Spielberg: Artificial Intelligence: A.I. part 4

At the end of Act III, David and his robot big brother Joe have escaped the Flesh Fair and are back in the woods. David declares his goal: to find the Blue Fairy of Pinocchio. David’s search for the Blue Fairy is, of course, the "search for the father" that Joseph Campbell writes about — in David’s case, literally so. He’s temporarily replaced his "mother" with a nanny-bot, he’s replaced his "evil" brother Martin with his "good" brother Joe, and now he’s going to replace his "bad" father Henry with his "good" father Prof Hobby — although he doesn’t know that yet.free stats

David knows exactly what he wants, but has no idea how to get it. Joe, on the other hand, knows only one thing — where to find women. Again, mother-love and lover-love are fused in the same quest: Joe becomes David’s penis, as it were, on his way back to his mother.

Having made it through the world of violence, David will now negotiate the world of sex. Joe takes David to "Rouge City," a bizarre back-lot Vegas of sin. They stop by a church long enough for David to confuse an angel with the Blue Fairy — he’s on the right track, confusing God with his father, since Prof Hobby made the same mistake himself. God creates man in his image, man creates robots in his image — but didn’t man also create God for the same reason he creates robots — to flatter himself, to create something to love him?

In Rouge City we learn that people in the future hate robots so much because robots will outlive them — they are our descendants, or rather, they are an evolution of ourselves. They are us — if they think, feel, act in self-interest, worry about their state and try to better themselves, what, after all, is the difference between us and them? The answer to this question will, of course, be made clear by the end of the movie.

Joe takes David to Dr. Know, a kind of pay-as-you-go all-world-knowledge kiosk (I guess Google does not exist in the future). Dr. Know, we will learn, has been hacked by Prof Hobby to give David a clue to his "real father"’s whereabouts. David, in his single-minded pursuit, steals a helicopter, grabs Joe and heads for the submerged city of Manhattan.

David arrives at Prof Hobby’s office and finds — himself, another robot, another perfect David, another perpetual child. David, shocked and enraged, destroys this impostor. He’s been through too much, he’s seen the world, he’s no child any more — he is David, he is an individual, he’s no replaceable copy. His experience out in the world has given him something he never had before — a personality. He always had an ego, that was clear from his interactions with Monica, but now he has experience — he’s not a doll any more.

Prof Hobby shows up, and doesn’t seem disturbed at all that David has just killed a copy of himself, one that, by all appearances, Hobby had had sitting around the house as a replacement for his own dead son. This is just one more in a list of monstrous things Hobby does — he creates a robot to replace his beloved son, but doesn’t bat an eyelash when that robot is destroyed by an interloper.

Not only does he not mourn his twice-dead son, he immediately unloads upon poor David a whole bunch of information he doesn’t need. David, who has come all this way to be made real, is now told by his "true father," his "blue fairy," that he’s not only not real, he can’t ever be made real, and now he’s a valuable research tool for making robots with more acutely felt agony. Hobby is impressed because David’s drive to the Blue Fairy was so indomitable, but he didn’t give a moment’s thought as to what the Blue Fairy was actually supposed to provide for David once he arrived — narcissistic to the last, Hobby can only see David’s agony as a tool to further his own career.

David, confronted with this ultimate inhumanity in a human, does the only logical thing — he throws himself into the sea. A bit of awkward plotting follows, where David, in short order, is escorted by a school of fish from Rockefeller Center to Coney Island, then rescued by Joe in the helicopter. Joe is then arrested and carried away by the authorities, leaving David to pilot the helicopter (which, luck would have it, works underwater) back to Coney Island, where he finds a "storybook island" theme park (which, to my knowledge, has never existed in Coney Island, although I cannot speak for the Coney Island of the distant future), which features — yes — a Blue Fairy statue.

