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Artificial Intelligence

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"The Misunderstood 

A.I. Artificial Intelligence


      A.I. Artificial Intelligence suffered from the film's history. It was based on the innocuous Brian W. Aldiss short story "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long" which didn't seem to have the substance of a feature-length film. The story was commissioned by Stanley Kubrick who as everyone knows wanted Steven Spielberg to make the film which was like Sydney Pollack (re)making a Billy Wilder film; the clash of disparate artistic sensibilities seemed unlikely and destined for failure. Critics who claimed to enjoy the film probably did so with respect to the memory of the late Stanley Kubrick. The film also had three so-called acts that were not only self-consciously distracting, but the last two seemed out of place in the development of a child and a nightmarish version of a tale by Walt Disney for whom Spielberg has affection. There was, in short, ample reason to dislike the film.       
      Like HookA.I. is a film with parental neglect as its subject matter. However, the story focuses on the child rather than the derelict parent who needs to reconnect with his offspring. A.I. has more psychological depth than Hook and makes a more important statement: It is a film about the importance of love in the early stages of child-parent relationship. Absence of love will result in a lifelong search for it - a journey which is childish, unreal, fairy talish, idealistic, and ultimately futile; it is a search which traps him emotionally. Spielberg who is credited as screenwriter uses metaphors to get these messages across.
      Neglect of responsibility is demonstrated in the film's set-up. The story is set in the future when the human race has been derelict in doing what us necessary to ensure the future of the planet. Global warming has been ignored and taken its toll. The ice caps have melted and flooded most of the planet. Coldness (which applies to the ice caps and the fate of the film's main character David when he is rescued by space aliens at the end of the story) are metaphors for the characters. While science did not make an impact on solving the global warming problem, it has assisted mankind in the more selfish pursuits of its own pleasure - building robots to serve them. As the story begins, Professor Allen Hobby from Cybertronics has given his staff the assignment of creating a robot that will love, a key word that is used in dialogue on 46 occasions, found on numerous occasions in David's writings, written on the boxes on David replicas ("At last - a love of your own"), and appears in the trailer for the film ("His love is real. But he is not."). When one asks what responsibility does the owner of a mechanical being or Mecha have, Hobby answers with a question: " .... in the beginning, didn't God create Adam to love him?"
      As it will be later revealed, Hobby's interest in child Mechas is a personal one. He suffered the loss of a child and the prototype will be in the image of his departed David. The family who are chosen to be the first recipient of a child Mecha is the Swintons: Henry and his grief-stricken wife Monica whose only son Martin lies comatose in a hospital and seems unlikely to be revived. Henry takes it upon himself to bring David home with him much to the chagrin of Monica who feels it is blasphemy to transfer her affection to a Mecha.
      While Monica does not ask Henry to return David, she has him around. Her initial objection to his presence and her attempts to avoid him (in one instant borderline sadistic when she places him in a closet after he imposes his presence upon her) foreshadows her later disconnection from him. Meanwhile, he grows on her and wins his way into her heart. She takes the final irreversible step to have David into her life by placing her hand on his body part andhaving him repeat a pattern of words. To her joy, he calls her "Mommy" and the mother-child connection is complete.
      Martin's unexpected miraculous recovery is the beginning of the end of David's connection with the Swintons. Martin returning home in a wheelchair and graduating to leg braces before he can finally walk unimpeded is a metaphor for the emotional cripple that he is. His "torturing" his super-robot Teddy foreshadows what he will do to David. Martin asks David to break a toy knowing that this will alarm his parents. When this strategy fails, Martin goads David to eat real food at the dining room table causing David to malfunction and sending him to the operating room. Martin then asks David to get a lock of Monica's hair while she is sleeping. Both Henry and Monica rudely awaken as David snips a lock. But the presence of him in their room with a pair of scissors in his hands spells menace. In the final example, David is being tortured by Martin's friends (one adopting a fake German accent) and David seeks the protection of Martin and unfortunately sending both of them to the bottom of the swimming pool.
      Teddy serves many purposes in the story. Teddy is retrieved from the closet by Monica to serve as David's companion. Teddy is like the toy or stuffed animal that a child is given as a substitute for human companionship. Teddy has been in the closet because he has outlasted his usefulness with Martin who deems him "old and stupid" which foreshadows David's fate.
      Abandonment is foreshadowed metaphorically in other scenes. In the opening scene, the narrator informs us that "millions of people were displaced" from the global warming crisis. As David surveys family photographs, the image of his reflection is projected on that of Henry, Monica, and Martin; however, as he moves to the next photo, his image disappears because he is not a permanent member of the family. During David's operation, Monica holds his hand until he informs her that the medical procedure does not hurt, and she walks away from him to conceal her pain. After Martin is rescued, David lies helplessly at the bottom of the pool, and as the camera pulls away, it seems as if David is alone.
      David's inability to be accepted by Martin and the misperception that he is threat prompts Monica to remove David from their household. Informed earlier that, if a problem arises, Mecha children must be returned to the factory where they will be destroyed, Monica decides to send David on his not-so-merry way instead. David pleading for acceptance is heartbreaking especially since his speech is filled with needless self-recriminations. 

