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A.I.: Artificial Intelligence

American audiences can be forgiven for making the frequent verbal slip of mixing up A.I.: Artificial Intelligence with E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. Both have bifurcated titles with internal periods and acronymnal redundancy. Both are about a gentle creature trying to find his way home. Both are about a central naïf hero at large among hostile elements. And both are about strange alien-type creatures who in the end bestow a certain grace on the central character. But that's about where the similarities end. While E.T. is a warm tearjerker with a cunning plot almost scientifically designed to stir up the emotions of the audience, A.I. is a difficult, complex work born of frustrating origins destined to taint the project. It's a colder, less likable, yet more ambitious film than E.T. The best thing about A.I. is that it harks back to science fiction films that were about something. The worst thing about it is that Steven Spielberg's much-heralded storytelling sense seems, finally, to have completely abandoned him. A.I. is about a robot boy, David (Haley Joel Osment), in an ecologically dire future who is turned out of his adoptive parents' house and sets on the quest to become a real boy, joined by another robot, Gigolo Joe (Jude Law) as his guide to the previously unknown world of Flesh Fairs, where robots are destroyed for the amusement of the masses, and Rouge City, a sex emporium. Eventually, David meets his only creator, Professor Hobby (William Hurt), and later experiences a form of redemption (or paradise). A.I. had the valuable effect in 2001 of dividing critics and inspiring real debate about the value of the film and the direction of Spielberg's career. And his movie is not valueless. Compare it to the similarly themed The Stepford Wives or D.A.R.Y.L., or even worse, Bicentennial Man. The film's value may not lie in its story or its technique, but in its suggestion of a new direction in Spielberg's work. For ambition alone it is a good movie, though from scene to scene the quality fluctuates. Nevertheless, A.I. is a film that needs to be reckoned with, and all in all, it is one of the most interesting films from 2001, simply because it is so not like a Spielberg film, and because it is not a complete success. DreamWorks has done an extensive job with their two-disc A.I. DVD release. The disc offers an anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) that looks better than the movie did in the theaters. Audio comes in both DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1, as well as Dolby 2.0 Surround. Included on Disc One is the feature and the 12-minute short "Creating A.I." by Laurent Bouzereau. Disc Two is packed with features on the film's acting, design, lighting, special effects, robots, animation, sound, and music. Also included is an "A.I. Archives" section with trailers, storyboards, conceptual art, production designs, portrait gallery. Finally, there are extensive production notes, cast and crew bios, and a closing section from Spielberg called "Our Responsibility to Artificial Intelligence." Dual-DVD digipak with folding case.

—D.K. Holm

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