A.I. Artificial Intelligence, also known as A.I., is a 2001 American science fiction drama film co-written, co-produced, and directed by Steven Spielberg, co-written by Ian Watson, and based on the 1969 short story “Supertoys Last All Summer Long” by Brian Aldiss. It was co-produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Bonnie Curtis, and stars Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O’Connor, Brendan Gleeson, and William Hurt. Set in a futuristic post-climate change society, A.I. tells the story of David (Osment), a childlike android uniquely programmed with the ability to love.
Development of A.I. originally began with producer-director Stanley Kubrick, after he acquired the rights to Aldiss’ story in the early 1970s. Kubrick hired a series of writers until the mid-1990s, including Brian Aldiss, Bob Shaw, Ian Watson, and Sara Maitland. The film languished in protracted development for years, partly because Kubrick felt computer-generated imagery was not advanced enough to create the David character, whom he believed no child actor would convincingly portray. In 1995, Kubrick handed A.I. to Spielberg, but the film did not gain momentum until Kubrick’s death in 1999. Spielberg remained close to Watson’s film treatment for the screenplay.
A.I. Artificial Intelligence divided critics, with the overall balance being positive, and grossed approximately $235 million. It was nominated for two Academy Awards at the 74th Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects and Best Original Score (by John Williams). In a 2016 BBC poll of 177 critics around the world, the film was voted the eighty-third greatest film since 2000.
In the late 22nd century, rising sea levels from global warming have wiped out coastal cities such as Amsterdam, Venice, and New York, and drastically reduced the world’s population. A new type of robots called Mecha, advanced humanoids capable of thoughts and emotions, have been created.
David, a Mecha that resembles a human child and is programmed to display love for its owners, is sent to Henry Swinton, and his wife, Monica, as a replacement for their son, Martin, who has been placed in suspended animation until he can be cured of a rare disease. Monica warms to David and activates his imprinting protocol, causing him to have an enduring childlike love for her. David is befriended by Teddy, a robotic teddy bear, who cares for David’s well-being.
Martin is cured of his disease and brought home; as he recovers, he grows jealous of David. He makes David go to Monica in the night and cut off a lock of her hair. This upsets the parents, particularly Henry, who fears that the scissors are a weapon.
At a pool party, one of Martin’s friends pokes David with a knife, activating his self-protection programming. David grabs Martin and they fall into the pool. Martin is saved from drowning, but Henry persuades Monica to return David to his creator for destruction. Instead, Monica abandons both David and Teddy in the forest to hide as an unregistered Mecha.
David is captured for an anti-Mecha “Flesh Fair”, where obsolete and unlicensed Mecha are destroyed before cheering crowds. David is nearly killed, but tricks the crowd into thinking that he is human, and escapes with Gigolo Joe, a male prostitute Mecha who is on the run after being framed for murder. The two set out to find the Blue Fairy, whom David remembers from The Adventures of Pinocchio, and believes can turn him into a human, allowing Monica to love him and take him home.
Joe and David make their way to the resort town, Rouge City, where “Dr. Know”, a holographic answer engine, leads them to the top of Rockefeller Center in the flooded ruins of Manhattan. There, David meets a copy of himself and destroys it. David then meets his creator, Professor Hobby, who tells David that he was built in the image of the professor’s dead son David, and that more copies, including female versions called Darlene, are being manufactured.
Disheartened, David falls from a ledge, but is rescued by Joe using their amphibicopter. David tells Joe he saw the Blue Fairy underwater and wants to go down to meet her. Joe is captured by the authorities using an electromagnet. David and Teddy use the amphibicopter to go to the Fairy, which turns out to be a statue at the now-sunken Coney Island. The two become trapped when the Wonder Wheel falls on their vehicle. David asks repeatedly to be turned into a real boy until the ocean freezes and is deactivated once his power source is drained.
Two thousand years later, humans have become extinct, and Manhattan is buried under glacial ice. The Mecha have evolved into an advanced, intelligent, silicon-based form. They find David and Teddy, and discover they are original Mecha that knew living humans, making them special.
David is revived and walks to the frozen Fairy statue, which collapses when he touches it. The Mecha use David’s memories to reconstruct the Swinton home and explain to him that they cannot make him human. However, David insists that they recreate Monica from DNA in the lock of hair. The Mecha warn David that the clone can only live for a day, and that the process cannot be repeated. David spends the next day with Monica and Teddy. Before she drifts off to sleep, Monica tells David she has always loved him. Teddy climbs onto the bed and watches the two lie peacefully together.
