USA, 2001. Director: Steven Spielberg.

Once again I'm glad of the expectation-lowering effect of bad reviews, because Steven Spielberg's A.I. is wonderful. True, it has its flaws—it's a little drawn-out in spots and under-developed in others, and as usual he overdoes the John Williams soundtrack—but these are more than outweighed by moments of sheer brilliance. Haley Joel Osment continues to astound, and a supporting performance from Jude Law is also well worth seeing. And this is one of the most visually compelling SF films in years: the scenes of a drowned New York and those that follow are breathtaking.

A.I.'s harsher critics yearn for the Kubrick version that never was, but it seems unfair in this case to compare what we have with what might have been: Kubrick's masterpieces aren't known for their warmth, and without the Spielberg touch this could have been a bleak journey. Compare A.I. with Bicentennial Man—its closest parallel—and Spielberg's heavy hand starts to look positively light. And for all his occasional tendency towards schmaltz, Spielberg remains a technical master of film-making with few peers. Jurassic retreads aside, his films of the past ten years add up to an impressive resume, and A.I. is a worthy addition to Spielberg's list.


First published in Walking West, 25 September 2001.
This page: 25 September 2001.

©2001 Rory Ewins