Edition - 2001 (2002) - DreamWorks/Warner Bros.
by Adam Jahnke of The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Extras): A/A-
Audio Ratings (DD/DTS): A-/A
Specs and Features
Disc One: The Film
145 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced,
Amaray keep case packaging, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer
switch at 1:15:52 in chapter 17), Creating
A.I. featurette, animated film-themed menu screens with
sound, scene access (32 chapters), languages: English (DD & DTS
5.1 & DD 2.0) and French (DD 5.1), subtitles: English, Spanish
Disc Two: Supplemental Materials
NR, full frame (1.33:1), Amaray keep case packaging, single-sided,
RSDL dual-layered (layer switch not in content),
Acting A.I. featurettes (A
Portrait of David and A
Portrait of Gigolo Joe), Designing
A.I. featurettes (A.I.: From
Drawings to Sets and Dressing
A.I.), Lighting A.I.
featurette, Special Effects
featurette, Robots of A.I.
featurette, Special Visual Effects and
Animation: ILM featurettes (An
Overview, The Robots,
The New York City Sequence: Shot
Progression and Animating A.I.),
The Sound and Music of A.I.
featurettes (Sound Design and
Closing: Steven Spielberg - Our
Responsibility to Artificial Intelligence featurette,
A.I. Archives (2 trailers, 3
storyboard sequences, Chris Baker's portfolio, production design
portfolio, ILM portfolio, portrait gallery photos by David James,
Steven Spielberg "behind the scenes" photos by David
James), cast and filmmaker biographies and filmographies, production
notes, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, languages:
English (DD 2.0), subtitles: Spanish and French
the ten years or so leading up to its release in the summer of 2001,
A.I. Artificial Intelligence
developed a reputation as one of the greatest movies never made. The
brainchild of Stanley Kubrick (who left behind a number of
intriguing concepts in varying stages of development with his death
in 1999), A.I. was, like most
Kubrick films, shrouded in mystery. It was known that it was based
on the Brian Aldiss short story Supertoys
Last All Summer Long, but that fact was virtually
useless. After all, 2001: A Space Odyssey
sprang from the Arthur C. Clarke story The
Sentinel, but reading that story doesn't begin to prepare
you for what Kubrick eventually created. During its development,
Kubrick tossed ideas back and forth with Steven Spielberg and
eventually realized that perhaps Spielberg would be better suited
for the director's chair on this project. Spielberg initially
demurred but, following Kubrick's death, Kubrick's widow Christiane
asked him to reconsider. As a tribute to his friend, Spielberg
accepted the challenge and crafted one of the most divisive movies
of his career. Audiences fell into two camps over
A.I.. People either loved it,
claiming it was one of Spielberg's finest moments, or despised it
with equal passion. I fall into the latter category.
A.I. depicts a future world in
which robots (or "Mechas" as they're annoyingly and
pointlessly referred to) have become commonplace. Professor Allen
Hobby (William Hurt) proposes that the time has come to develop a
robot child with the capacity to love its human "parents".
The result is David (played by Haley Joel Osment), a prototype who
faces some stiff competition for his mother's love when her real son
recovers from a coma. After David's love causes a couple near fatal
accidents, his "mother" Monica (Frances O'Connor) decides
to return the kid. But she can't bring herself to have him destroyed
and instead abandons him like an unwanted cat in the middle of the
forest. David seizes upon the idea that if he tracks down the fabled
Blue Fairy, she can turn him into a real boy (a la Pinocchio)
and he can return to his mother, who will now love him
unconditionally. And so teamed up with Gigolo Joe (Jude Law), a
robo-whore on the run from the law, David embarks on a quest to find
the Blue Fairy.
It may seem that anti-A.I.-ers
like myself hate the movie out of all proportion to its actual
offenses. After all, it's not the worst movie ever made. It's not
even the worst movie Steven Spielberg has ever made. The reason, I
think, that many of us can't stand this movie, is that we feel that
a movie that involved so many talented people and took so long to
bring to fruition should have flaws a lot more minor than these.
First of all, this is a long, lead-paced movie. Even the movie's
defenders admit that the final sequence drags on and on, but even
the first hour of the movie seems twice that length.
