A child, real or not, pleading for the love of his mother could soften the hardest shell, crack the toughest tough-guy, and let's face it, the wounded young, a theme that plays well in movies, happens to be Spielberg's forte.
WARNING: Contains SPOILERS!
As Spielberg's A.I. crawled along to a predictably somber finish, I was trying to understand the relevance of the film. I had heard early on that director Stanley Kubrick had initially inspired this project (artificial intelligence and funky, futuristic urban environments once explored in better films), but make no mistake friends, A.I. is ALL Spielberg. The ultimate result of Steven's writing and direction was a bizarre blend of faded film clichés, rehashed fairytales, exquisite acting by Haley Joel Osment (give the kid a platinum Oscar, please!), and glorious art direction stuffed with special effects.
Now—Pinocchio as a theme has peeked through some of Spielberg's earlier works; When You Wish Upon a Star (Disney) played throughout John Williams effective score for Close Encounters, while E.T. certainly has the alien wanna-be-human aspect going for it, so that A.I. (E.T., A.I.—oh, boy) carries this theme home and exhausts it, hopefully lays it to rest, for good.
All in all, A.I. is a distinctively dark, apocalyptic tale of Carlo Collodi's Pinocchio. A flawless cyborg (puppet) is developed by a scientist (Geppetto), played by Willian Hurt, given over to a grieving couple while their young one's in a coma, whereby the robo-kid assimilates a love bond with the mother, only to be thrown away like a broken kitchen utensil, no longer useful. The rest of the film follows the disoriented castaway on a fantastic journey, endlessly searching for the love of his human mommy, and his own Blue Fairy (from the pages of his bedtime story) that will hopefully make him real. Hey, it has its moments. The woman next to me was bubbling over in all the right places, and I choked back a few tears as well. A child, real or not, pleading for the love of his mother could soften the hardest shell, crack the toughest tough-guy, and let's face it, the wounded young, a theme that plays well in movies, happens to be Spielberg's forte.
If the robotic (mecha, as they're called) love theme was all we had to endure, we might have walked away with a better picture; but then there's the tiresome, junkyard outdoor arenas, wet streets (for reflecting light and ambiance), neon signage and exotic plastic sex machines that seem to suggest the planet's doomed to live in a John Capenter/Ridley Scott on-world colony. Please—enough already. Seen this before, haven't we? Pick something else. ANYTHING, Steven.
The robots were odd and wonderful, and I could have stayed in their Blade Runner world forever, since they had more heart than the humans screaming all around them (another Kubrick theme dropped into the celluloid vat, and Scott, and Cameron...yadda, yadda, yadda), but A.I. was about Pinocchio after all, so onward and...gulp...onward. There was this really cool island of iniquity (Pleasure Island in the Disney version) and fantastic underwater stuff, just like Monstro the Whale: everything but the jackasses and their tails. But wait! You get even more! An extra, extra bonus! You also get...the...(spoiler)...new and improved...A-L-I-E-N-S. Damn—he had to go and do that. He had to toss them into the mix because he didn't get the chance to show them off in THAT special computer animation way back in Close Encounters. These loving, superior beings from some Hollywood planet are back, better than before, digging around our solidified garbage. They even believe we humans are more valuable than they are, worth years of alien contemplation. Oookay. Even though we helped destroy ALL life on our planet, the fact that WE drew nifty pictures, created sentimental art, they think we are, hey, intergalactic geniuses. They just LOVE us so much. Whatever. I thought Richard Dryfuss was going to come popping out of the alien ship, yelling, "See, see—I told you Pinocchio is better than goofy golf!" (a trumpet chuckling: Wah, wah, waaaaah! ). The 3rd act's a real bummer, man. Need I say more?
Yet, inspite of all this ridiculousness, I haven't stopped thinking about the picture: the really sad boy, his glorious robot friends, and the bad moon rising (an effect you gotta see...oh, mi-god, it's the Amblin logo gone cuckoo)—all of it captivated my jaded mind and admittedly, mades me smile just a bit. That's the gift of remarkable acting and premium art direction (which directors have got to stop taking credit for); without these things, this motion picture would have fallen on it's sloppy million-dollar ass. And shame on those wanting to pass this off as a Kubrick-inspired piece of cinema—we'll never know his true involvement, beyond a few phone calls and some early production meetings, so please—leave that one alone. Ain't no Kubrick to support or deny it.
In the end, the boy's the only true superstar. A gifted child that is as special as they come. So large in heart, talent, and technique that I just pray his parents understand the pitfalls of the business, take really good care of him, hold him close (just like in the movie) and prepare him for the Hollywood blitz in orbit all around him. I'd hate to think of him waking up in the middle of the night somewhere in loopy La-la-land, screaming for his Mommy. Because summer blockbusters and big time directors come and go, even robots named David change with each new art director's vision; but ask any working "child star" survivor (Pinocchios looking for their own Blue Fairies): there simply ain't no substitute for love.