Kubrick began development on an adaptation of “Super-Toys Last All Summer Long” in the late 1970s, hiring the story’s author, Brian Aldiss, to write a film treatment. In 1985, Kubrick asked Steven Spielberg to direct the film, with Kubrick producing. Warner Bros. agreed to co-finance A.I. and cover distribution duties. The film labored in development hell, and Aldiss was fired by Kubrick over creative differences in 1989. Bob Shaw served as writer very briefly, leaving after six weeks because of Kubrick’s demanding work schedule, and Ian Watson was hired as the new writer in March 1990. Aldiss later remarked, “Not only did the bastard fire me, he hired my enemy [Watson] instead.” Kubrick handed Watson The Adventures of Pinocchio for inspiration, calling A.I. “a picaresque robot version of Pinocchio”.
Three weeks later Watson gave Kubrick his first story treatment, and concluded his work on A.I. in May 1991 with another treatment, at 90 pages. Gigolo Joe was originally conceived as a G.I. Mecha, but Watson suggested changing him to a male prostitute. Kubrick joked, “I guess we lost the kiddie market.” In the meantime, Kubrick dropped A.I. to work on a film adaptation of Wartime Lies, feeling computer animation was not advanced enough to create the David character. However, after the release of Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (with its innovative use of computer-generated imagery), it was announced in November 1993 that production would begin in 1994. Dennis Muren and Ned Gorman, who worked on Jurassic Park, became visual effects supervisors, but Kubrick was displeased with their previsualization, and with the expense of hiring Industrial Light & Magic.
Stanley [Kubrick] showed Steven [Spielberg] 650 drawings which he had, and the script and the story, everything. Stanley said, “Look, why don’t you direct it and I’ll produce it.” Steven was almost in shock.
Producer Jan Harlan, on Spielberg’s first meeting with Kubrick about A.I.
In early 1994, the film was in pre-production with Christopher “Fangorn” Baker as concept artist, and Sara Maitland assisting on the story, which gave it “a feminist fairy-tale focus”. Maitland said that Kubrick never referred to the film as A.I., but as Pinocchio. Chris Cunningham became the new visual effects supervisor. Some of his unproduced work for A.I. can be seen on the DVD, The Work of Director Chris Cunningham. Aside from considering computer animation, Kubrick also had Joseph Mazzello do a screen test for the lead role. Cunningham helped assemble a series of “little robot-type humans” for the David character. “We tried to construct a little boy with a movable rubber face to see whether we could make it look appealing,” producer Jan Harlan reflected. “But it was a total failure, it looked awful.” Hans Moravec was brought in as a technical consultant.Meanwhile, Kubrick and Harlan thought A.I. would be closer to Steven Spielberg’s sensibilities as director. Kubrick handed the position to Spielberg in 1995, but Spielberg chose to direct other projects, and convinced Kubrick to remain as director. The film was put on hold due to Kubrick’s commitment to Eyes Wide Shut (1999). After the filmmaker’s death in March 1999, Harlan and Christiane Kubrick approached Spielberg to take over the director’s position. By November 1999, Spielberg was writing the screenplay based on Watson’s 90-page story treatment. It was his first solo screenplay credit since Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). Spielberg remained close to Watson’s treatment, but removed various sex scenes with Gigolo Joe. Pre-production was briefly halted during February 2000, because Spielberg pondered directing other projects, which were Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Minority Report and Memoirs of a Geisha. The following month Spielberg announced that A.I. would be his next project, with Minority Report as a follow-up. When he decided to fast track A.I., Spielberg brought Chris Baker back as concept artist.
The original start date was July 10, 2000, but filming was delayed until August. Aside from a couple of weeks shooting on location in Oxbow Regional Park in Oregon, A.I. was shot entirely using sound stages at Warner Bros. Studios and the Spruce Goose Dome in Long Beach, California.The Swinton house was constructed on Stage 16, while Stage 20 was used for Rouge City and other sets. Spielberg copied Kubrick’s obsessively secretive approach to filmmaking by refusing to give the complete script to cast and crew, banning press from the set, and making actors sign confidentiality agreements. Social robotics expert Cynthia Breazeal served as technical consultant during production. Haley Joel Osment and Jude Law applied prosthetic makeup daily in an attempt to look shinier and robotic. Costume designer Bob Ringwood (Batman, Troy) studied pedestrians on the Las Vegas Strip for his influence on the Rouge City extras. Spielberg found post-production on A.I. difficult because he was simultaneously preparing to shoot Minority Report.
