The AI (Movie) Thread (Spoilers)

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    Posted: 09 July 2001 07:27 AM

    Who saw AI this weekend?  Or rather, who has seen it at all, since I imagine this thread will remain popular for a while…

    My suggestion to anyone who has not seen the movie, you may want to leave this thread as there will be spoilers a plenty.  The movie explores a wealth of philosophical issues, and is very thought provoking, and I recommend that you see it even though I am not yet sure if I liked it.  That said:

    I saw it this weekend and am still thinking about it.

    Spoilers coming:

     

     


    I like the movie, despite some minor plot silliness.  It’s the Third Act that has me trying to decide if it was brilliant of whacky.  It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever, eh? 

    I mean, was it necessary to sheen 2000 years in the future in order to have David get his wish?  I am not so sure that it was, and for that reason the Third Act seems gratuitous.  On the other hand, the new robots, the frozen world, and the Perfect Day (a great song by Lou Reed, but that’s off topic) were handled well and were very interesting in and of themselves.

    That’s it for now.  Any thoughts?

     

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    Posted: 02 July 2001 09:56 PM #1

    This topic has gotten all kinds of people looking at it, and not one response…

    SPOILERS COMING!

     

     

    A friend of mine suggested that the movie would have been MUCH better if it had opened up with in the year 3150-whatever with the Nth generation robots digging out David from the ice.  From there, it could have moved on to where the movie actually started with the lecture to the company engineers from the good Doctor. It would then have progressed as it currently does through to its conclusion.  I agree with him, and I think that would have made the movie make a lot more sense.

     

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  • Posted: 03 July 2001 03:57 AM #2

    Okay, I’ll bite…

    I saw A.I. on the opening weekend, and went in looking forward to a good, intellectual hard science fiction piece. It’s nice to see there’s still a market for sci-fi which asks the big questions instead of concentrating on big explosions. The last literate sci-fi movie I recall from a major studio was Gattaca, and that came out far too long ago.

    As a recovering Cinema Nerd it was very interesting to watch the sometimes uneasy interplay between Kubrick’s and Spielberg’s influences at work in the film, though it was frustrating to see Spielberg do SO well with material he clearly found uncomfortable and then lapse back into maudlin sentimentality for the ridiculous third act. Spielberg really does break new ground in his career here—he’s always been a master at manipulating audience emotions, but with A.I. he tries to explore the disquieting, dissonant, and profane instead of the salable inspirational palaver he often lapses into.

    It’s worth mentioning that the much-lambasted third act of this movie is original material by Spielberg (with uncertain influence from Kubrick.) From what I can gather on other discussion forums, the first act is drawn from two short stories by Brian Aldiss, “Supertoys Last all Summer Long” and “Supertoys When Winter Comes,” and the second act somewhat parallels the Aldiss’s “Supertoys in Other Seasons.”

    So why the inclusion of the disjointed and sappy third act? Was Spielberg simply unable to reconcile his own professed optimism with the brooding, misanthropic pessimism he channeled from Kubrick? Did the studio (read: Spielberg) want something which approximated a happy ending for marketing purposes?  Is Spielberg just out of practice with screenwriting, his last serious attempt being in the mid eighties? Or did Speilberg just not “Get” something Kubrick was trying to do with this coda? Hard to say.

    At any rate, in the interest of “asking the Big Questions” (and to give Kubrick snobs some justification for sitting through the big Hollywood Baddness) I’d like to toss out an idea… So, Spoilers away!

    ————————

    A common reading of the third act is that it’s a tacked on Happy Ending. While I do believe that it is meant to function as such (evidenced by Spielberg’s masterful and reflexive pulling of the ol’ heartstrings,) I think this ending could be read as quite tragic. David is able to find some modicum of happiness/transcendance, but only because he is, in a sense, an abused and damaged being.

