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What Could Have Been # 1: 'Artificial Intelligence'

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Inspired by the rubbish-list thread i just had an idea: instead of the pointless parading of BEST-OF titles (Spielberg movies, in this case), it could be much more constructive if we list the titles we find not up-to-par and gather suggestions how to improve on them.

Ground rule: the movie must be deconstructed in acts and requested changes must be classified in the respective acts.

My favourite in this regard will always be the misbegotten A. I., a movie that feels like a stutterer trying to read eloquently from PINOCCHIO with books by Asimov and autographed collected works of Stanley Kubrick hovering ominously in the background.

The acts are easily identified:

ACT 1 consists of a short prologue, talky and staged not very convincingly, where William Hurt explains the origins and nature of the robots/mecha to a bunch of students. After that, we are exposed to an even more drawn-out series of scenes showing us the family life of a really boring, basically trait-less couple of future WASP's living in brightly lit quarters. They adopt a robot child filling in for their comatose son, slowly developing affection for him despite of his/its mechanical nature - he is programmed to love his parents without conditions. Problems arise when the real son suddenly awakes from his coma et voilá, drama begins. The real son starts to play cunning and scheming with the hapless robot boy, leading to a series of disturbing misunderstandings. Finally, the mother decides to chuck the robot boy out and abandons him in the woods one afternoon. End Act 1.

ACT 2 starts the journey of the robot boy, desperate for love and answers (it gets all PINOCCHIO from here), and introduces us to another mecha/robot, this time in form of a mechanic gigolo who is wrongly framed for murder. Both meet and subsequently journey together. Their first encounter with humans is not altogether friendly with a them taken prisoners by a junkyard lord who stages cruel shows for backwoods people applauding the violent deaths of thousands of robots in an arena-like circus. Both can escape and travel to a big Las-Vegas-like city where the gigolo robot promises answers by an all-knowing Dr. Wikipedia, who leads them to a sunken Manhattan where robot boy meets his creator, William Hurt (who lured him there with rigging Dr. Wiki) and, having not acquired satisfying answers, subsequently lets himself fall into the cruel sea, where he finds the Blue Fairy (actually a sunken Coney Island attraction) who holds the premise to reunite him with his mother. End of Act 2. Normally, this would be two acts, but due to Spielberg's weird plotting we are subjected to another act.

Act 3 (and 4) deal with robot boy being collected from his underwater grave by a strange alien race, presumably sometime in the future. They probe him and grant him his greatest wish, to be reunited with a hologram vision of his mother, set to a sickening voice-over and angelic lighting of a coffee-ad.End of movie.

For films like A. I. there is always an appreciative audience sucking up to its blurriness and lack of focus, almost thankful they can play an active role in finding what the artist really meant. I'm not sure Spielberg has found much more than another PINOCCHIO fable in this - all the window dressing which can be read as philosophical discourse about the human condition and responsibility almost never finds an adequate filmic solution in the movie, it's either crude (the Flesh Fairy, which borders on junk tv) or so ambigious you don't believe it's ambigious at all (the epilogue, which is shot and scored in such a square way that it's hard to imagine Spielberg didn't mean it) . So if you do it old-school, just tell a story, there are some easy suggestions how to fix its bumbling narrative.

Improvements on Act 1 seem simple.

1. The shot of the water has a nice ambiguity, life sprang from water, ok, keep it.

2. Scrap William Hurt, it feels pedantic and overly didactic

3. start the movie on a more dramatic note, like the mother driving though a rainy night to the place where the son lies, introduce how she cannot let him go and suffers from mental instabilities, keep the father out of it, so that you can have a conflict between both later on - and make the antiseptic clinic somewhat more creepy (imagine dozens of cryo sarcophargs with weeping parents..or better not)

4. make the mother a sympathetic person; i don't know what sprung on Spielberg but that thing he directed seems to have wandered over from an episode of WALKING DEAD. Problem is, you don't feel how anyone could develop deep affection for her, so that harms further developments.

5. try to establish a location less Beverly-Hills-posh and boring than the Shangri-La which serves as their home; it looks like it's furnished by aliens, again, it's crucial by this point to make us care.

6. make the robot less creepy; i know what they tried for - the unease at the first encounter with this man/machine - but you would think by this stage the development of technology would have come far enough to prevent the robots from behaving like psychos.

