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  • A.I. Artificial Intelligence dir. by Steven Spielberg
  • Rodney Hill
A.I. Artificial Intelligence ( 2001) Directed by Steven Spielberg Produced by Warner Bros. / Dreamworks SKG / Amblin Entertainment / Stanley Kubrick Productions Distributed by Warner Bros., 146 minutes

Based on the short story "Supertoys Last All Summer Long," by Brian Aldiss, A.I. Artificial Intelligence was conceived as a film project by the legendary producer-director Stanley Kubrick but was eventually realized after his death by his friend Steven Spielberg. Both the story and the film deal with an android "boy" and his human "mother"; but Aldiss's story takes an overtly political tack—emphasizing the ironically dehumanizing aspects of technological advancements by way of the mother's lonely, isolated existence—while Spielberg's film offers up a Freudian drama, centering on the robot boy and his quest for a loving relationship with the mother. Drawing (in no small measure) from Kubrick's own interests in Freudian and Jungian psychology, A.I. Artificial Intelligence has a clear mythological dimension dealing with what it means to be "real"—i.e., what it means to be human.

When Kubrick purchased the rights to "Supertoys," he also brought Aldiss on board as a collaborator to develop the screenplay. On their first day of working together, he gave Aldiss a copy of Collodi's Pinocchio to read (Castle, 505), but Aldiss says that he "could not or would not see the parallels" between the two stories—a source of disagreement that ultimately ended their working relationship, albeit amicably. Over the next few years, Kubrick worked with a series of collaborators, including Bob Shaw, science fiction writer Ian Watson (who is credited in the film with the 'Screen Story'), Sara Maitland, and even Arthur C. Clarke. By May of 1994, Kubrick had compiled an 87-page treatment with some of his own additions and commenced pre-production on the project.

Also in 1994, Kubrick approached his friend Steven Spielberg about the possibility of their making the film together, with Kubrick as producer and Spielberg as director. Kubrick reasoned that Spielberg tended to work more quickly and thus could avoid the problem of having a child actor age noticeably over the course of the production, but perhaps more importantly, Kubrick found Spielberg's artistic sensibilities better suited to the project. Spielberg declined. After Kubrick's death in 1999, Jan Harlan and Christiane Kubrick again approached Spielberg, who at that point agreed to direct the film as a tribute to Stanley Kubrick.

Spielberg's film opens with an image of devastation (and a potent symbol of the unconscious): the churning seas that have engulfed the world's coastal cities in the aftermath of the melting of the polar ice caps. A voice-over narrator (Ben Kingsley) articulates some of the same problems addressed in Aldiss's short stories: pollution, starvation, overpopulation, and the Orwellian licensing of pregnancy.

In the film's first proper scene, Professor Allen Hobby (William Hurt), head of Cybertronics Corporation (makers of servant-class androids who have the full appearance of humans), announces his intention to produce a new generation of robots, giving them the capacity to love. To test this new product line, Hobby selects one of his mid-level employees, Henry Swinton (Sam Robards), and his wife Monica (Frances O'Connor) to receive a prototype android, David (Haley Joel Osment), designed to resemble an 11-year-old boy. The Swintons seem the ideal candidates, as their biological son, Martin (Jake Thomas), has been placed in cryogenic hibernation awaiting treatment for an as-yet incurable ailment.

After a difficult period of adjustment, Monica accepts the idea of having an artificial "son" and "imprints" David using a series of words (provided by Cybertronics) that permanently bonds David to her emotionally. Shortly afterward, though, Martin's condition [End Page 121] improves unexpectedly, and he returns home. Now superfluous at best, David comes to be regarded as a potential threat to the Swinton family's reconstitution. Unable to bear the thought of David being disassembled, Monica abandons him in the woods, with Teddy (voiced by Jack Angel), an old android toy of Martin's, his only companion.

David and Teddy narrowly escape a...


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