David, having found his Blue Fairy, parks his helicopter (pinned under a collapsed ferris wheel) and prays to the Blue Fairy statue to become real. In one of the most crushingly, brutally sad moments in Spielberg, and, I think, one of the most crushingly, brutally sad moments in American movies, the camera lingers on David’s lonely prayer to the Blue Fairy as the narrator informs us that David stays there at the bottom of the ocean, intent on his prayer, until everyone on the planet has died and the oceans have frozen solid.

And yet, as mind-bending and seemingly final as that curtain is, AI still has a whole act left to go.

At 1:55:00, ACT V begins — 2000 years later. The planet is now populated entirely by robots, who apparently have gotten on with the business of evolving themselves and not worrying so much about pleasing their human creators — just as humanity eventually got on with evolving themselves and stopped worrying so much about pleasing God. (Well, for the most part anyway.)

A bunch of these ultra-future robots — archeologists — have discovered David in his icy grave, and regard him with great awe and wonder. David dates from the time of the humans, and thus, for these robots, is a figure of almost religious significance — a veritable Ark of the Covenant for this group of mechanical Indiana Joneses.

David, like the Ark, is activated by the archeolgists, but instead of a divine light and a flock of angels, all that spews out of the revived David is a geyser of pain, wounded ego and stark, two-thousand-year-old need. The good news for David is that he is, finally, truly unique in all the world; the bad news is, of course, that he will never, never, never get the thing he needs so badly.

The robot scientists build David a replica of his house and concoct for him a conversation with the Blue Fairy (I am reminded that we create art for the same reason we create robots — to flatter ourselves and to act as God — and I guess that goes for movies as well) but inform David that they cannot bring his mother back without a sample of her DNA.

Teddy, as it turns out, has just such a thing — he’s saved a lock of Monica’s 2000-year-old hair — and David seizes the hair and turns to his robot-caretakers and says "Now you can bring her back." The intensity in Haley Joel Osment’s performance in this scene is truly frightening — David’s desire to love and be loved has turned into stark pathology; apparently 2000 years of uninterrupted prayer can warp even the brain of a robot. At this point the viewer is torn: you want so badly for David to get what he wants, and yet you’re also a little scared about what he’s going to do when he gets it, and you’re also a little sickened by the notion that David can’t really get what he wants, he will only get an imitation — Spielberg asks us to understand the emotional crisis of an artificial boy, receiving artificial love from an artificial mother. This is, by far, the most emotionally complex moment in Spielberg’s most emotionally complex movie.

The emotion is slightly undercut by the head robot scientist (voiced by Ben Kingsley, no less) sitting David down for a chunk of impenetrable exposition. The exposition, coming so late in the narrative, feels a little silly, but like the other convenient plot-points of the movie, the emotional payoff makes it worth it. (This kind of balancing act is another thing I associate more with Kubrick, who was a master of making movies with deep, complex emotional trajectories, but could sometimes completely blow it on plot logic — Eyes Wide Shut being a perfect example.) The upshot of the exposition is that Monica can be brought back, but only for a day.

And so she is. David gets what he wants, Monica is brought back to life — for a day, a perfect day where David gets to be the perfect, loving child again. After the crushing conclusion of Act IV, the release of the climax of Act V is something the viewer greatly needs, and yet this too is undercut with the knowledge that David has, in the end, only stood Monica on her head. That is, just as Monica had David created so that she could have a child to love her, David has now had a Monica created to love him. The narcissistic mother who wanted a child to flatter herself is now a narcissistic child who has the power to turn the tables. The Act V, day-long Monica is only a plaything, just like David was in Act I, the "perfect mother," but only a simulation. David’s pathological need to feel Monica’s love has been transmuted into the power of creation and destruction — David is the parent now, David can create a Monica to dominate and shape and teach and play with, and David will, in the end, have the power to send Monica off into oblivion.

David grows from "innocent" to "experienced" to "so god-damned experienced it’s difficult to comprehend," but in the end is back where he started. The weird thing about his day with Monica is that he pretends to be innocent again, he paints her pictures of all the thingsthat happened to him in his incredible life as she puzzles over them. He is the experienced one now, she is the child, he is the knowledgeable manipulator, she is the innocent, easily-fooled dupe.