The film’s soundtrack was released by Warner Sunset Records in 2001. The original score was composed and conducted by John Williams and featured singers Lara Fabian on two songs and Josh Groban on one. The film’s score also had a limited release as an official “For your consideration Academy Promo”, as well as a complete score issue by La-La Land Records in 2015. The band Ministry appears in the film playing the song “What About Us?” (but the song does not appear on the official soundtrack album).
Warner Bros. used an alternate reality game titled The Beast to promote the film. Over forty websites were created by Atomic Pictures in New York City (kept online at Cloudmakers.org) including the website for Cybertronics Corp. There were to be a series of video games for the Xbox video game console that followed the storyline of The Beast, but they went undeveloped. To avoid audiences mistaking A.I. for a family film, no action figures were created, although Hasbro released a talking Teddy following the film’s release in June 2001.
A.I. had its premiere at the Venice Film Festival in 2001.
A.I. Artificial Intelligence was released on VHS and DVD by Warner Home Video on March 5, 2002 in both a standard full-screen release with no bonus features, and as a 2-Disc Special Edition featuring the film in its original 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen format as well as an eight-part documentary detailing the film’s development, production, music and visual effects. The bonus features also included interviews with Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O’Connor, Steven Spielberg and John Williams, two teaser trailers for the film’s original theatrical release and an extensive photo gallery featuring production sills and Stanley Kubrick’s original storyboards.
The film was released on Blu-ray Disc on April 5, 2011 by Paramount Home Media Distribution for the U.S. and by Warner Home Video for international markets. This release featured the film a newly restored high-definition print and incorporated all the bonus features previously included on the 2-Disc Special Edition DVD.
The film opened in 3,242 theaters in the United States on June 29, 2001, earning $29,352,630 during its opening weekend. A.I went on to gross $78.62 million in US totals as well as $157.31 million in foreign countries, coming to a worldwide total of $235.93 million.
Based on 192 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, 73% of critics gave the film positive notices with a score of 6.6/10. The website’s critical consensus reads, “A curious, not always seamless, amalgamation of Kubrick’s chilly bleakness and Spielberg’s warm-hearted optimism. A.I. is, in a word, fascinating.” By comparison, Metacritic collected an average score of 65, based on 32 reviews, which is considered favorable.
Producer Jan Harlan stated that Kubrick “would have applauded” the final film, while Kubrick’s widow Christiane also enjoyed A.I. Brian Aldiss admired the film as well: “I thought what an inventive, intriguing, ingenious, involving film this was. There are flaws in it and I suppose I might have a personal quibble but it’s so long since I wrote it.” Of the film’s ending, he wondered how it might have been had Kubrick directed the film: “That is one of the ‘ifs’ of film historyat least the ending indicates Spielberg adding some sugar to Kubrick’s wine. The actual ending is overly sympathetic and moreover rather overtly engineered by a plot device that does not really bear credence. But it’s a brilliant piece of film and of course it’s a phenomenon because it contains the energies and talents of two brilliant filmmakers.” Richard Corliss heavily praised Spielberg’s direction, as well as the cast and visual effects. Roger Ebert gave the film three stars, saying that it was “wonderful and maddening.” Leonard Maltin, on the other hand, gives the film two stars out of four in his Movie Guide, writing: “[The] intriguing story draws us in, thanks in part to Osment’s exceptional performance, but takes several wrong turns; ultimately, it just doesn’t work. Spielberg rewrote the adaptation Stanley Kubrick commissioned of the Brian Aldiss short story ‘Super Toys Last All Summer Long’; [the] result is a curious and uncomfortable hybrid of Kubrick and Spielberg sensibilities.” However, he calls John Williams’ music score “striking”. Jonathan Rosenbaum compared A.I. to Solaris (1972), and praised both “Kubrick for proposing that Spielberg direct the project and Spielberg for doing his utmost to respect Kubrick’s intentions while making it a profoundly personal work.” Film critic Armond White, of the New York Press, praised the film noting that “each part of Davids journey through carnal and sexual universes into the final eschatological devastation becomes as profoundly philosophical and contemplative as anything by cinemas most thoughtful, speculative artists Borzage, Ozu, Demy, Tarkovsky.” Filmmaker Billy Wilder hailed A.I. as “the most underrated film of the past few years.” When British filmmaker Ken Russell saw the film, he wept during the ending.
