Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)


Thoroughly disturbing horror movie about a robot programmed to behave like a child, though obviously it's never going to grow any bigger. (it can’t eat its greens)

When we first meet 'David', it's being test-run by a couple whose own little boy is tragically in a coma. Given that the product's intended market is the many childless couples in the future, this seems a bit of a folly. It also seems like an obvious recipe for disaster, and it is. The poor mother's feelings get so messed-up that she eventually throws the machine away in the woods, paradoxically punishing herself as though it was real.

For me, the middle of the film is the most intriguing part. Left switched-on to churn-away on auto-pilot, it meets other abandoned robots, and actually has conversations with some of them. Well, after a fashion.

Robot Teddy: "Do you know David? Where's David? Can you help me find David? I have to find David. Are you taking me to David?"

Their automatic interactions with each other result in a ridiculously dark series of consequences, as we observe what becomes of broken, unwanted toys.

Just like a scrap-derby, crowds of people come to vent their depravity by torturing these substitute-people. No-one seems to realise the damage they're doing to their own humanity.

David's unique programming - to simulate how a real child might behave - enables it and its friends to escape and go on a mistaken quest to find the blue fairy from Pinocchio. (David has been programmed to think the story is true)

The end of the movie sees David frozen in ice for a couple of millennia, until the technology exists to sort of grant it what it has been programmed from the outset to strive for. It's 'mother''s love.

This film has some great ideas and terrific imagery, but it is also riddled with holes, and seems to think it's a lot higher-brow than it actually is. In one scene David survives drowning. (it's waterproof) In another it breaks when it eats spinach.

There are two things that are absolutely outstanding though.

First, Haley Joel Osment is utterly brilliant in the lead role. In his early scenes, he plays robot David so flatly that he appears to just be a poorly-cast child actor, however once David's owner programmes it to need her, Osment is utterly convincing. All that flatness was intentional! Just like the robot is supposed to, he now acts just like a real child!

This outstanding performance has a huge bearing on my second praise-point. Although David remains throughout only a simulation of how a child might behave, its relationship with the woman who it considers to be its mother is stunning. I couldn't help but identify with the themes of loss and mortality, and there were many poignant moments when I recognised how I've felt about my own mother over the years.

AI is an odd film. One of those trippy late-night movies with no sense of time, that you get immersed in with no idea where it's going to go, or how long it's going to take getting there. Like Brazil, it's quite linear.

While there are emotional lessons under the surface, it's best not to go rationally looking for them because of how quickly the story falls apart. Even the narrator at the end explains that he has earlier given David some instructions, when there was no moment at which he could have done so.

Still, a sad story, if only there were someone to feel sorry for.

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At 1:26 pm, Blogger Don Moy said...

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