At the end of his "date with Monica," David climbs into bed with her as she lapses into her eternal sleep. He’s gotten what he’s wanted, and has even gotten into his mother’s bed. What happens now? The narrator says only that he is able to go to "that place where dreams begin," which implies that David is able to now sleep — ie, he has taken a step to becoming "real." This may mean that David, having solved his mother problem, will now be able to move on and be a fully-integrated person (well, or close enough), but it seems to me that what really happens is that David is now capable of death — that is, after his perfect moment of maternal love, he now has the thing that gives life meaning — the ability to die. I get the feeling that David dies as he closes his eyes next to his mother, and that Teddy, as he climbs up onto the bed, is the one who is now childless.


32 Responses to “Spielberg: Artificial Intelligence: A.I. part 4”
  1. You glossed over another powerful moment in the movie, at least for me.

    As Joe is captured by the police and hanging from their helicopter, he shouts down to David, “Remember me! I am. I was!”

    That moment the introspective spiral of David’s quest. The robot that isn’t real is begged to remember another robot that…well, that isn’t real, but who asserts desperately that he is. As Joe is a component of David’s male ego, Joe’s capture allows David to submerge himself — literally — and fall into a death-like limbo to follow his quest. It’s a very buddhist plot point in a movie that otherwise depends on western sensibilities.

    • “That moment highlights the introspective spiral…”

      Sigh. It’s too early in the morning for me to be making deep posts. 🙂

    • Todd says:

      I actually find Joe’s “I am — I was” moment a little shallow, and a little forced. Not only is the scene it occurs in odd (the helicopter scene between David being carried by fish to Coney Island and David going back down into the sea to pray to the Blue Fairy) but it seems odd that he says something so stilted and “profound” at the moment of his (convenient) arrest. In spite of the philosophical underpinnings of the line, it lands as one of the falsest moments in the narrative.

      • charlequin says:

        Isn’t that kind of the point, though? Joe isn’t really a person, David isn’t really a person, the two of them spend the entire movie trying (relatively unsuccessfully) to break outside of the roles laid down for them by the world. Joe asks David to remember him, something which — given that we are privy to essentially every moment remaining in David’s existence — it’s probably fair to suggest that he doesn’t, really.

        I feel like to a certain degree the entire movie is about frustrating expectations of profundity or meaning.

  2. jbacardi says:

    It’s been several years since I subjected myself to this film; I suppose it was in 2002, when it became available on home video. I found it unremittingly bleak and hard to watch.

    I do remember thinking it was an uncomfortable mix of Kubrick and Spielberg’s sensitivities, and wondered what Kubrick’s version would have been like. I assumed the sentimentality came from Spielberg, and that his ongoing preoccupation with family and Hollywood life lessons was his contribution. After reading your commentary, I’m thinking that was simplistic and wrongheaded on my part. Good for Steven for trying to stretch out a bit.

    I still don’t want to watch this again.

    • Todd says:

      I won’t deny that it’s taken me a number of viewings to get used to AI, but I feel like it’s really been worthwhile to get past some of its oddness to see what it’s actually trying to do.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I won’t deny A.I.’s effectiveness emotionally, but it always felt weird, disjointed, and pointlessly cruel to me. Teddy was and remains the only character in the film I truly liked, from his gruff but gentle voice, to the weariness in him that suggests he’s seen more than any plaything should, to the way he was ceaselessly kind and understanding. He felt more human than anyone else in the movie.

    But I do agree with your interpretation that David dies at the end of the film. He’s gotten what he wanted; it would be pointless and cruel for the other robots to let him keep living after the resuscitated Monica has died again.

    — N.A.

    • Todd says:

      If the question of the movie is “What does it mean to live?”, meaning, how do we differentiate between robots and humans, then the answer can only be “To live is to die.”