       I'm sorry I broke myself. I'm so sorry I cut 
       you hair off and I'm so sorry I hurt you and 
       I hurt Martin .... Mommy, if Pinocchio became 
       a real boy and I become a real boy, can I come 
       home? .... Why do you wanna leave me? Why do 
       you wanna leave me? I'm sorry I'm not real. 
       If you let me, I'll be so real for you. 

       The Mecha child as a metaphor for a real child is evident in many ways. Cybertronics is like an adoption agency that brings children into households. While David is brought into the household to assuage the mother's feelings of grief for her absentee son, it is not unlikely that some women have children to cope with feelings of loneliness. David, as played by Academy Award nominee Haley Joel Osment), has all the sensitivity of a real human being. Monica describes David as a "gift" from him - a word not uncommonly used to describe a child. Father do not often connect with their sons: Henry does not do what is necessary to emotionally bond with David. Martin's dislike for David is the equivalent of sibling rivalry in which the older child resents the presence of a new addition to the family. David, like a real child, blames himself when a separation, of sorts, occurs. Like Mecha children, real children are often denied of parental love or worse abandoned and those children will later journey to reconnect with his biological parents.
      The setting abruptly changes to a seedy hotel room where a Mecha lover named Gigolo Joe is seduced a client who is filled with fear after being subjected to abuse. Joe promises her bliss with sentiments that raise her self-esteem ("You are a goddess"). Joe's love is physical in nature, but this form of love can never be a substitute to someone who is emotionally scarred. Spielberg seems to be saying that low self esteem stems from childhood problems, and sex is a temporary balm but it is ineffective as a lasting healing agent. And the futility is illustrated when a sexual liaison is the catalysis for Joe's demise.
      Both Joe and David are cast into the cold cruel world. They head in the same direction when they become fugitives. They meet at a place where abandoned Mechas hide, but they are rounded up at a Flesh Fair for the amusement of those who want to see them torn apart. Of all the Mechas who have been displaced, the nanny is the most significant because, by definition, she is the caretaker of children; and parents hire nannies because they do not want to do the job required in a parent/child relationship. When David elicits the sympathy of the audience, he is released with Gigolo Joe in tow who becomes his surrogate father as he assists David in his quest. And David's quest is to find a character (the Blue Fairy) from a book (Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi) that Monica read to him so that he, like Pinocchio, can became real boy and thereby be accepted by Monica whom he refers to as his mother.
      The sex as substitute for affection occurs again. Joe, who reasons that if the Blue Fairy is a female, must be in the seedy area known as Rouge City which looks like a fantasy place for the sexually depraved. To get to Rouge City, he enlists the assistance of motorists whom he tempts with the promise of pleasure. Before cars enter the city, they have to drive across a bridge and through the opening of the opening mouth of the artificial head of a woman which is an allusion to oral sex. Inside the city are buildings in the shapes of women in various sexual-style positions. David sojourn there to provide another link in his journey also suggests the temporary relief of sex.
      Gigolo Joe cautions David about the nature of love: 

      [Your mother] loves what you do for her, as 
       my customers love what I do for them. But 
       she does not love you, David. She cannot 
       love you. You are neither flesh nor blood. 
       You are not a dog or a cat or a canary .... 
       And you are alone now only because they 
       tired of you or replaced you with a younger 
       model or were displeased with something you 
       said or broke. 

