Though some early audiences read it as a strange clashing of director Steven Spielberg and longtime developer Stanley Kubrick’s sensibilities, time has been good to A.I. Artificial Intelligence, the richest of the filmmaker’s hard sci-fi adaptations of the 2000s. Kubrick reportedly felt Spielberg was better suited to direct the heartbreaking and uncanny story of David (Haley Joel Osment), a new breed of “Mecha” designed to resemble a real human child and adopted as a replacement for the comatose son of Monica (Frances O’Connor). David has been programmed to love his mother forever, but he soon learns the whims of an indifferent human world that treats Mecha as spare parts for real people to exploit.
A.I. is Spielberg at his most mature, and while some have attributed the film’s darker elements to Kubrick, there are clear shades of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Hook in the film’s mixed feelings about both precocious children’s demands on adults and deadbeat parents’ temptation to check out when things get messy. A.I. also offers one of the most striking dystopian worlds of recent years, depicting the future via a waterlogged New York, a scummy neon resort town, and a proto-Trump rally where unregistered Mecha are dismembered for hooting masses. It’s both a prescient vision of the future and an absorbing philosophical essay on the complicated bonds between parents and children, and between human ingenuity and the endless unloved and discarded products it leaves in its wake.
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