A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (WIDESCREEN)
Reviewed February 14th, 2002 by Dan Jones
I must admit, I went into A.I. with very high expectations. Here is a story that Stanley Kubrick himself could never really fully visualize enough to complete work on it, in the hands of one of Hollywood’s best directors, Steven Spielberg.
A.I. is a relatively simple story, but is a story that is put to film in an incredible way. In the not to distant future scientists are able to create extremely complex robots which are equipped with full artificial intelligence. These machines, which are created in the image of man, are almost undetectable from their human counterparts, but have never really taken to the extent that is introduced in the film: to build a robot child that is capable of love, and moreover, one that believes it is a normal boy. This robot would be most needed with parents whom have lost a child, or ones whom are incapable of having their own. This child would be completely lifelike (except for the fact that it cannot do all human things, eat, sleep, etc...), and would actually require and love his or her parents genuinely and completely.
David, played extraordinarily well by Haley Joel Osment is the first of these robot children, and is given to a family in need of his services (essentially a family that seems to have lost their son). Nevertheless, when humans begin playing God, things rarely go as planned... Without saying anymore of the plot, I’ll say that the movie proceeds fairly swiftly even given its somewhat lengthy runtime of 145 minutes and does have some very nice twists on its way. Whereas many people found this film to be a disappointment, I found it to be quite intriguing and overall very solid work by Mr. Spielberg. The acting is very good, with standout roles from the aforementioned Osment and “Gigolo Joe” Jude Law, oh and “Teddy” was super cool (I have to get one of those). The movie is overall quite breathtaking; no doubt a factor of its exorbitant budget along with the vast experience of Spielberg. And, rest assured, the twin towers have not been digitally removed from the DVD release.
After seeing A.I. in theaters, I had a couple thoughts on it. First off, like I said, I truly enjoyed the film; I did not quite know the entire story behind it, other then that there was a robot boy, who has been programmed to love, but did enjoy the unexpected path I was taken on. The one thing I stood out tremendously for me was the almost double ending to the film; where I got the sense Kubrick wanted it to end, but Spielberg was unsatisfied with. I will not go into the ending, as to not spoil the story for first time viewers, but I think it will be quite obvious to see what I’m talking about. Whether or not this Spielberg extended ending was even needed in order to bring closure to what the audience is supposed to take away from the film is up in the air. I personally believe that the original ending would have made for a deeper, darker film (and in my opinion, a better film), and one that probably would have been even more disliked by those that do not really appreciate endings not spelled out for them (and moreover by those that did not even like the film as it stands). However, the ending we are given is quite interesting, and overall, acceptable.
A.I. has definitely been a long awaited DVD, and what we have been given truly does not disappoint. DreamWorks has provided us with a substantial two-disc special edition, released in two versions, the widescreen version I have before me, and the stay away at all costs pan and scan version. Choose wisely. One thing, I guess I wish DreamWorks would have stuck with the original poster art for the DVD cover, as I believe it would have looked better, more mysterious maybe. But alas, I am not a marketing major.
Video wise, this release of A.I. is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Overall, this transfer is extremely good showing no signs of dirt, grain, or scratches. The image shows good detail throughout, suffering from only minimal softness. There is little to no edge enhancement noticeable, nor compression artifacting. Even for the somewhat odd, demanding color palette used in A.I., the colors are very rich and vibrant without any bleeding or saturation problems. This is truly an impressive transfer from DreamWorks and hopefully will be signs of things to come.
Audio wise, A.I. is given the works, with a Dolby Digital Surround EX and a quasi-6.1 DTS ES matrix. Both tracks are extremely good, showing great detail and imaging all around the viewer. This is definitely a track to show the friends, with expansive surround elements and movement in all directions. As to which track is stronger, if I had to choose I would go with the DTS track, if for nothing more then being overall a bit more detailed and cleaner. If you do not have DTS, don’t fret, both tracks are exceptional. Rounding it out we have a Dolby Digital 5.1 French track, a 2.0 English track, French and Spanish subtitles, and English captions.
For extras, we get quite the treatment. Disc one contains only one extra, “Creating A.I.” which is a relatively short featurette, running about eleven minutes, which gives us some insight into the story, as well as Spielberg’s reaction to the idea and his brainstorming with Stanley Kubrick.
As for disc two, starting it off we have “Acting A.I.” which gives us a look at David’s character and Gigolo Joe’s character. We get some insight from the respective actors on how they looked at their parts... and we get to see how the infamous Teddy works. Next, we have “Designing A.I.” which gives us a look at conceptual drawings and costuming. Next, we have “Lighting A.I” which deals with just that.
For information on the robots that were designed for A.I., we have the featurette “The Robots of A.I.” Here we get some insight by the legendary Stan Winston how he went about doing what we see on screen. Interesting stuff.
“Special Effects” and “Special Visual Effects and Animation” gives us a look at just that, the special effects that went into the film. Definitely worth a watch. “The Sound and Music of A.I.” gives us an interview with Sound Designer Gary Rydstrom, another nice featurette. Finally, Spielberg gives us some insight into “The Responsibilities of A.I.”, and his thoughts on playing God.
Rounding it out we have cast bios and filmographies, production notes and storyboards, behind the scenes photos, and the theatrical trailer. LOTS of extras, no? Sure, a commentary track would have been nice, but we should all know by now that that’s not really Spielberg’s cup of tea.
Overall, A.I. is a very good film. It’s not Spielberg’s best, but it is definitely worth a watch for any fan of film. The setting Spielberg has created is expansive and breathtaking, the acting is quite good, and the story is one that might just apply to our future. This special edition DVD does a tremendous job of bringing the film to the format with a great video transfer, exceptional sound and a ton of extras. Highly recommended.
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