7. make the scene in the woods more dramatic - i cannot believe that i'm saying this about a Spielberg film, but it actually feels not dramatic enough.

More later....

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7. make the scene in the woods more dramatic - i cannot believe that i'm saying this about a Spielberg film, but it actually feels not dramatic enough.

My mother cries everytime she watches that scene, she even did when i was listening to 'abandoned in the woods'

To me the scene is very efective indeed.

Maybe its the dubbing... :P

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2. Scrap William Hurt, it feels pedantic and overly didactic

No reason to do so. He's barely in the film and introduces a pair of ideas in a simple and direct manner. He also offers justification for the existence of David from his point of view.

I've observed this kind of character is pretty common in science-fiction.

3. start the movie on a more dramatic note, like the mother driving though a rainy night to the place where the son lies, introduce how she cannot let him go and suffers from mental instabilities, keep the father out of it, so that you can have a conflict between both later on

Boring.

And I'd rather the mother not to suffer from mental instabilities, or being an alcoholic like in Kubrick's treatment (or so they say). The film is harsher that way.

- and make the antiseptic clinic somewhat more creepy (imagine dozens of cryo sarcophargs with weeping parents..or better not)

A place like that would have to be thought not to be creepy.

4. make the mother a sympathetic person; i don't know what sprung on Spielberg but that thing he directed seems to have wandered over from an episode of WALKING DEAD. Problem is, you don't feel how anyone could develop deep affection for her, so that harms further developments.

David had no choice. No other character except the father and the son have an affection for her in the story, and their relationship to her isn't that important.

5. try to establish a location less Beverly-Hills-posh and boring than the Shangri-La which serves as their home; it looks like it's furnished by aliens, again, it's crucial by this point to make us care.

This is stupid. A middle-class location of a future point is probably going to look like a super rich location of past times. It shouldn't have any effect on how do you care about the characters. The look of the house has other uses: the fragmented shots of David, and fitting the house with the rest of the film.

6. make the robot less creepy; i know what they tried for - the unease at the first encounter with this man/machine - but you would think by this stage the development of technology would have come far enough to prevent the robots from behaving like psychos.

They can do that. They just never build children.

7. make the scene in the woods more dramatic - i cannot believe that i'm saying this about a Spielberg film, but it actually feels not dramatic enough.

There's no need to make everything so dramatic and obvious in this film. The simple moment of her pushing David to the ground and getting into the car is hard enough.

And how would you make the scene "more dramatic" anyway??

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Ah look. Some guy on the internet knows how to make a better film then the worlds most successfull director!

I mean, really!

Flawed but ambitious movies like A.I. are one thing, but are you tellin' me you don't think you could have done a better job of Indy IV than that guy who couldn't even be arsed to make it in the first place but got talked into it and sort of felt obliged to do it?

A one-armed drunken window cleaner with Parkinsons could have made a better Indiana Jones movie.

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Ah look. Some guy on the internet knows how to make a better film then the worlds most successfull director!

Full A. I. was,but not with success...

2. Scrap William Hurt, it feels pedantic and overly didactic

No reason to do so. He's barely in the film and introduces a pair of ideas in a simple and direct manner. He also offers justification for the existence of David from his point of view.

I've observed this kind of character is pretty common in science-fiction.

3. start the movie on a more dramatic note, like the mother driving though a rainy night to the place where the son lies, introduce how she cannot let him go and suffers from mental instabilities, keep the father out of it, so that you can have a conflict between both later on

Boring.

And I'd rather the mother not to suffer from mental instabilities, or being an alcoholic like in Kubrick's treatment (or so they say). The film is harsher that way.

- and make the antiseptic clinic somewhat more creepy (imagine dozens of cryo sarcophargs with weeping parents..or better not)

A place like that would have to be thought not to be creepy.

Chaac, the mother IS mentally instable in the film. And the film is not harsher for the way Spielberg presents it, only more weak. She's just not a thought-out character (like the father). As for the clinic, creepy isn't meant literally...in Spielberg's version, it's just all too sanitized, there isn't anything in it to bring this story and those scenes to life.

The point of the thread was, btw, to name scenes which you think don't work and present your own solution. Not to make those knee-jerk defend posts any TRANSFORMERS fan can make - 'It must be that way' 'Why?' 'Because!' indeed.