Mick LaSalle gave a largely negative review. “A.I. exhibits all its creators’ bad traits and none of the good. So we end up with the structureless, meandering, slow-motion endlessness of Kubrick combined with the fuzzy, cuddly mindlessness of Spielberg.” Dubbing it Spielberg’s “first boring movie”, LaSalle also believed the robots at the end of the film were aliens, and compared Gigolo Joe to the “useless” Jar Jar Binks, yet praised Robin Williams for his portrayal of a futuristic Albert Einstein.[not in citation given] Peter Travers gave a mixed review, concluding “Spielberg cannot live up to Kubrick’s darker side of the future.” But he still put the film on his top ten list that year for best movies. David Denby in The New Yorker criticized A.I. for not adhering closely to his concept of the Pinocchio character. Spielberg responded to some of the criticisms of the film, stating that many of the “so called sentimental” elements of A.I., including the ending, were in fact Kubrick’s and the darker elements were his own. However, Sara Maitland, who worked on the project with Kubrick in the 1990s, claimed that one of the reasons Kubrick never started production on A.I. was because he had a hard time making the ending work. James Berardinelli found the film “consistently involving, with moments of near-brilliance, but far from a masterpiece. In fact, as the long-awaited ‘collaboration’ of Kubrick and Spielberg, it ranks as something of a disappointment.” Of the film’s highly debated finale, he claimed, “There is no doubt that the concluding 30 minutes are all Spielberg; the outstanding question is where Kubrick’s vision left off and Spielberg’s began.”
Screenwriter Ian Watson has speculated, “Worldwide, A.I. was very successful (and the 4th highest earner of the year) but it didn’t do quite so well in America, because the film, so I’m told, was too poetical and intellectual in general for American tastes. Plus, quite a few critics in America misunderstood the film, thinking for instance that the Giacometti-style beings in the final 20 minutes were aliens (whereas they were robots of the future who had evolved themselves from the robots in the earlier part of the film) and also thinking that the final 20 minutes were a sentimental addition by Spielberg, whereas those scenes were exactly what I wrote for Stanley and exactly what he wanted, filmed faithfully by Spielberg.”
In 2002, Spielberg told film critic Joe Leydon that “People pretend to think they know Stanley Kubrick, and think they know me, when most of them don’t know either of us”. “And what’s really funny about that is, all the parts of A.I. that people assume were Stanley’s were mine. And all the parts of A.I. that people accuse me of sweetening and softening and sentimentalizing were all Stanley’s. The teddy bear was Stanley’s. The whole last 20 minutes of the movie was completely Stanley’s. The whole first 35, 40 minutes of the film all the stuff in the house was word for word, from Stanley’s screenplay. This was Stanley’s vision.” “Eighty percent of the critics got it all mixed up. But I could see why. Because, obviously, I’ve done a lot of movies where people have cried and have been sentimental. And I’ve been accused of sentimentalizing hard-core material. But in fact it was Stanley who did the sweetest parts of A.I., not me. I’m the guy who did the dark center of the movie, with the Flesh Fair and everything else. That’s why he wanted me to make the movie in the first place. He said, ‘This is much closer to your sensibilities than my own.'”
Upon rewatching the film many years after its release, BBC film critic Mark Kermode apologized to Spielberg in an interview in January 2013 for “getting it wrong” on the film when he first viewed it in 2001. He now believes the film to be Spielberg’s “enduring masterpiece”.
Visual effects supervisors Dennis Muren, Stan Winston, Michael Lantieri and Scott Farrar were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, while John Williams was nominated for Best Original Music Score. Steven Spielberg, Jude Law and Williams received nominations at the 59th Golden Globe Awards. A.I. was successful at the Saturn Awards, winning five awards, including Best Science Fiction Film along with Best Writing for Spielberg and Best Performance by a Younger Actor for Osment.
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