In the end, David travels to, what is described as, "the end of the world" to reconnect with his mother or at least a facsimile of her. He can only spend one day with her, but it is enough to give him emotional closure which is where the story ends. 
      Spielberg uses metaphors to make statements about David's journey. It being childish is evident with David being the age of a child. It being unreal is evident with the use of the word "real" (on 37 occasions) to suggest the opposite; also what isn't real are the moon which is a flying balloon, the hologram of the exotic dancer which emanates from an instrument that David Joe demonstrates to motorists and the hologram of Dr. Know, and the experience David has in the artificially recreated home where the Blue Fairy is actually an alien at the end of the story. It being a fairy tale is evident with the use of the phrase (8 occasions) and allusions to Pinocchio. Idealism is evident in the final scene everything works out well without the distracting presence of Martin and Henry: His mother admits her love for him ("I love you, David. I do love you. I have always loved you") which are fittingly her final words to him. His journey's ultimate futility is evident in the bleak destiny of the characters especially David wishing to be reunited with his mother two thousand years too late.

      Spielberg incorporates other metaphors into the film with patterns that indicate traps, down movement, and circles. 
      David's search for wanting to be loved and accepted traps him emotionally. When the ferris wheel falls atop the amphibicopter, Teddy informs David: "We are in a cage." The narrator explains: " .... the ice encased the caged amphibicopter and the Blue Fairy too ...." One alien explains the situation with the amphibicopter: "This machine was trapped under the wreckage before the freezing." The following are actually trapped:


        Sheila's hand by Professor Allen before 
        he stabs her. 
        Martin is encased in a glass-enclosed hospital bed. 
        Teddy in a box in the closet. Martin in a wheelchair. 
        Teddy in his loyalty to Martin and David. Monica is bed 
        with David above her with scissors. David in Henry's hands 
        as he is shaken. David surrounded by bullies and a boy 
        holding a knife. Martin by David who holds onto him for 
        protection. Gigolo Joe in the room with a dead body. 
        Mechas are stalked by bikers and are captured by a net; 
        one is magnetized to metal. Joe in the gondola cage. 
        Teddy in a box in Lost and Found. Mechas by workers at 
        Flesh Fair. Mecha victim in cannon. Mechas in cage. 
        Lord Johnson-Johnson by the hostile audience. Joe by 
        the police. David and Teddy in the amphibicopter.

The following suggests traps because of the framing of the shot: 

        Monica and Henry in their car. David when he first appears 
        as a shadow in the elevator. David behind the door in 
        Martin's bedroom. The reflection of Monica in the lid of 
        the coffee jar. David in the closet. Monica in the bathroom. 
        David is framed in the overhead dining room light. David 
        and Monica in Martin's bed. Monica's image in her table 
        mirror. Martin and Monica in bed. David surrounded by 
        doctors in the operating room. Monica and David in car. 
        Image of David in the side-view mirror of the car. David 
        and Joe in the amphibicopter. David behind the mask in 
        Hobby's workshop. Monica and David hiding from Teddy in 
        the closet. 

David's journey takes him in a downhill direction. Downward movement is suggested by the following:

underground cities in water; Henry, Monica, and David walk 
down stairs; Teddy is taken from the top closet shelf and 
placed on the floor, Martin and David fall to the bottom
of the pool where rescuers dive; robot parts are dumped on 
the ground from a truck; Teddy falls from the gondola to
the ground; severed head of comedian (Chris Rock) moves 
down the cage; Teddy drops from the table to the ground;
acid falls onto nanny; water pouring from the lions' mouths, 
David jumps from the top of a building into the water below; 
Gigolo Joe programs the amphibicopter to "submerge", the amphibicopter descends to the bottom of the water; the 
ferris wheel falls atop the amphibicopter , the pieces 
of the shattered Blue Fairy statue fall to the ground 
David's world is shattered when he is abandoned. Martin asks David to "break" a toy. As David begins to eat real food, Teddy warns David: "You will break." Monica screams at Henry when he shakes David: "Don't break him!" David apologizes to Monica: "I'm sorry I broke myself!" Teddy says to David before he falls: "I'll break, David." Lord Johnson-Johnson informs his audience: " .... You will see the big lie come apart before your very eyes." Amanda's father tells workers at Flesh Fair: "Get him out of there before they tear this place apart." A colleague informs Professor Hobby that David has been located and is safe: "He's in one piece." The following also shows breakage: 
• The face of Sheila, Mecha secretary, breaks apart. 
• Robots are destroyed at Flesh Fair. 
• The top of a broken building in Manhattan lies on its side. 
• David smashes his look-alike and the glass table where he sits. 
• The alien space ship separates. 
• The Blue Fairy shatters.

