What if robots were just like us? It’s a question movies have been asking themselves since Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. The idea gained renewed interest in the technology-obsessed 1980s The Terminator and Blade Runner, but the summit is perhaps the closest to a collaboration between two of the greatest minds in science fiction movies: Steven Speilberg and Stanley Kubrick
I’m talking about, of course AI Artificial intelligence, which is available for streaming free on CrackleThis is why you should really watch (or re-watch) this science fiction classic.
AI came out in 2001, but it was decades in the making with an unusual trip to the screen. Stanley Kubrik, with whom many had changed the possibilities of commercial films 2001: A Space Odyssey and The shining, was interested in a short story by British sci-fi author Brian Aldiss. “Super Toys Last All Summer Long” was just 2,000 words, so Aldiss didn’t know how Kubrick could turn it into a movie. Later, Aldiss would reveal that he began to pick up what Kubrick had in mind.
“I couldn’t see how we could turn this vignette into a movie,” the writer told Kubrick biographer John Baxter. “We stayed with it for a while, but it didn’t work. Then gradually I realized, this time it wasn’t Star Wars, was not it ET It was Pinocchio!
Burning through employees for decades and by delaying the film for other projects, Kubrick came up with an idea that should definitely come to any creator who has spent so long on a project: what if someone else made this? Kubrick called Steven Spielberg in 1995 and pitched the idea to him. A shocked Spielberg convinced Kubrick to keep working on it, and Kubrick responded by postponing the film again for the marathon shoot. Eyes wide closedKubrick died of a heart attack in his sleep in 1999, and Speilberg eventually agreed to take on the task of finishing his peer’s unfinished sci-fi epic.
The debate over which part of the movie belongs to Kubrick and which part of Spielberg became a party game for movie fans. Spielberg himself weighed after the release of the movie, saying that “the entire first 35, 40 minutes of the movie … was word for word, from Stanley’s screenplay. This was Stanley’s view. “
If you look at it today, it’s easier to see what Spielberg is talking about. The first part of the movie, with its multiple false starts about global warming and robotics before we finally get to the first of its various plots, feels very Kubrick. Two parents of a very sick child bring home a mechanical Haley Joel Osment named David. What follows feels like subtle physical horror
The public has been told that mecha robots like David are perfect replicas of humans, but we soon begin to see that that’s not the case at all. Osment and Spielberg perfected David exactly between the marking of childish and disturbing. He blinks less often and he is very gullible. Bodies become more and more uncomfortable, including a moment when the once sick child convinces David to cut off part of his mother’s hair.
In one scene, David and his new brother compete in an eating contest that has his skin hanging. On another occasion, boys stare at David in morbid curiosity as they try to pull down his pants and poke him with a knife.
But AI soon leave this subtly gruesome family setting for a mythical, almost certainly doomed adventure. We follow David as he wanders around the world trying to find the Blue Fairy from Pinocchio’s story in the hope that she will turn him into a real boy his mother can love.
Along the way, he encounters a host of robots trying to prevent their destruction, including Jude Law’s Gigolo Joe, who is convinced he can find David’s Blue Fairy because he knows women. These robots, one conditioned to love and the other to please, are stuck in loops after being abandoned and see no other way but to keep going.
Like any Kubrik movie, there is too much in it AI to cover in a short article. Like any Spielberg movie, the characters are watching you. And that ending leaves your mouth open.
AI is now streaming on Crackle in the US.
Correction: An earlier version of this article falsely claimed that Ewan McGregor plays Gigolo Joe. We regret the mistake. Thanks, Mark!