted, animated, and tightened that your jaw will drop remembering that Spielberg created him. You thought Tom Hanks's bloody handprint on a volleyball was endearing for an inanimate object, you haven't begun to have that part of you that still wants to sleep with stuffed animals bawl until you've seen Teddy.


The Academy Award for Best Actor goes to...Teddy.

About eleven hours after viewing I still get images of Teddy in my head. Even during the most insignificant of scenes his presence is powerful, and a reminder that behind the disturbing images of robots getting their skin melted off by acid or being cut in half by chainsaws, all David wants to do is be loved. A reminder that behind all the special effects and obtrusive hype machines, Spielberg loves to make movies, and wants people to love his movies. Rich and criticized as much as he is, A.I. is blinding proof that the man just really, really loves movies. And hey, if you can't buy a Teddy bear as heartbreaking, at least it's not Jar Jar Binks.

Meesa wanna LOVE! Meesa robot! Okeyday!

Whatever-Dude.com's been around since February, and as much as I love writing and as successful as we're becoming, the Internet and the people I meet on said Internet tend to depress me. For all the HORNY HOUSEWIVES out there reading this, please, don't stop sending me those wonderful links I receive in my inbox every day, almost always leading to a picture of some molested blonde eating some oversized rubber cock that won't go away, even when I click the little "x." I just love those. And many of the same people, including the Julia Roberts Loving American Public, dictate the way things work.

How many reviews of Moulin Rouge do you read where the guy starts off with "First things first, I don't hate musicals, but I wish Moulin Rouge didn't have so much singing in it! AND THEY SANG SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT OMG KURT WILL RISE AGAIN AND SMOTE HIS ENEMIES!!!!!11"

How many reviews of Charlie's Angles did you read that started off with "This movie is just so much fun! It's great that a movie can be this fun, how much fun can this possibly be? A team of funsters making fun all day couldn't make enough fun to produce Charlie's Angels! It's like they carry around fun guns that shoot FUN out!"

I'm excited as hell about the Final Fantasy movie coming out next month. One of the reviews I read said that it's not any good, because "it's too Eastern, like Princess Mononoke."

Is this what the Entertainment business is coming to? Do we really want to make Baz Luhrmann feel bad about doing something creative that DIDN'T completely rape Shakespeare? Was it FUN to watch Cameron Diaz flop around on wires in a movie that featured both Destiny's Child and Tom Green? Is it BAD to be like Princess Mononoke? No we shouldn't, no it wasn't, and no it's not. Everybody's got different tastes and different opinions, so I'm going to pull a Citizen Kane for a moment. Imagine me standing at a podium full of microphones, with a big picture of myself behind me with a giant "B" at the top in bold black print. Ready? Then listen.


Okay, now I want you to completely forget about the plot or the character and just DRIVE THE CAR FAST. Yes, you heard me, fast. And look sexy!

If you don't like something, have a reason. A reason that makes sense. Please.

Was the "Fast and the Furious" good because it was full of hot guys and nice cars? Sure, glad you liked it, but don't get pissed when somebody thinks you're stupid for liking a movie with a plot so thin you could shine Vin Diesel's greasy scalp with it. As this relates to "A.I.," I was excited to see how good it was gonna be. Being a big fan of Spielberg and having SEEN Pearl Harbor, I was ready for a movie that wouldn't make me want to piss into my mouth and make out with the nearest electrical outlet. In my excitement, I came across some reviews, most notably on "Ain't It Cool News," a site known for having legions of pretentious forum dwellers. I'm sure these people have families and jobs and interesting lives, but on the Aint it Cool News forums it's like an army of Comic Book Guy clones. Here's some constructive A.I. criticism, verbatim.

"As for the design of David, it bothered me A LOT. The problem here, I think, is that those writing and directing this film, no insult to them, but as writers and directors, they're very obviously out of their element in terms of industrial design. David eats spinach...whereby we discover that his artificial esophagus (A.E.) creates a direct path to vital internal circuitry. So, the spinach lands on said circuitry and has to be removed, as it apparently causes malfunction.

Now, I don't design robots for a living, but folks, when you put vital circuitry into YOUR robots, you don't leave it exposed in a place that's likely to have food dropped in it."

Have you started going for the electrical outlet in disgust yet? Do the dorks of the world even KNOW how frequently they get in the way of sane thought? Dude, if Seven of Nine or Goku have some problem with physics that Gene Rodenberry or Mao Zedong were hacks for overlooking that's fine, but could you keep it to yourself? I watched Phantom Menace, okay, I know that Jar Jar Binks was annoying and retarded. That's why I made a joke about him up there. I don't need to know that the promotional poster is an error because Tattooine has TWO suns and it would've made TWO shadows of Darth Vader show up.


Klaatu verrata n... Necktie... Nickel... It's an "N" word, it's definitely an "N" word!