      • memento_mori says:

        Of course, “Tp live is to die” is the name of a Metallica song and robots are made of metal and, well I think I made my point abundantly clear.

  4. curt_holman says:

    “That is, just as Monica had David created so that she could have a child to love her, David has now had a Monica created to love him.”

    You encapsulate the final act of A.I. so well, I appreciate the movie a little more in retrospect. Still, the whole ‘We can clone her, but she’ll only live for one day’ thing strikes me as totally bogus, no matter how neatly it fits the fairy-tale aspect of the story. I can’t see how technology that advanced would have that big a flaw.

    A couple of other things:

    When Brendan Gleeson is rounding up robots with the E.T. balloon, he appears to be saying “Any old iron” through the loudspeaker. Isn’t that something that old-timey scrap metal guys used to say while riding through neighborhoods? It certainly sounds like it. It strikes me as an odd thing to do. Then again, maybe some robots are programmed to respond to it.

    Something that bothers me about A.I. is that I don’t see the link between global warming/flooding and the vogue for robots (and extermination of robots) in the imaginary future. I think there are some lines that suggest a connection, but I don’t remember them. Were there deaths on a massive scale, requiring the need for robots? If so, why such a vociferous anti-robot movement? Plus, I’d sort of think that a futuristic world that suffered flooding severe enough to drown New York would show some environmental changes elsewhere, but we don’t see any in the rest of A.I.‘s locations. Obviously David’s human family is rich and sheltered, but the rest of the locations seem high-tech but “normal.”

    Fun fact: One of young guys in the car who takes them to Rouge City is Adrian Grenier, who plays movie star “Vincent Chase” in “Entourage.”

    I wonder if it’s a coincidence that “Doctor Know” looks like Italian filmmaker Maurizio Nichetti and his animated alter ego:

    • curt_holman says:

      Oh, and

      Supposedly Kubrick always intended for there to be scenes in flooded New York. I remember an old Entertainment Weekly article about A.I. said that he even called someone at Macy’s (or some equivalent, iconic New York store) to ask them to describe the view out the window, so he could envision what it would look like underwater.

      On TNT’s “Spielberg on Spielberg” special this year, Spielberg says though some reviewers said words to the effect that “Spielberg ruined it by tacking on that happy ending with the alien robots,” in fact Kubrick always ended the film to end with the stuff 2,000 years in the future.

    • Todd says:

      I’m pretty sure Dr. Know is meant to look like Einstein.

      And yeah, that Act V exposition is pretty bogus.

  5. stormwyvern says:

    I understand that it’s really not fair to judge a movie I’ve only read about, so I’ll try to avoid doing that. But I’ve got to say, reading about the ending, it just feels kind of weird and potentially unsatisfying. As you point out, the audience’s sympathies are generally with David throughout the film and so they want him to achieve his goal, but at the same time, they’re aware that his goal has crossed over from a deep longing for a mother’s love to extremely creepy obsession and that the closest David can come to realizing his dream is to create a Monica who will serve the same purpose for him that he did for the original Monica. David has changed since the beginning of the film, yet he apparently hasn’t changed to the point where he can recognize the irony of what he’s doing and see any difference between winning the love of the original Monica and receiving the love of the Monica made to love him.

    Then again (this is me thinking as I type), maybe the point is that there is no other way for David to get the unquestioning parental love he so craves. Perhaps the idea Spielberg is going for is that because David never physically needed a parent the way real children do, he couldn’t inspire true unconditional love from any human and therefore could only get it by turning the tables and creating a mother who would love him. Maybe the point is that a boy whose own feeling are artificially created but no less deeply felt doesn’t see how creating a mother who will automatically love him is any less valid than winning his mother’s love. (I kind of wonder if this film would have been called “Artificial Emotion” were the other term not already embedded in the popular consciousness.

