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Monday, 18 June, 2001, 13:06 GMT 14:06 UK
Sci-fi fantasy AI unveiled
Haley Joel Osment and Jude Law
Haley Joel Osment and Jude Law play robots
By New York entertainment correspondent Tom Brook

Steven Spielberg's eagerly awaited AI (Artificial Intelligence), a film shrouded in an unusual degree of secrecy, has finally been unveiled at preview screenings for US journalists and critics.

Helping to foment the hype in advance of its opening at American cinemas at the end of next week (29 June) Jan Harlan, AI's executive producer, has described the film as a "milestone in the history of the cinema".

The picture is a quite dark and disturbing story

Tom Brook

But first reviews in the American weekly magazines have been more sober.

Time magazine's film critic writes that AI is a movie that "engrosses without quite enthralling" while Newsweek describes the film as "a rich, strange problematical movie full of wild tonal shifts" and one that "exhilarates, frustrates and provokes".


AI could be a tough sell at the box office, because this sci-fi fantasy, starring Jude Law and Haley Joel Osment, is by no means a typical Steven Spielberg feel-good crowd-pleaser.

Jude Law
Jude Law is "eye catching and entertaining"
To its credit the picture is a quite dark and disturbing story of an abandoned robotic child, the first in the world programmed to love, searching desperately to reunite with his adoptive human mother.

The unequivocal winner in this film is 13-year-old actor Haley Joel Osment who gives an outstanding performance as David, the robotic child who can love.

Osment appears in nearly every scene and his screen portrayal is every bit as riveting as his haunting performance in The Sixth Sense, which won him an Oscar nomination.

Osment provides the emotional core to the story. Audiences may find they strongly connect with this Spielberg-fashioned child yearning for the unavailable love of his mother.


Osment says his character "wants to be welcomed back by his mother - and a big part of the film is about that quest, looking for the mother he had to leave".

Haley Joel Osment
Osment's performance is riveting
In fact, this film could easily be viewed as a psychologically regressive work that would be better titled Desperately Seeking Mummy.

Jude Law is eye-catching as Gigolo Joe, a robot who exists to service the sexual needs of the human population.

Law's character is more of a diversion and a little superfluous to the narrative but he is nonetheless entertaining.

Law became quite absorbed by his character who, he says, is "simply there to service and entertain women, he just fulfils his function within society, which is to swoon and entertain and look after women".

Close friendship

AI is based on a short story by Brian Aldiss called Super Toys Last All Summer Long published in 1969.

Steven's handwriting is over every frame

Jan Harlan, AI executive producer

For years the late director Stanley Kubrick pursued the idea of turning the tale into a film.

Kubrick developed a close friendship with Steven Spielberg, and at one point told him that he would be best suited to directing AI.

After Kubrick died in 1999 Spielberg agreed to take on the project.

It has been a big personal commitment, with Spielberg also writing the screenplay, his first since his 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

AI's themes, particularly that of an abandoned individual searching for home, bears a resemblance to Spielberg's earlier work ET the Extra-Terrestrial.

Kubrick's concept

Also, the cruel herding up of discarded robots for extermination is re-visiting the territory of Schindler's List. But AI, particularly the first half of the story dealing with a robotic child in his adoptive human family, definitely has the cinematic look and visceral feel of a Kubrick picture.

AI, although compelling, does not deliver great cerebral insights

Tom Brook
Executive producer Jan Harlan says when he saw the film he found it very close to Kubrick's concept.

"Nevertheless, it had Steven's handwriting over every frame," he said.

Initially, AI should do well at the box office.

With the whole project being developed in such secrecy there is a huge advance interest in the picture.

But this story of a dark future, a child being abandoned and robots being rounded up and tortured, is not likely to have strong family appeal.

Also, AI, although compelling, does not deliver great cerebral insights that will bring hordes of adults into cinemas to find the meaning of life.

But AI is beautifully shot, it has some extremely fine performances, it asks some very pertinent questions, and it entertains.

It may not be a masterpiece, but it is a strong intelligent film that definitely stands out in the midst of America's quite barren summer movie season.

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