Circles suggest David's desire to be reunited with his mother and his futility of going nowhere. Circles are evident with the following:

• the shape of the following belonging to the Swintons':
the back wheel of a car, the tea container opening, 
the overhead light above the table and the table, the table 
mirror in the bedroom, table space in the kitchen, wheels and 
head rest on Martin's wheelchair, the cushion, white face on 
the side of the bed, and floor mat in Martin's room, volleyball 
in pool, window above David's bed, car door side mirror 
• the shape of the mirror in Gigolo Joe's hand, Mecha's replaced 
eye, the "moon"/gondola, magnet shot by "hounds" on motorbikes, 
• the following at Flesh Fair: orb on the Flesh Fair sign, the 
cannon barrel, the flaming hoop, the fan, the wood where the 
nanny is scalded 
• the glasses frames below David's picture, the moon, the side of 
the chairs and the money machine in Dr. Know's consultation room, 
• the shape of the following in Professor Hobby's office: window on door and wall, the table, the overhead light, 
• the ferris wheel in the Theme Park, the birthday cake 
• the following which rotate: jar rack in the Swinton kitchen and Martin's pills tray; the "bondage" lights in Rouge City; the 
cosmos, the categories, and categories in Dr. Know's consultation 

      David unfortunately does not realize that the kindness of strangers can often substitute for that which is not provided by family. This gives meaning to the examples of characters helping others in the story. While David has been searching for love, he does not realize the help - a form of caring or love - that he has been receiving. Cybertronics assists parents who are grieving. Teddy acts as David's companion and spiritual guide. Doctors attend to David when his body has been contaminated. Rescuers save from drowning. Hotel manager Mr. Williamson warns Gigolo Joe of hunters. Teddy tells David to flee from hunters. A nanny asks David if he wants her to take care of him. At Flesh Fair, Amanda, her father, and the audience facilitate the release of David who takes Gigolo Joe with him. Gigolo Joe, in turn, assists David on his journey to find the Blue Fairy. Joe and David are assisted by motorists who are promised pleasure in Rouge City. Dr. Know, through the intervention of Professor Allen and his assistants eventually get David to connect with them. David rescues Joe from the police who arrest him. Joe rescues David after he jumps into the water. Aliens free David and assist him in finding closure. Teddy provides what David needs to have a facsimile of his mother created.
      Spielberg placing the American flag at Flesh Fair and presenting a bleak view of the future of this country at the story begins is making a statement about America. To reinforce the story's setting, he uses the colors of the American flag in the dialogue: white with "white hair" and "white elephant" ; blue with "Blue Fairy" (used on 31 occasions), "blue is the color of melancholy", "blue flowers", "blue hair"; and "Rouge" which is French for red [City] (on 4 occasions). 

      The DVD provides clues about Spielberg wanted to achieve in A.I. 
      On Disc 1, in "Creating AI", the film's executive producer and Stanley Kubrick's brother-in-law Jan Harlan notes: "In this society, we are confronted with the idea of programming a child robot so that he is able to love. This is the seed idea." Producer Kathleen Kennedy describes the film as "a fairy tale".
      On Disc 2, in "Special Effects", special effects supervisor Michael Lantieri remembers: 

       When Steven first talked to me about A.I.
       it was very, very secretive. No script. 
       Very little information. It was described 
       as a kind of a search for love using all 
       of the tools that the effects world might 

      In "The Robots of A.I.", director.producer/screenwriter Steven Spielberg states: "[Many Mechas] are worse for wear because of the fact that they have been abandoned by their owners. Turned loose."
      In "The Sound of A.I.", sound designer Gary Rydstrom describes the story as "a fable".
      In "The Music", composer John Williams philosophizes: 

       I think the thing's that unique about A.I.
       for me at least, is the essential spiritual 
       aspects of what it was examining. The idea 
       that to be able to love someone is the thing 
       that defines humanity in the end. 
      In "Closing Steven Spielberg Our Responsibility toArtificial Intelligence", Steven Spielberg's words apply not only to machines but to humans, as well: 

       .... it's what we project into mechanisms ... 
       into machines ... that's important . It's not
       so much that the machine can love us. It's how 
       much love do we invest back into it in return 
       .... [We have] to take responsibility for the 
       things that we put on this planet ....

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