    Still, it feels like “A.I.” is this odd love story which doesn’t just deal with unrequited love but also with neither character fully understanding the other. The original Monica never understood that David was more than a machine and that his emotions were no less valid for being motivated by programming rather than biology. David never understood Monica as anything more than his mother and couldn’t figure out why she didn’t follow the standard narrative and love him. The ending seems to satisfy David’s desires and maybe that’s sufficient for the audience to feel closure, if not total satisfaction. But I get the impression that some viewers felt it just wasn’t enough.

    • charlequin says:

      My impression is that the people who don’t like the movie find the ending unsatisfying and creepy and consider that a minus, while those who do like the movie find the ending unsatisfying and creepy and consider that a plus.

      • I’d also say the creepiness is difficult to take as a negative reflection on David, as opposed to an unfortunate effect of him being a robot. Meaning I think his pathological desire for Monica doesn’t come across as creepy as it might sound, because we know why he’s like that (he’s a robot). If he were a normal human boy, or even a robot we knew was becoming a real human (which might be arguable), then the creepiness would make us turn on David and dislike him immensely. But as it stands, the obsession being a product of his programming is clear, and still lets the audience (mostly) sympathize.

        At least that’s how I felt about it.

        • Todd says:

          But one of the messages of the movie is that all of us are “a product of our programming.” Or, as Joe puts it in one scene, when David asks him why he talks in rhyming couplets and does little dances in puddles, he looks confused and says “It’s just what I do.” He doesn’t know he’s been programmed to do it, he just does it. But we could say the same about anyone.

  6. capthek says:

    If it would have ended with him praying to the blue fair forever and ever. Sure, it would have turned people to slime, but it might have been a better movie.

    • pirateman says:

      I agree. After a movie that was so bleak and so depressing, the “happy” ending just ended up feeling cheap to me. It would be incredibly, horribly terrible to end the movie with David praying to the Blue Fairy, but such a haunting ending would’ve made the rest of the movie feel a lot more powerful. I guess my question is… Why have that 2000 year coda at all? So we can see Monica’s and David’s role reversal? It seems like it makes the audience jump through way too many hoops to try and get to a place that seems unnecessary.

      • sheherazahde says:

        Yeah. Ending with David dying under the sea praying to the Blue Fairy was sad but satisfying. The resurrection felt false and unnecessary.

      • capthek says:

        Ya, it is almost like a Spielberg sequel added on to another movie. When I watched it, that was how I perceived it and it made me able to like the movie more as two separate movies.

      • swan_tower says:

        Apropos of that point: the anecdote I mentioned in an earlier comment.

        So, I’m in the theatre, and the movie gets to the Blue Fairy, and David starts praying. And I’m sitting there with my heart in my mouth, because I didn’t find it soul-crushing at all; to me, it was such a breathtaking demonstration of faith, and it seemed a flawless answer to the question the film had been asking throughout, namely, what makes us human? That ability to believe in something greater — to hope, to dream — an aetheist would likely have a problem with “faith” being the answer to that question, but whether I think it’s the One True Answer or not, I still think it’s beautiful. So I’m sitting there thinking, this is amazing, this is the most phenomenal ending I’ve seen in I don’t know how long, I can’t believe they had the guts to do this — uh, why is the film still going?

        You could hear the audience silently asking the same question. Where there had been breathless silence, now you heard people shifting in their seats, uncertain. When the voiceover came on and announced it was two thousand years later, one guy in the auditorium said, “What the hell?,” and good-bye, audience. Our engagement was gone. Everybody sat there staring in disbelief as the super-duper advanced robots came on with their plot-device explanation of why there could only be one day of Monica, and it was infodumpy and stupid and we just didn’t care anymore.

