Robots Redux: A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

By Tibbetts, John C. | Literature/Film Quarterly, January 1, 2001 | Go to article overview
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Robots Redux: A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

Tibbetts, John C., Literature/Film Quarterly

An Amblin Production. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg, and Bonnie Curtis. Executive Producers: Jan Harlan and Walter F Parkes. Screenplay by Steven Spielberg, based on a screen story by Ian Watson and the short story, "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long," by Brian Aldiss. Cinematography by Janusz Kaminski. Edited by Michael Kahn. Production Design by Rick Carter and Bob Ringwood. Musical Score by John Williams. Visual Effects by Dennis Muren and Scott Farrar of Industrial & Magic. Creature/Makeup Effects by Stan Winston. Cast: Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O'Connor, Sam Robards, Brendan Gleeson, and William Hurt. Distributed by Warner Bros./ DreamWorks.


In the world of the near future, the greenhouse effect has melted the ice caps and submerged many coastal cities, including New York. Although natural resources are limited, technology has advanced rapidly to serve the reduced population. In particular, robotic sciences are producing appliances that serve every human need. Machines clean the house, tend the garden, babysit the kids, even provide sexual satisfaction for lonely men and women. Yet, no matter how sophisticated these synthetic creatures are, they do not have feelings. In an attempt to correct this failing, robotics scientist Professor Hobby (William Hurt) of Cybertronics Manufacturing devises "David," an eight-year old robot, a "mecha," the first robot that can do something no artificial life form has ever been capable of doing-of experiencing love, and, hence, of being able to speculate, to dream. David comes to Henry and Monica Swinton (Sam Robards and Frances O'Connor), who are facing the seeming loss of their cryogenically frozen, terminally-ill son, Martin.

But no sooner do David and his "parents" try to adjust to each other, than Martin is resuscitated and reunited with the family. Frictions immediately develop as Martin teases and taunts his robot "step-brother." When David seems unable to blend in with the family, Monica abandons him in the woods and tells him to wander out into the world and not come back. David is convinced that if only he can seek out the Blue Fairy and become "a real boy" (he's by now familiar with the story of Pinocchio's transformation into a real boy with the assistance of the Blue Fairy), he can return and earn his mother's love.

Several adventures await the young vagabond. He is captured by a robot hunter named Lord Johnson-Johnson (Brendan Gleeson) and taken to a "Flesh Fair," where spectator-- filled bleachers cheer on the ritualized destruction of discarded robots. But when these latter-day Luddites mistake David's pleas for help as coming from a real boy, they demand his release. David and his new friend, Joe (Jude Law), a "lover" robot-read that, gigolo robot-flee the area. Anxious for information about the whereabouts of the "Blue Fairy," David persuades Joe to take him to "Rouge City," a frenzied, neon pleasure palace, where they consult an electronic oracle named "Dr. Know" (the voice of Robin Williams). Armed with information about her whereabouts, they head for the "city at the end of the world where the lions weep." That destination turns out to be a ravaged, deserted, half-submerged Manhattan. There David meets Professor Hobby, his maker. Hobby praises David's unusual "human" abilities and explains that he is manufacturing a new line of duplicate "David" robot models-all designed to bring love to childless families. David is horrified and in a Luddite frenzy of his own destroys one of them, by now aware that he is hardly the unique creation he had supposed himself to be.

Fleeing in an amphibious helicopter, David and his Teddy bear plunge into the watery depths surrounding Manhattan. Deep, deeper they go. Finally, ahead, he sees the remains of a sunken Coney Island. And there, farther along, is a Pinocchio exhibit, complete with a Blue Fairy-or, at least, the statue of one.

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