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A.I. (****)
Written and directed by Steven Spielberg, based on a story by Brian Aldiss
Principal Cast
Haley Joel Osment -- David Swinton
Jude Law -- Gigolo Joe
Frances O'Connor -- Monica Swinton
Sam Robards -- Henry Swinton
Jake Thomas -- Martin Swinton
Brendan Gleeson -- Lord Johnson-Johnson
William Hurt -- Professor Hobby
Jack Angel -- Teddy
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

Do not under any circumstances take a child to see the new film A.I.

That was the most important thing I needed to tell you. The next question is, do you want to see A.I. yourself?

I've just returned from watching A.I.  I drove for an hour to see it on a large screen with a good sound system, and I am glad that I did. But I felt as if I had walked into a screening of E.T. and found myself viewing A Clockwork Orange by mistake. I'm glad I went, but I did not have fun. A.I. is not a fun film.

In short, Steven Spielberg had the courage to remain true to the vision of Stanley Kubrick, who had intended to film A.I. before he died, and to whom the movie is dedicated. A.I. is an adult science fiction film, just about the first adult science fiction film since the Kubrick SF trilogy: Dr. Strangelove, 2001 - A Space Odyssey, and A Clockwork Orange -- unless you count art-house flicks such as Pi and 1984. The sex and violence look and feel like sex and violence in the world we live in, not the fantasy, feel-good sex and violence of almost all movies. For most of the film, I had a knot in the pit of my stomach that felt like dread, and while there was a moment of catharsis at the end, there were none of the easy answers that most SF films offer. Superman did not wave an American flag. Luke, Han, and Chewy did not get medals. Kirk and Spock did not give each other a big hug. E.T. did not call home.

I would definitely have been happier watching The Phantom Re-edit.

Now, I love a good escapist adventure film. I'll go even further: escapist entertainment is my favourite kind of entertainment. On the other hand, I respect art made for adults that is too honest and too painful to be appropriate for children. I find it ironic that A.I., which could give a young child nightmares, is rated PG-13, while Swordfish (***), with fantasy sex and violence that would not frighten an 8-year-old, is rated R. It speaks to the harm that ratings do. Ratings tell you things are dangerous that are not dangerous. Ratings tell you things are safe that are not safe. The reason? Ratings are based on the mindless and conscienceless application of arbitrary rules, rather than on the mature judgment of an adult of what is or is not good for a child.

Yes, there is a place in my life for dark art, for Schindler's List, Lord of the Flies, and Chinatown. But there is something wrong with previews that give the impression that adult art is just another bit of fluff and fun from Amblin Entertainment.

I have carefully avoided reading anything at all that other reviewers have written about A.I.  I expect the reviews to be mixed. Some reviewers are going to be very, very confused by the hard science fiction aspects of the film, as they were confused by 2001 - A Space Odyssey. (Imagine how reviewers would react to a film version of Tom Godwin's "The Cold Equations.") But I think that in the long term, this will be recognized as a great film -- one of the few great films that treat science fiction ideas with the respect they deserve.

Copyright © 2001 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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