        The best way I was ever able to explain it to myself was, the coda/Act V (it’s telling that I think of it as a coda, not an equal component of the story) was the ending to the story the filmmakers thought they were telling, while the Blue Fairy was the end of the story I had been watching. I never parsed out the pathological concerns of family and narcissism Todd explicates here, but I knew that I didn’t engage with the film as the tale of a boy who just wants to be loved by his mother. To me, the film was really about what differentiates humans from robots — the Flesh Fair being the monstrous highlight of that question — and that boundary was breached, to beautiful effect, when David performed his act of faith. I think I would love A.I. if I had just stopped there.

        • Todd says:

          This is an excellent point. Prof Hobby says as much to David, that the key to his evolution (which he has undergone counter to his programming) is that he is capable of believing something that doesn’t exist.

          In Act IV, David goes searching for the Blue Fairy and finds Prof Hobby instead. When the reality of Hobby is revealed, David does his best to try to kill himself, and finds the Blue Fairy instead — that is, he rejects his father and finds “God.” In developmental terms, David finds that his father is “human” and still seeks a higher power to worship.

          “2000 Years Later” is a tough sell, narratively speaking, under the best of circumstances — occurring, as it does here, at the 1:55:00 mark, it does tend to throw the audience for a loop. All of which, for me, underscores the radical experimentalism of the movie — especially coming from Spielberg.

          • swan_tower says:

            Honestly, what I said above is the charitable interpretation: the possibility that I just latched onto the wrong thing in the film, and therefore wanted the first ending instead of the second. Had I “read” the film in the right way, I wouldn’t have had that problem.

            But there’s another way to look at it. If “what makes us human?” is in fact the central question of the film, then it may be that the answer Kubrick and Spielberg present is not faith, but love. I see two spins on that, though, neither of them good. One is that they meant the coda/Act V to be a sincere and fulfilling demonstration of that answer, but failed miserably. The other is that they succeeded at their intent, namely, to present a vision of love as disturbingly narcissistic and pathological.

            One makes them bad filmmakers. The other verges on making them bad people.

            I mean, if what makes us (humans) different from them (robots) is love, then the film fails because David’s “love” behavior at the end is indistinguishable from Monica’s at the beginning. If the point is to say, yes, exactly, we’re not different, then we’re the same as them because we’re just as selfish and bad at it as they are. I don’t really like either of those answers, so I prefer to say the answer is faith, and stop at the Blue Fairy.

            • Todd says:

              The idea that “perfect love” is just a meaningless feedback loop of narcissism and need strikes me as a very Kubrickian idea, and, as many have noticed here, the “Kubrick” parts of AI sit very uncomfortably next to the “Spielberg” parts of it.

              • swan_tower says:

                I don’t know Kubrick as well, so I can’t judge. But it’s funny that people assume the coda is Spielberg’s contribution, and it may in fact be the most Kubrickian part.

          • stormwyvern says:

            It seems to me that it would be very very difficult to pull a “2000 Years Later” without throwing the audience off unless it happens very near the beginning or at the very end as more of an epilogue or if it’s something that has been set up fairly explicitly from pretty early on in the movie. I’m sure any number of fictional conflicts could be solved if the characters were allowed to go 2000 years into the future – either through advanced technology or simply the passage of that much time, but I can’t imagine too many scenarios where it wouldn’t feel like a cheat.

            Back when you did your analysis of “E.T.” I mentioned that I think it’s important not to let your metaphor overwhelm the internal reality of your film to the point where it no longer makes sense as anything but a metaphor. That sounds like the problem with the imitation Monica only being able to live one day. Every other nod to fairy tale traditions seem believable within the realm of the story. But for this one, it sounds like there’s no convincing argument for why Monica can only be brought back for a single day beyond the story requiring it to and the nice fairy tale feel of it.