    Consider for a moment what David is—for all his remarkable nature as an emergent empath, his self-awareness has been artificially constrained. He is by design sort of a tawdry consumer product, and it is implied that he has been “programmed” for eternal innocence as well as implicit love. All of the other Mecha he meets, which are stated to be inferior models, have a more fully developed self-consciousness than David does—even Teddy, an obsequious and simplistic child’s toy, carries a heavy understanding of the vicissitudes of android existance.

    David, on the other hand, doesn’t really understand his nature, his orgin or his function in the world. The movie lacks a discussion of whether this self-awareness is an emergent phenomena David has not manifested or a Mecha axiom which has been suppressed in him. It is implied in the third act that David has been programmed to be oblivious about these big questions, because acknowledging them would inhibit his function as a panacea for parental grief.

    Consider his reaction when he confronts his maker and the irrefutable evidence that he is a manufactured commodity. He lapses into a catatonic fugue then succumbs to the obsessive fairy tale he has previously embraced. This organic frailty is one of the things which makes him so very human. (It could also be read that David tries to end his existance when he is no longer able to sustain his ego, but I don’t think this interpretation really works with the continuing themes of innocence in the film.) There’s a clue to David’s limitations in the recurring quote from Yeat’s poem, “The Stolen Child.” The world is indeed “more full of weeping” than David will ever understand.

    The tragedy is that David is unable to understand that he is a creature lacking in self-determination and will never be a fully realized intellect. He offers unrequited love to an idealized image of a “mother” who brutalized him in the worst way a parent could. Whether this is a hard coded Oedipal Mecha routine or an organic Stockholm syndrome isn’t even the issue at heart. The cruelty of the joke is that he doesn’t understand what a damaged and limited being he is, and he is only able to find happiness because he is oblivious to this. That’s a nasty enough methphor for humanity to suit Kubrick’s style. Or we can allow that David (fully or subconsciously) understands the limits of his free will and prefers to live in a fantasy world rather than acknowledge them, which is in a sense even sadder.

    I don’t think this film explored the nature of what is human as well as, say, Blade Runner/Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, but I think that if it had tried to much harder it would have come off as unduly heavy-handed. I’m still waiting for a movie which explores the emergent and learned nature of intelligence as authors Ray Kurzweil and Danny Hillis discuss it, rather than following the hubristic notion that something as complex as a human intellect could simply be deconstructed and “programed.”

    All things considered it’s worth seeing. There are certainly worse ways you could invest eight bucks and 2.5 hours of your life this summer. If your tolerance for cinematic drivel is too low, just get up and leave as soon as the voice over narration starts while David is in the submarine—you’ll still have a great, if different cinematic experience.

    -Jeff Kievlan

         
  • Posted: 03 July 2001 11:36 AM #3

    God, Jeff!


    I’m gonna have to read this at home…

    Good analyses.

    All I will say is that I hated the 2000 year flash forward, a la “Bicentennial Man.”

    I hate heart-string pulling….

     

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  • Posted: 04 July 2001 07:36 PM #4

    Wow, some excellent analysis on AI here!. I just got back from seeing the movie, and overall I enjoyed it, but agree that the “schmaltz” was a tad thick. I wonder what worldwide adoration does to the young mind of a Haley Joe Osment? What could he have been thinking when he walked onto that set and saw dozens of replicas of himself hanging there? Too MUCH love perhaps? Regardless, the boy can make you care.

    Yesterday I saw a technology spot on TV about the “latest and greatest” in technology. They briefly demonstrated the Sony Aibo, and as I saw “Teddy” stumble about the movie, and thought back to the relatively, laughably crude Aibo, I couldn’t help but think “boy, we have a long way to go..”. How much would YOU pay for a “Teddy”?

    Also, for you followers of the laws of robotics, would a robot really approach a human with open scissors? Or drag a human underwater? Or fly a helicopter with little regard for the frail humans nearby??

    My 2 cents,

    Durango.

