Undiscussed Existentialism and Programmed Love

A review of A.I. Artificial Intelligence

Rating: 3 out of 5.

From Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? to Blade Runner to the most recent Westworld, the question about how human beings and robots should coexist has been discussed in many ways. A.I. Artificial Intelligence is one of the Si-Fi films touching this topic, which was made in 2001.

I recently have watched a documentary about Stanley Kubrick, and there is one part mentioning that he has been working on the AI story and wanted Steven Spielberg to make this film, saying it’s closer to his sensibilities. It’s a very interesting statement. So I picked it up and finally watched this movie, which has been put in my to-watch list for a long time.

His love is real.

But he is not.

It’s a story about a little boy called David. This little “mecha” boy who was made to love their parents was a product from a devascated scientist who lost his beloved son. He is programmed to love his parents.

But will his parents love him back? The ethical question was threw right at the audience’s faces at the very beginning of the the film. The answer is given in the film in an unvarnished way: no, it doesn’t seem Monica and Henry loved him back as parents loving their children. It’s a typical scenario of uncanny valley(although it’s a hypothesis). The boy is not 100% like human, he doesn’t sleep, he doesn’t eat, he looks like, but doesn’t behave like a human. Haley Joel Osment provided a fantastic acting in this film. The boy is gentle, gloomy, obsessed with Monica’s love. He thinks he’s one of a kind, but in the end, he’s just the first of a kind. He is programmed to love his parents, is his love real?

I was expecting a bit more on the internal struggling with the boy for what he is, who he is in the movie, or a bit more about how the parents reflect on this relationship. A bit disappointing, it’s only the first part of the film showing a bit how they live together, and there’s no discussion or reflection on the concept of a family and the love grew from the bottom of each person’s heart. Maybe if it is, it won’t be much a successful commercial movie, the box office records perhaps will be as bad as Blade Runner. The tone is set brighter than the sulking, rainy, and decadent city. Even the Rouge City is far more energetic and rated PG13. That’s making it a successful movie.

The visual effect must be astonishing back about 20 years ago. The mecha girls face open and close made an impressive opening of the film. Following the sets in the the Roman Circus-style “Flesh Fair” and then Rouge City. It’s great but not breath-taking. I do like the lightings in some of the scenes, there is always a halo around David’s head, reflecting against his blond soft hair; the blue light over the bed to set the cold tone to make the sleepless night even longer; and the image going through the curly glasses on the door becomes many, composing a beautiful but unusual pattern of the figures replicated on the two sides of the door.

There are two robotic characters I like in the movie. One is the bear and the other is Joe. The bear is always there for David(is it the empathy between super toys?) and he’s low-key. He kept Monica’s hair for 2000 years and he’s not programmed to love, but from some scenes, for instance, he taught David to write, it shows that the Teddy bear developed a certain affinity with Monica, is this real love? Maybe. Back to Joe, he’s a sweet-heart, literally, he’s built as a sex toy, and he’s really good with his job. He’s funny, sexual, simple and kind.

Then it’s the ending… well, I don’t like it. So many people have been criticising on it. I’m not gonna repeat, I’d rather it stopped with David making wishes to the Blue fairy and frozen in the deep ocean with desperate hope to become a real boy.

Although it’s lacking of ambiguity, it’s still a very good film.

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