I'm just glad I didn't listen to the molested blondes with the plastic cocks on this occasion, though, because as the third act of A.I. kicked in I realized what a beautiful ambition I was watching. Obviously the film is not perfect...there are times that make you confused or unsure of what to feel. Then there's the future bikers. Heh, as much as I seem to be wanting to suck off Dreamworks here, I gotta say that the bikers of the future are one of the dumbest things I've ever seen. Long story short, they've got these guys riding motorcycles that have giant wolf heads that shoot magnets on them, and the guys wear color-coded sparkly suits. Is that really necessary? If you want to show the cruelty of humanity with a "Flesh Fair" (an organized spectacle where robots are destroyed in elaborate and sometimes disturbing ways) that's one thing, but it doesn't take Akira Kurosawa to cut the Power Rangers villains.

The other glaring fault to A.I. is the "Dr. Know" scene. David becomes convinced that, after hearing the story of Pinocchio, the "Blue Fairy" will be able to turn him into a real boy. If he becomes a real boy, he feels that his "mommy" Monica will love him again. Innocently touching...until the Apocalypse-yielding voice talents of Robin Williams show up at the helm of a computer generated Albert Einstein. You read my right, Robin Williams as a cartoon Einstein. Just like the Jeff Goldblum rectal slicing that BETTER be in Jurassic Park 4, the jokes tend to write themselves here. Just rest assured that I'm as tired of that coked out old fucker as the rest of you. Yeah, you're hyper, you dressed up like a woman, you like to teach, it's funny, let's move on. I'LL FUCKING END YOU!

I'm going to address the final problem with the movie, so I'm gonna issue one of those "Spoiler Alert" deals. When you see a picture of Jimmie Walker, you know there's a spoiler coming. When you see Jimmie Walker for a second time, the spoiler is done.


Spoilers comin' up...DYNOMITE!!!

In the third act, David ends up submerged under water, staring at the Coney Island decor Blue Fairy for two thousand years. That's right, the story jumps two thousand years in about a minute. When the story picks up again, the world has entered another Ice Age and the aliens from Close Encounters of the Third Kind revive David. If you haven't seen the movie and you're doing the dick thing and reading the spoilers, I'm really not making that up. If I'd made it up I would've said that David finds the Necronomicon but forgets to say the words, and ends up having to battle skeletons and avoid Three Stooge attacks. And he would've been on fire, and the skeletons would be ninjas.

One of the big criticisms I read involves the "HOLLYWOOD BULLSHIT" (in all caps) of the ending. Critics say that the film is wonderful, creative, and inspired until aliens show up. Then it's just a cop out!

What?

Hold on, hold on.

A movie about robots SUCKS because aliens are in it. What? Maybe I don't speak jackass, but aliens make more sense in a movie about robots than they do in most movies about aliens. It's the future seen through the eyes of Steven Spielberg seeing it through the eyes of Stanley Kubrick...and sure, Kubrick probably wouldn't have had aliens show up to end it, but Spielberg would. He craves the happy ending, or at least the illusion of a happy ending, and it's a fucking killer creative way to do it. There is not a more honestly moving scene, happy or not in the past few years than David sleeping with his mommy. It gets worse when the Teddy bear climbs up with them. I swear to God that bear deserves an Oscar.

I don't like Star Trek and I'm not much of a Warsie, but I do believe that aliens and robots have the right to share a screen and be believable in the realm of science fiction. Aliens, robots, zombies, ninjas, condescending high school football players, they all have an equal suspension of disbelief given to them when the words "in the future" are thrown into the script. I know I don't want to live in a future without pretentious high school football playing zombie robots.


Spoilers are over, brotha man!...DYNOMITE!!!


So if you skipped the spoilers, the basic gist is that you should do yourself a favor and see this movie. Like it or not, feel warm or feel cold, it does what few films made every do: it causes a reaction. Also, that spoiler section involved zombies playing high school football, so if Spielberg ever gets the rights to remake "Welcome to Spring Break" I'm gonna ascend to Heaven in a chariot of fire.

Bottom line: The pros include fantastic acting performances from all involved, beautiful sets that press the boundaries of your imagination, an involving, thought-provoking insight on the idea of family love and humanity, a guaranteed reaction, great special effects, a great score, and a female pleasure robot that is so hot that I'm considering selling my soul to Spielberg to get her name and phone number.


Artificial walking F'n hard-on

The cons? A couple of Power Ranger villains and ten minutes of Robin Williams. Haley Joel Osment doesn't see any dead people (well, not REALLY anyway), Bon Jovi doesn't beat up any of the chicks, Christina Aguilera looks like the guy from Twisted Sister, etc.

Is it worth the pain? Damn right it's worth the pain.

It's good to know that I don't have to tread water with Spielberg anymore, at least for the moment. The man cast Audrey Hepburn as an angel and had Hitler sign an autograph for Indiana Jones. As long as he stays away from the gymnastic kung-fu on dinosaurs, he's all right with me.

I like zombie football players, but not kung-fu dinosaurs. I'm gonna go jump in the bathtub for 2,000 years. Excuse me.

b
swan@whatever-dude.com
AIM: NotAGoonie
Daaaaaavid....Daaaaaaavid.... Dawson's Hero

"Charlie's Angles made writing this article FUN! I put it on in the background and my apartment FLOODED with fun! The fun broke the windows and choked the dog to death! He choked to death on FUN! I bet he even had fun while choking on fun."

-David Manning


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