For me, the movie's biggest problem is that the premise itself is
inherently incorrect. For one thing, I can't figure out why Monica
would ever imprint David's love program in the first place. As
played by Osment, David is a freaky little tyke, following Monica
around constantly, staring at her with big doe eyes and a placid
smile, barking out inhuman laughter at the dinner table. The kids in
Village of the Damned are more
normal than this thing. And although it's maintained that the
robo-boy is developed for childless couples, it doesn't seem to
occur to anybody that the main demographic who would be interested
in purchasing a kid that never grows up, never needs taking care of,
and loves you no matter what... would be pedophiles. As for David's
odyssey, it's a lengthy series of non-events, punctuated by the eye
candy of Rouge City and the submerged New York City.
The only part of A.I. that
truly comes alive, and conveys a sense of what might have been
possible, is David's nighttime encounter with a band of decrepit
robots scavenging for spare parts, and their subsequent trip to an
outdoor carnival called the Flesh Fair. Part of the greatness of
this sequence is due to the fact that this is really Stan Winston's
show. Here we can just sit back and marvel in the variety of complex
robot creatures Winston's studio created. But also, we finally get a
taste of the robotic subculture. This, the idea that humans have
abandoned their creations but the creations live on, is perhaps the
strongest thematic concept Kubrick developed. Unfortunately, it's
only in this sequence that we get a vivid and dramatic illustration
of the theme. Every other time it's brought up, it's in the form of
clunky dialogue scenes with Mechas talking long and saying nothing.
On disc, DreamWorks has given A.I.
a deluxe treatment that is sure to please its supporters. Longtime
Spielberg cinematographer Janusz Kaminski's varied palette of images
receives a bright, solid, 16x9 enhanced transfer. This must have
been a difficult picture to bring to DVD, employing glowing earth
tones for the first part of the film, inky black shadows in the
forest, dazzling, hyperreal Vegas-on-steroids colors in Rouge City
and over saturated whites in the future. Making things more complex,
the special effects are composites of every technique under the sun,
from miniatures to CGI to puppetry. For all its challenges, the
image is seamless, perfectly capturing what Kaminski and Spielberg
intended. I saw no edge enhancement at all and, unlike many
CGI-heavy films, the image was not overly, artificially sharp. Three
audio tracks are provided (four if you count the French 5.1 track).
The 5.1 Dolby Digital track is surprisingly subdued, employing bass
and surround effects sparingly. I preferred the DTS track, which is
able to convey the sonic subtleties with higher fidelity and greater
DVD guru Laurent Bourzeau was responsible for the extra features
and they are up to his usual high standards. Well... for the most
part. Feel free to skip the Creating A.I.
featurette on Disc One. This might have been a studio-created EPK.
Whether it is or not, it feels like a trailer for Disc Two. The bulk
of the second disc is essentially a feature-length documentary
broken up into multiple featurettes. The running time of the
individual pieces adds up to somewhere north of 90 minutes. This
isn't a bad way to present the information and it certainly enables
you to go directly to what you're most interested in, although the
presentation does result in the disc going a bit sub-menu crazy.
Bourzeau speaks to virtually every key creative person involved with
A.I., leaving no aspect of the
movie uncovered. Unfortunately, we don't get much about Kubrick's
vision, apart from how he related to Spielberg. Perhaps we never
will, considering Kubrick's reputation, but I suspect Spielberg
could have divulged more than he did.
The A.I. Archives is a trove
of trailers, detailed storyboards, concept art and photo galleries.
This is an impressive array, though I've never understood why so
many DVDs will load up their galleries with sketches from every
design aspect except for costumes. The A.I.
Archives really can't be considered comprehensive without
Bob Ringwood's costume design sketches. On the subject of overlooked
goodies, it would have been nice to see some of the puzzling
Internet ballyhoo concocted to drum up interest in the movie.
A.I.'s confounding Internet
campaign was the subject of much speculation at the time of its
release. It's odd that there is no mention of it here. The package
is rounded out with extensive production notes as well as
biographies and filmographies for the cast and crew.
With its estimable pedigree and complex production history,
A.I. Artificial Intelligence
is certainly a movie that deserved the special edition treatment on
DVD. But no amount of bells and whistles will convince me that this
is a journey worth taking. I'm sure aspects of A.I.
will be debated by film buffs for years to come. Did Spielberg do
justice to the concept or did he unforgivably mar what would have
been Kubrick's greatest work? Obviously, we'll never really know the
answer to that. But as much as I dislike 99% of Steven Spielberg's
recent work, I don't think he's entirely to blame for the debacle of
A.I.. I believe he was working
from a concept that was underdeveloped and half-baked to begin with.
When Kubrick called Spielberg up and said, "I think you're
better suited to direct this than me," maybe he didn't mean it
as a compliment.