Anyone? I try to do more, but i'm on vacation right now and have to find the proper time for the other acts. Although i can say that the whole Flesh Fair sucks. It's a very patronizing approach to show the decay of humanity, a cheap tv series would have resorted to that. But right now i don't know how to change it without totally overhauling the rest of the film.

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Chaac, the mother IS mentally instable in the film.

Yes. yes. I'm just saying that the concept gets to its most dramatic when the mother abandoning David is actually fine. In the film she's a bit unstable, which doesn't bother me much.

Maybe they thought a sane woman abandoning David would have too cynical, but you never know.

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Yes. yes. I'm just saying that the concept gets to its most dramatic when the mother abandoning David is actually fine. In the film she's a bit unstable, which doesn't bother me much.

Maybe they thought a sane woman abandoning David would have too cynical, but you never know.

Not cynical but not logical. A sane, well-rounded person wouldn't have agreed on the whole robot scenaria, anyway.

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Ah look. Some guy on the internet knows how to make a better film then the worlds most successfull director!

I mean, really!

Yes, same goes for scoring a film, it is a new trend. I have read so many comments of "wasted opportunities" concerning

WH and Tintin scores that i'm starting to laugh.

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What is this, Planet Retarded where people cannot use their brain while watching a movie?

Of course laymen's ideas can make a film better, that's a no-brainer....a lot of weaknesses of Hollywood films are determined by factors like test screenings, assumptions about target groups etc. and Spielberg sure knows how to play this game.

But i have to admit, i cannot really think about a good improvement for this Flesh Fair sequence without scrapping it altogether. Hmmmm....

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I disagree with all the so-called improvements of the first act suggested by pubs. It's the only thing good about the film. I only wish the whole movie was like that. I don't need to see the cruel outside world or a fragmentary journey. I just want the implications, emotions and questions coming forth out of a relationship between human parents and a robot child.

Okay, Hurt is a little too much Geppetto and not really necessary. He may go.

Alex

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Personally, I'm not really interested in 'what could have beens'. I'm far more interested in analyzing and deconstructing the films as they are, i.e. true art criticism.

A.I. would be a good analysis object, as it's a masterpiece of a film with so many layers it could warrant endless discussion (and often also has).

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I've always felt AI was a masterpiece. An unsung masterpiece, but a masterpiece. It's delicate and harsh, it's kind and cruel, light and dark... it's both sides in differing moments.

One critique you made was about the home and I'd have to disagree. The prologue clearly states that there's a massive divide between those who have and those who don't. Monica doesn't work. So they are obviously well off in this society, at least to that extent. The house to me is brilliant. Sheer brilliance of design and setup. it uses the space the most wisely and creatively which is exactly how one would need to use the space.

The only critique I had are the super-mecha's. I thought, and was certain, they are aliens studying Human's and emotions. The dialogue didn't make it COMPLETELY obvious but did almost state they weren't 'alive' but it still didn't get stuck in my mind until I heard the term "super-mecha's."

I do have to admit the only issue I had was with David's love being real. I mean... he was programmed to love... but Love isn't something you could really program.

The transition between the opening monologue by Professor Hobby and then the reveal of David was too quick. Something should have happened to explain that Love wasn't what they had programmed. He does say he want's to make something of a "qualitatively different order" but at the same time the stipulations about it imprinting and having to be destroyed if they dont' want it, although dramatic, I think hinders that idea because it makes it sound like David is PROGRAMMED to love her. Not that he does truly love her.

But this is more of a nagging feeling than a true concern.

If David had started to "love" Monica before he was programmed to, That would have fixed this. If he had started to act affectionately towards him... and if the act of "imprinting" had been more... like how you and I would say to eachother that we love eachother.

Like... Monica sets a table with no food. And walks in to see David sitting at the table. He smiles and says "Hello Monica. You've set a lovely table. Shall we eat?"

She smirks, and pulls a strage rounded gray shape from behind her back. "No, not yet David. I have something for you."

"Is it a game? Is it my birthday--"

"--David, I want you to listen Carefully to the words I say. They won't make any sense, but I need you to look at me, and listen to what I say."

"Yes Monica."

She hands him the gray shape and he takes it in his hands. They two make eye contact.

