Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A.I. Artrificial Intelligence (2001)

Rather than a space odyssey, 2001 brought us a robot odyssey in the form of A.I. Artificial Intelligence.1 This film stars Haley Joel Osment as an android boy designed to imprint on a family love them for all time. Osment is joined by a host of humans (notably his “mother” played by Frances O'Connor, and his creator played by William Hurt2) and androids (Jude Law3 as Gigolo Joe is probably the most well known).

Due to its length, A.I. can be divided into three separate stories. The first asks what does it mean when an android is programmed with the express purpose of loving its parents. The adult nature of a robot in the form of a child is jarring and rather creepy. His wise teddy bear, experienced in the destructive nature of humanity, doesn't help to make him any less creepy. As the family grows increasingly weary of their robot son, they abandon him to the world.

At this point, we are then introduced to our second story. In a post-global warming world, where many humans have grown disaffected with the world, they've decided to take their frustration out on the “mecha.”4 It is at this point that Osment befriends Law who opportunistically uses him to get to safety. We also see more of what has become of future cities with the destructive power of global warming.

Clara Bellar, Artificial Intelligence
Finally, A.I. is a futuristic retelling of Pinocchio. In the beginning Osment is told the story of Geppetto's creation and comes to believe that if he is a good enough boy the Blue Fairy will turn him into a real boy as well. Unfortunately for our poor mecha-boy, he does not live in a fairy tale, and the Blue Fairy cannot grant his most desired wish.

In the end, this film gets a little to Spielbergian for some people. The evolution of the Mecha into beings that seem too alien to be of this earth is confusing for some. Further the fact that these mecha seek to find clues to their past and can do so only through this boy boy who spends an entire film emotionally frozen in childhood comes across as strange. However, the film offers some amazing visual effects throughout. It raises questions about what our responsibility is to those we create and care for, as well as what makes something alive.

A.I., Artificial Intelligence, Haley Joel Osment, Frances O'Connor
Female Colleague: It occurs to me with all this animus existing against Mechas today it isn't just a question of creating a robot that can love. Isn't the real conundrum, can you get a human to love them back?
Professor Hobby: Ours will be a perfect child caught in a freezeframe. Always loving, never ill, never changing. With all the childless couples yearning in vain for a license our Mecha will not only open up a new market but fill a great human need.
Female Colleague: But you haven't answered my question. If a robot could genuinely love a person what responsibility does that person hold toward that Mecha in return? It's a moral question, isn't it?
Professor Hobby: The oldest one of all. But in the beginning, didn't God create Adam to love him?

1. Sometimes titled: Artificial Intelligence, A.I., or simply A.I., or Artificial Intelligence. I've chosen the title that most closely matches the way it is seen on the DVD box.
2. More William Hurt in Dune (2000).
3. More Jude Law in The Talented Mr. Ripley.
4. A parallel can be drawn to people's responses to immigrants and any other form of difference.

1 comment:

Gaell said...

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