            My wandering mind came up with this idea last night:

            David prays to the Blue Fairy for 2000 years and humanity passes from the face of the earth. We become aware that the centuries are taking a toll on David’s mechanical body. He was never meant to hold up for so long under such extreme conditions without maintenance and perhaps periodic transfer of his programming to a fresh body. At this point, he should have ceased functioning, but his desperate need to have his wish granted and attain the mother love he desires is forcing his body to remain online. At the end of the 2000 years, the robot archeologists uncover David, perhaps looking much less like a human child now from the wear and tear his body has endured. The robot archeologists are fascinated by him, but at the same time, see him as an extremely primitive robot as compared to them. They regard him the way human scientists would regard either an ancient artifact or a neanderthal and it looks as though David has survived 2000 years only to once again be treated as an object. But one of the archeologists recognizes that this “artifact” is actually a child. She goes to him and reassures him tenderly. David looks at her and smiles. Maybe we even see that he actually sees her as Monica. Believing that he has finally known true parental love, David stops fighting to keep his body working and dies.

            But I still haven’t seen the movie, so I’m just thinking out loud.

            • Todd says:

              Well, David’s body does eventually break down. The movie doesn’t say precisely how long that takes, but he eventually freezes along with everything else, staring at the Blue Fairy for eternity. He’s “woken up” (just like Martin, just like Sleeping Beauty) by the Futurebots.

  7. sheherazahde says:

    “God creates man in his image, man creates robots in his image — but didn’t man also create God for the same reason he creates robots — to flatter himself, to create something to love him?”

    This is the only part of your analysis that doesn’t ring true for me.

    I would say that based on the movie and even your analysis of the movie it is more accurate to say “God creates ‘man’ to flatter and love him, ‘Man’ creates robots to flatter and love us, Parent’s create children to flatter and love them.”

    The parents and children are the central metaphor because we can see how it doesn’t work, children grow up and rebel and still repeat the same mistake. Monica ‘creates’ David, and David in turns ‘creates’ Monica. It’s a cycle.

    Or if you prefer God creates ‘man’, ‘man’ replaces God and created robots, robots replace man and create what? God? something we can’t imagine?

  8. johnnycrulez says:

    Another part I didn’t think worked was when the ringmaster said “Let the one without sin throw the first stone.”

    It was weird.

  9. I hated hated hated hated hated the ending. A LOT.

    If the movie had ended with a fade to black (or hey, a “good version of Brazil”-style sudden cut to black) with David sitting there frozen in ice forever, it would have been a stark and beautiful film. But then we got this stupid slab of exposition tacked on the end, like Spielberg saw what he was doing and flinched. The real ending, with Wilford Brimley, was an insult. It was like, “Oh, you can’t handle existential bleakness, here, have some sentimental pap instead. Don’t like it? Go back to your Bergman flicks, art boy.”

    Most of the movie was like a Philip K Dick book brought to life, including shifting between multiple protagonists (something PKD did often in his novels) and the fantastical but sort of ridiculous ideas. The ending bit felt contrived and ridiculous. I guess I can see what they were trying to do from your analysis here, but I still don’t think it was worth doing.

    • Todd says:

      You’re better educated than I am: I know nothing of a “real ending,” with Wilford Brimley or anyone else. The only ending to AI, as far as I know, is the one that comes at the end of AI. And the only thing I’m “trying to do” here is analyze a screenplay based on the information given.

      • Sorry, I mean the ending we got was the real ending, as opposed to my fantasy-world super-bleak ending at 1:55. I went off on a ranty tangent in my comment– I enjoy your analysis and writeups of movies, even if I didn’t actually like (or understand) the movies themselves. What I meant by “what they were trying to do” was the stuff you went over in your Act V discussion, which makes more sense now that you’ve looked into it more deeply than I did after seeing the movie itself when it came out. I just found the ending unsatisfying and anticlimactic after what I’d thought was a pretty good movie overall up until that point.

        If I implied that I didn’t think it was worth you trying to analyze it, I’m sorry about that– that was not my intent, and I’m sorry if I caused offense. I really enjoy your posts and have learned a lot from them. I’ve been looking forward to your A.I. writeup since you started doing Spielberg films and you did shed some light on it, so thank you.

        Edited to add: Probably a better way to phrase it would have been “what Spielberg was trying to do.” I was definitely too vague.