"Sirius, Socrates, Particle, Decible, Gift, Tulip, David, Monica, Recieve, David, Monica."

This would help build the idea that she is giving a gift to him and he is recieving. Similar to the idea that two people in love may be in love but dont' "act" it or do anything until they have that act where they say "I love you" and in a way this would be that act. It would be that gift. The gray shape would seem alien and confusing to an audience, but once they see how he acts once he recieves, it, like the empty dinner plates, I think it would make sense.

Like, the object could in actuality be a small photo display case. And once she says the words. His hands begin to caress it. His concentration seems to shift to the object as he moves his hands along its edges. She doubts it worked and he says

"What were those words mommy?"

"What-- What did you say?"

"Mommy. You are my mommy!"

They embrace and he says "Thank you. Thank you so much. It's beautiful."

Use the same sunny shot from the film, fade out and fade in with a shot of David's Shelf with the gray object with finger paint all over it, a photo of David and Monica Smiling covered in finger paint and the words "I love you mommy!" under the picture

Also, the fact that he's seeming to NATURALLY start to love her would be like how humans do it. We start to have a crush or interest in a person, and not until that moment we declare it, do we truly fully express it, but there are inklings before hand.

The movie did try this I think with certain moments but they came off as creepy rather than affectionate which I guess kids trying to be affectionate could be minconstrued as creepy but eh lol

Giggalo Joe is another charater I wish had been fleshed out (ba dum bum) more. I really liked Jude Law as him but I would have liked to have seen him explore a bit more of who he was. Weren't there some deleted scenes with the lady who'd play the mother in Minority Report with him? Makes me wonder what all those scenes were like. (PS: Love Paula Malcolmson as the lady who's afraid to be with him heh)

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A.I. would be a good analysis object, as it's a masterpiece of a film with so many layers it could warrant endless discussion (and often also has).

Then do. But if it's only the usual grandstanding about lofty ideas and theories, i'll write you some highbrow stuff about BABY'S DAY OUT with the same vocabulary. You'll be surprised how convincing this will sound...for someone who doesn't know BABY'S DAY OUT.

Chaac also volunteered and didn't deliver, if i remember right.

If David had started to "love" Monica before he was programmed to, That would have fixed this. If he had started to act affectionately towards him... and if the act of "imprinting" had been more... like how you and I would say to eachother that we love eachother.

Like... Monica sets a table with no food. And walks in to see David sitting at the table. He smiles and says "Hello Monica. You've set a lovely table. Shall we eat?"

She smirks, and pulls a strage rounded gray shape from behind her back. "No, not yet David. I have something for you."

"Is it a game? Is it my birthday--"

"--David, I want you to listen Carefully to the words I say. They won't make any sense, but I need you to look at me, and listen to what I say."

"Yes Monica."

She hands him the gray shape and he takes it in his hands. They two make eye contact.

"Sirius, Socrates, Particle, Decible, Gift, Tulip, David, Monica, Recieve, David, Monica."

This would help build the idea that she is giving a gift to him and he is recieving. Similar to the idea that two people in love may be in love but dont' "act" it or do anything until they have that act where they say "I love you" and in a way this would be that act. It would be that gift. The gray shape would seem alien and confusing to an audience, but once they see how he acts once he recieves, it, like the empty dinner plates, I think it would make sense.

Also, the fact that he's seeming to NATURALLY start to love her would be like how humans do it. We start to have a crush or interest in a person, and not until that moment we declare it, do we truly fully express it, but there are inklings before hand.

I like that, actually. Spielberg has the pasta scene at the table, but it's not very effective. And i'll stand by my word that Spielberg didn't really gave the mother figure enough thought. She just hangs there, half enervated, half depressed - and he's not making a point about robot boy loving her regardless of her imperfections.

Whoever said this, the whole cinema back in 2001also agreed the the teddy bear was the best thing in the movie.

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I added this too. I think it would need another shot to help explain the gray object

Like, the object could in actuality be a small photo display case. And once she says the words. His hands begin to caress it. His concentration seems to shift to the object as he moves his hands along its edges. She doubts it worked and he says

"What were those words mommy?"

"What-- What did you say?"

"Mommy. You are my mommy!"

They embrace and he says "Thank you. Thank you so much. It's beautiful."

