Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Real Sci-Fi

I remember when the movie Artificial Intelligence: AI first came out in theatres for several reasons. First, because I wanted to see it, but did not have the chance to go. Second, because that was literally a month before I went off to college. And last, because one of my friends did get to see it and he told me that it was good, but at the very end aliens come. He did not think it made any sense. I have since watched the movie a few times and would like to dispel the aliens rumor. If you pay any attention to the movie, whatsoever, it should be obvious that those are not aliens. I apologize for the spoiler. But one main theme throughout the movie was the inevitable downfall of mankind and the fact that A.I. could go on building themselves and living past the apocalypse. There were many clues that this would happen. I know, the A.I. at the end of the movie look weird, but they are A.I., not aliens. Randomly sticking aliens in at the end of the movie would destroy the thematic elements altogether. Steven Spielberg is way smarter than that.

To me structure is kind of an afterthought and I do not pay that much attention to it. However, one thing I find interesting about the movie is the three act structure. People thought the movie had several endings due to the three act structure. Apparently no one reads Shakespeare anymore. Each act has a different emotion and slightly different cinematography. They flow together very well, but you can see the points between each act. In each act the characters change and we see the main character, David (an A.I. child who can love), differently. In the first act he's a little boy living happily until he is deposed by his parents' real son. The only one who identifies with him at all is Monica, the mom. However, she is a bit of a weak character in that she cannot understand why he begins acting strangely and exhibiting signs of jealousy. In the second act he goes on a journey to become a "real boy" and his obsession with this idea begins to appear dangerous. In the third act, he seems to resolve his obsession a bit. He no longer looks to take others with him realizing it is a personal journey. He is the most patient sentient being you could possibly imagine after he gives up on his dream and then realizes that he might be able to have it after all.

Aside from the moral journey of David, the movie introduces an amazing complexity of moral questions. I think the obvious moral question is the one of using robots as a means of sexual satisfaction. This is aptly portrayed by the character Gigolo Joe, an A. I. lover model. The question is not answered, but the movie shows that human nature could make such a question into a huge and horrible problem. Joe ends up on the run because an angry husband manages to pin the murder of his wife (whom the husband killed) on the robot. This then is the dilemma, that an autonomous object, created by humans is blamed with the crime of human nature. Joe's portrayal is a parable of the entire movie in a sense. Humans have created these things to serve them, then humans turn against the very things they created, hating them for the services they provide.

At the same time the movie does not portray humans as being completely depraved. The moment when the audience rescue David and Joe from the Flesh Fair, believing David to be a human boy instead of an A.I. is remarkable for its show of compassion. These people are not so caught up in the venue of destroying the A.I. whom they hate that they ignore the plight of a fellow human. That scene arranges a dichotomy that we saw in the first act when Monica abandons David with tears in her eyes; and in the third act when David's creator, Prof. Hobby, realizes that his greatest creation is flawed. The A.I. at the end of the movie bring this dichotomy to fruition. They honor David because he knew humans and they did not. To them, mankind was the master they love and were never able to serve. They glean David's memories and see the wickedness of humans for themselves. Still, they obviously believe that they are inferior to humans. They even try to find ways to preserve humans or bring them back, out of this strange desire to serve that which would have destroyed them.

A.I. was 12 years in the making and I think for good reason. It is possibly the best science fiction movie ever made in the U.S. I would say so. For that reason, I think it is fairly unpopular. People do not like real, hard sci-fi. They like popular science fiction, like Star Wars. Things need to blow up. The more artistic, deeply thematic science fiction -- the kind I hope to write -- is not as easily understood in the popular medium of film. Spielberg did some of his best work ever making this movie, and I think it deserves to be remembered as a classic among today's films.

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