A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
The themes of A.I.: Artificial Intelligence are simple: the need to be real and the desire to be loved. It’s the execution of those themes that are exceedingly complex. Try for a moment to mentally merge the classic children’s book The Velveteen Rabbit with Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Can’t make it work? A.I. does.
The polar caps have melted. Greenhouse gases have done their worst. And much of the globe is under water. Technology makes up for human deficiency. Artificial intelligence is at its zenith. That’s when David is born. Or, more accurately, built. He is the first robot child to be constructed and the first to be given the ability to feel. Not just the sensation of pain or cold, but the ability to bond, trust, love and hate. But he finds that still is not enough. He wants to be a "real little boy." He wants his mother to love him for who he is, not for the things he does for her. (Is it a big surprise that the fairytale of Pinocchio is used throughout the film to mirror futuristic happenings?) So David finds himself on an all-too-human quest. And it leads him to places you’d never dream of (or even have nightmares about). In ways you’d never think of.
positive elements: Everything about David’s quest for love radiates with valuable life lessons. Familial love. Unconditional love. Eternal love. One robot remarks that the "ones who made us are always looking for the one who made them." And obviously, the journey to become "real" is really a journey to be accepted.
spiritual content: A scientist remarks that his ambition to create a robot that can feel is similar to God’s. "In the beginning, didn’t God create Adam to love him?" he asks. But not everything is so benevolent. Standing outside a Catholic church, Gigolo Joe smirks that he gets a lot of business from the women who go inside to find God, then come out to find him. Christian moviegoers will also notice a distinct absence of God during catastrophic circumstances that should warrant His inclusion.
sexual content: Gigolo Joe is programmed to flirt. He’s also programmed for sex. Thankfully, he’s never seen consummating any of his relationships. What does appear onscreen is the personality-shifting Joe telling his tricks how amazing their encounter is going to be. "Once you’ve had a lover robot," he tells one woman, "you’ll never want a real man again." Joe gets a car full of guys to give him a lift by teasing them with tales of robotic hookers. He uses a small projection device to show them a moving image of a scantily-clad woman dancing. In what amounts to a giant red-light district, the landscape is littered with garish, sexually suggestive signs, lights and statues.
violent content: One of Joe’s "women" is found lying dead in a hotel room. Her husband found out about her robot romances and killed her for it. Elsewhere, in a circus of sorts called a "Flesh Fair," robots are destroyed in gruesome ways. Since many of them look and act human, the spectacle takes on a dark hue as acid dissolves their faces, whirling propeller blades make mincemeat of their bodies and fire chars their skin. One machine’s grisly head flies through the air, landing right in front of David (and moviegoers). In a fit of angst and frustration, David attacks another robot, decapitating the being and bludgeoning it with a blunt weapon.
crude or profane language: A half-dozen misuses of God’s name. Two instances are combined with the word "d--n." No other profanity eats through the skin of this PG-13 film. Kudos to Spielberg for not using up his "rating allotment" just because he can.
drug and alcohol content: David’s mom and dad drink wine with dinner.
other negative elements: An innocent David barges in on his mother, Monica, while she’s using the toilet (no nudity is shown).
conclusion: Shimmering reflections, refractions, distortions and intricate close-up camera work mark the movie’s wispy, almost ethereal air. That calm is intentionally broken at times with fiery action, but the waves quickly simmer back into ripples and the ripples calm into gentleness again. Blade Runner this is not. But neither is it E.T.
A.I. isn’t at all designed for young children. A heart-wrenching scene of abandonment will prove unsettling to almost everyone who watches it; a young child, however, could be deeply affected. Additionally, dark, sexual images and the ruthless killing of human-looking machines mar the story's landscape.
David is brilliantly played by the 13-year-old Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense). Haley’s mother, Theresa Osment, spoke for many a mother when she told reporters she’s a bit queasy about the impact of the movie on children. "If [Haley] wasn’t in it, I’m not sure I’d let him see it. His little sister’s not seeing it. There are some parts I think the parents should see first before they expose it to their children. It’s very traumatic ... and you need to be responsible."