"my brain is falling out..."
i recently watched ai again- and having not seen it for many years it felt like watching it for the first time. while perhaps considered disappointing initially, it seems ai has come to be regarded as a sort of classic of the period and increasingly appreciated in retrospect. its complicated kubrician history no doubt now having become part of it's enduring legend.
according to ss, it was intended very much as a fairytale, and the pinoccio parable is pretty evident here. i think what bothers me about the film however, is that while it does work as a fairytale i feel it would have been so much more effective were it set in a darker world. clearly very dark things are happening- the flesh fair alone reads as incredibly brutal and cruel. and yet the tone remains somehow light and whimsical. the baddies are typical moustachioed caricatures disappearing into the background without consequence. and this feels very much in conflict with what the ethical implications are for a world in which humans rejoice publicly at such overt violence.
nevertheless the emotional heart of the story remains with david our child android. and the final act of the film, where things seem to go slightly off the reservation, is actually where it gets much more interesting. david's grappling with the realization of how not special he is, reads to me as a precursor to the more recent moon. [not to mention the idea that androids may be more HUMAN than humans as explored in great length via bsg.]
and furthermore, the film is still pretty stunning to look at. so while not as dystopian as i feel the story called for, it's still a very sensitive, evocative film. and rather prescient in terms of more recent films that continue to deal with similar themes.
stills from ai, 2001 directed by steven speilberg