A.I. Artifical Intelligence has one main problem, one that lasts 30 minutes and made me have an overall distaste for the film as a whole. The problem comes in the film’s conclusion, which comes after there was a real conclusion, one that fit perfectly, but it was decided that there needed to be 30 more minutes tacked on. I’m telling you that there didn’t need to be. The first ending, where A.I. should have really finished playing, was perfect. The actual ending was heartfelt but felt like a cop-out to me.
The film opens with a lecture being led by a professor played by William Hurt. He ponders how far robotics technology could come, or if it is possible to create a robot who can love — truly love. We then fast-forward 20 months to a couple who acquire a child robot. His name is Daniel (Hayley Joel Osment), who smiles creepily and follows his new mother (Frances O’Connor) around the house. She’s creeped out by this, and rightly so — I was too. The couple’s real son, Martin (Jake Thomas), is in suspended simulation, but comes out of it soon enough when a cure is found for his disease.
A sibling rivalry starts up between the two, although it seems fairly one-sided. Martin detest Daniel, although I don’t really see why. I guess he’s young and doesn’t know better. His actions, and Daniel’s, eventually lead to the hard decision: Daniel needs to go. He’s let go in a forest and told to stay away from hunters. Of course he is a captured, but he’s let go because nobody believes that he can be a robot. He takes a robot named Joe (Jude Law) with him. Why the hunters let Joe go as well is beyond me, but they do.
The rest of the film has a simple goal: How can Daniel become a real boy. He recalls a story that his surrogate mother told him. It involved a blue fairy who brought Pinnochio to life. He thinks that this blue fairy exists, and sets out to find her, with Joe literally in-hand. The film consists of a small robotic boy just wanting to be loved by his family. How cute is that?
Well, it’s only kind of cute. There’s still a mechanical element to this child, and despite his noble actions, he isn’t all that cute. He also isn’t acted all that well; I had trouble believing that this character was so determined, or scared, or whatever emotion the script called for, because Hayley Joel Osment’s face is always so blank. That works for Jude Law’s character, because he isn’t a robot who is supposed to be able to organically emote. But this kid is, although instead, he stares at wonder at the beautiful world he’s been allowed to explore, as do we.
At one point, the two characters travel to a futuristic city known as “Rouge City.” It opens up in front of our, and in front of Daniel’s, eyes. I was awestruck at how impressive this city was, and despite looking somewhat like how future cities are typically imagined — dark skyline brought alive by bright colors on the surface — it works here. The buildings are lit by colors of purple and red, and when we first get there, your mouth drops. They also get to visit a completely destroyed Manhattan, which is just as impressive.
At one point, A.I. ends. Or at least, I figured it ended. There was a fade, and I expected to see credits. “What a good movie,” I thought. But then I found out it didn’t end. I blinked and say the words “two thousand years later” appear on-screen. “Why?” I pondered. But then an alien appeared, and I realized that we were getting into silly territory now. I was right, and when the film finally ended, I was disappointed that they went in the direction they did. In my mind, the movie ends right around the two hour mark, and if you watch this movie, you can probably find some way to make the final portion not exist canonically. I’m going to try, at the very least.
Jude Law’s character of Joe is an interesting one, but not one that the film does all that much with. He’s relegated to the role of a side-kick, despite being far more interesting than Daniel. And Jude Law completely owns the rule, which includes being a mime, clicking his heels together whenever possible, and getting the most laughs. Brendan Gleeson turns up at one point too, and also does a good job with a limited role. There’s also a robot teddy bear which was a nice touch, and actually ended up being the character I wanted to make it through to the end, as he and Daniel face similar discrimination, but the teddy bear is a walking, talking teddy bear.
Until the two hour mark, there isn’t a dull moment to be had. I was captivated and completely interested in the quest of these robots who believe in fairy tales. But once we fast-forward an additional two thousand years, I lost complete interest because I figured exactly what was coming. The magic was gone, and it is never recaptured. It’s not just the fact that the true ending ruined what could have been, but also because it is clichéd and easy to figure out exactly what will happen, ending on a note that you’ll see coming from a mile away.
A.I. starts off well, and continues to be a very good film for most of its runtime. It has a perfect moment when it should have ended, but didn’t, instead continuing when it shouldn’t, taking a direction that it likely should have forgotten about. The lead actor didn’t make me believe, but the side actors made up for that. The visuals are great, and the world created is awe-inspiring. It just doesn’t hold together when you look at the way it ends.