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    Posted: 04 July 2001 08:07 PM #5

    Hey Durango,

    Welcome to our forums, first of all. 

    I just wanted to comment on the Laws of Robotics.  I don’t think that Asimov’s influence was felt in this film in any way.  At the same time, I think that everyone involved in robotics has been immersed in the Three Laws of Robotics so much that in this way AI was flawed.  I mentioned this on the way out of the film to the friend with whom I saw it.

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    Posted: 04 July 2001 08:17 PM #6

    Jeesh Jeff,

    I just read your epic post, and it was awfully good.  Thanks for taking the time to write it!

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  • Posted: 06 July 2001 02:12 PM #7

    A friend of mine suggested that the movie would have been MUCH better if it had opened up with in the year 3150-whatever with the Nth generation robots digging out David from the ice…I agree with him, and I think that would have made the movie make a lot more sense.

    I couldn’t agree more with your friend!  Had the movie flowed the way your friend suggested, my personal rating would have risen from a D+ to a strong A.  Man, your friend sounds like a real smart guy…we could all probably learn a lot from him.

    <font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: RobbesPierre on 2001-07-06 17:12 ]</font>

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    Posted: 06 July 2001 02:28 PM #8

    Ha!  Hey Robbes!Glad you could make it.

    My friend is usually pretty smart. 

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  • Posted: 06 July 2001 04:46 PM #9

    I followed the progress of this film ever since I had heard the rumblings about “Kubrick working on a sci-fi epic.” I enjoyed it, though I was disappointed with Spielberg’s lumpy screenplay. Too much was explained — a Kubrick film would have elaborated on very little. The giveaway was the final scene (which I’m surprised I have yet to find a review linking “A.I.“‘s denouement to the final scene in Kubrick’s “2001”). If Kubrick had left that one in, the mechas of the future would have never entered David’s containment to explain “the fabric of space-time.” What disappointed me the most, however, was the exclusion in production of artist/filmmaker Chris Cunningham. Cunningham began as a British comic book artist who moved on to become one of the greatest music video directors, arguably, of all time (unfortunately, his videos are rarely shown in America). In film work, he had created designs for a slew of horror films, but the real kicker was that he was hand picked by Kubrick to design robots for “A.I.”. When Kubrick died, Cunningham had designed hundreds of robots. When Spielberg took over the project, Cunningham services were scrapped in favor of Stan Winston Studios. If you can, check out the following videos to see why this is a tragedy:

    Demonstrating Cunningham’s skill with robotics:
    Autechre: “Second Bad Vilbel”
    Bj?rk: “All Is Full of Love” (perhaps the greatest video of all time)

    and equally tremendous videos:
    Aphex Twin: “Come to Daddy”
    Aphex Twin: “Windowlicker”
    Leftfield: “Afrika Shox”
    Squarepusher: “Come on My Selector”
    Madonna: “Frozen”
    Jesus Jones: “The Next Big Thing” (little Kubrick tribute)

    you can find clips of these videos and others at http://www.director-file.com/cunningham/

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    Posted: 07 July 2001 01:35 AM #10

    Great post, Mendelini.  Thanks for the information.

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  • Posted: 09 July 2001 07:27 AM #11

    I was extremely unimpressed with the movie.

    First, the ending was tacked on, and it didn’t work. If it had ended with David staring at the Blue Fairy, I could have accepted the grand tragedy of it all. Indeed, if Spielberg had been willing to make this movie a tragedy (as Kubrick must have imagined it), then David would have seemed all the more human, ladening the film with irony.

    More importantly, though, I was astonished at how poor a piece of storytelling AI was. Every seen began with people looking at one another; every scene ended the same way. Spielberg is a smart man—he knows how to make good movies. Where was the drive, the forward motion from one scene to another? As each scene ended, I felt no urgency to see what happens next. (Compare that with a movie like American Beauty or L.A. Confidential.)

    For me, the best part was the Harry Potter trailer at the beginning.

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