Stanley Kubrick fans will remember the chilling scene toward the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey when the HAL 9000 computer tries to talk Dave Bowman out of de-activating him:
"I’m feeling much better now, Dave"
"Dave…stop. Stop, Dave"
We can feel the desperation of the computer suddenly gone mad, and we are there with both HAL and Dave desperate and alone millions of miles from Earth.
After being told by critics that in creating his latest film A.I., Steven Spielberg had somehow managed to "channel" Stanley Kubrick, who had worked on the idea for years, I was expecting a film containing something of at least approximate value to something like HAL’s death scene, but I was disappointed to find that I was sorely mistaken. What I did discover was a movie filled with global warming propaganda, one-dimensional characters, and tiresome attempts to compare conservative populists to Nazis.
The movie begins with a world flooded by melting ice caps that have flooded the world causing a population crisis that can only be solved through draconian government population controls. This set up is utterly unimportant to the film’s story in every way. It’s just kind of there and sticks out like some sort of tacky Greenpeace commercial.
Once you get past the lame set-up, the rest of the picture doesn’t shape up to be much better. It begins with a perfunctory relationship between the boy robot and his "mother" and after being abandoned by her, he moves on to form a shallow relationship with another robot who is being hunted down by a bunch of supposed right wing populists who are destroying unregistered and obsolete robots. The film never really tells us why these people are out to get robots, but we are supposed to see clearly that they are just mean futuristic fascists trying to oppress "people" different from themselves.
The robot pair finally escapes to now underwater New York City where we get to see an underwater shot of Radio City Music Hall and Coney Island while the boy, apparently undisturbed by his own abandonment, single-mindedly seeks reunification with his human mother. (These scenes are unimaginatively lifted from Kevin Costner’s Waterworld where familiar landmarks of Denver’s skyline are shown underwater courtesy of global warming.)
After a couple of hours, when the movie looks like it’s about over, it drags on for another 25 minutes so that a bunch of X-Files looking aliens (That’s right. Aliens!) can explain the whole movie to us and showcase how the human race has also managed to bring a global ice age upon itself in a mere two thousand years.
At no point in the movie is there any detailed conversation between man and robot, robot and robot, or man and man. The only clue we get that there are any problems between men and robots are those mean u2018ol fascists who can barely get in any lines anyway because the movie’s too busy trying to u2018wow’ the audience with various special effects and futuristic novelties.
If A.I. is supposed to be a film about humankind coping with its own robotic creations, someone should have told the filmmakers that this is a little hard to do when mankind is made mute throughout the entire picture. After the tortured explanation at the end of the film, the film emerges as little more than a vehicle for exhibiting the evils of right-wing populism and greenhouse gases with a trite tale about a robot stuck in the middle.
The unblinking red eye of the HAL 9000 was much more convincing as a person than the boy robot of A.I. At least HAL had a personality. No one in A.I. does and it’s a problem. If this is how directors "channel" Stanley Kubrick into their films, I would recommend we quite tying the late director’s name to awful and obvious movies and let him rest in peace.