We gave it a B+
Staggering under the weight of expectations when it arrived in theaters, A.I. Artificial Intelligence proved that great directors, alive or dead, are mortal. But how could it be otherwise? The late Stanley Kubrick was a man to whom audiences were but necessary distractions; Steven Spielberg, to whom Kubrick bequeathed this project before his death in 1999, is possibly the most gifted audience-pleaser in the history of film. No matter how you stir this DNA, there are two vastly differing sensibilities here: Kubrick’s, which suggests that humans are a passing virus briefly caught by Earth, and Spielberg’s, which insists that if a boy waits long enough, he’ll get the mommy love he needs.
So is A.I. worth watching? Of course it is. For one thing, Haley Joel Osment is astounding as the cyborg Pinocchio. Jude Law is equally fine as the renegade sexbot, and then there’s the breathtaking final 20 minutes, which fast-forward us into a wintry future overseen by the cyborgs that survived us because they were, simply, better — and then devolve into a mother-and-child reunion weirdly stranded between Kubrickian irony and Spielbergian ick. B+
WHAT WE SAID THEN: ”…unwieldy, fabulous, blurry, intense, adventurous, and stunted.” (#602/603, June 29/July 6, 2001) A-