Use the same sunny shot from the film, fade out and fade in with a shot of David's Shelf with the gray object (which is a picture frame) with finger paint all over it, a photo of David and Monica Smiling covered in finger paint and the words "I love you mommy!" under the picture

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Chaac also volunteered and didn't deliver, if i remember right.

I'm writing it. I also have to write a thing on non tectonic structures, and to study, and to continue my comic book. But I'll finish it!

I disagree with all the so-called improvements of the first act suggested by pubs. It's the only thing good about the film. I only wish the whole movie was like that. I don't need to see the cruel outside world or a fragmentary journey. I just want the implications, emotions and questions coming forth out of a relationship between human parents and a robot child.

I'm glad we saw something of the world.

Like Ridley Scott once said, "What's outside the window?".

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I'm glad we saw something of the world.

Like Ridley Scott once said, "What's outside the window?".

I understand that but what exactly made you glad that you saw it? I thought it brought the movie down to the point that it became silly (arena, moterbike hunting, Rouge City which looked like a Disney theme park version of Blade Runner (thank you, Quint), Dr. Know, ... Suddenly it became much more a movie for kids ... showing stuff so they would not fall asleep). Ridley Scott's outside world is important throughout the film as if it's not just a background like in AI but a major character. The film even opens with it, establishing the whole tone and feel of the movie. I don't see the plusses of the outside world in AI.

And i'll stand by my word that Spielberg didn't really gave the mother figure enough thought. She just hangs there, half enervated, half depressed ...

Hey, sounds like a Kubrick movie! :rimshot:

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What a ridiculous excuse for a thread.

Jesus, this movie seems to rile people up as if it's some twisted religion. :biglaugh:

As for Prometheus'ses 'fine' analyses:

"Spielberg works to make his deepest feelings understood. In David’s only encounter with other children, he learns about the prospect of behavioral analogues–the difference between Mechas and Orgas (mechanical or organic entities) who demonstrate false or sincere conduct. These sci-fi suggestions of mysterious dread (Is David malevolent? Are his designer or adopted parents selfish monsters?) are not the heart of the movie–despite one irresistible trope of Buñuel-mocking menace. Spielberg’s art–moments of indescribable goodness–rejects the usual pessimistic sci-fi banality. He achieves Dreyerlike depth, Bressonian loftiness simply by contemplating irreducible Love. Don’t short-change the toy-filled premise. Spielberg heightens human need into pure feeling, and that Mecha/Orga dichotomy keeps it rigorous."

"For starters, seeing David as merely mechanical and finally unworthy of emotional investment denies the basis of representational art and metaphor. This dumbfounding objection offends the essence of storytelling. Should a child detach from Pinocchio’s fate because he is, after all, just wood? Isn’t E.T. at best a believable fantasy, at worst a teardrop-proof rubber puppet? A modest proposal: David’s most obvious meaning is Man. He’s an avatar of human experience, yearning, and will to perfect himself before his Creator. With A.I. Spielberg tells the oldest newest story: Man’s search for meaning."

Mind you, both critics revel in pot-shots at others who don't share their fascination: "In a peculiar survey of critical reaction, Variety reported that the two most common modifiers used by other members of the fully-opposable thumbs-down tribe were variations on “hypnotic” and “boring,” “fascinating” and “frustrating” – another way of erecting an intellectual posture while acknowledging A.I. wasn’t the easily swallowed formula pap they’d been weaned on. One non-critic but insistent movie kibitzer, as if to ensure his place in history as having penned the most Philistine response, insisted that the work of this master craftsman was all very “cheesy,” compounding an asinine error of judgement with an absurd denial of the movie’s irrefutable admirability as at least well-made."

If you have finished all the lofty bullshit, you are left with the same pragmatic questions as before (as Alex described rightly above): why the sickening populist arena stuff, motorbike hunting, Rouge City which looked like a Disney theme park version of Blade Runner (thank you, Quint), Dr. Know....

In short, the ideas may be there, the translation into a dramaturgical satisfying screenplay is what AI sucks at (imho). Interestingly, for reviewers like White, there's no middle ground. Every sequence, every nuance of A. I. is manna from heaven, everything represents artistic pinnacles not to be touched by mere personal opinions of others. Since i saw the movie again a few months before, i still wonder what Spielberg paid for those endorsements...or rather, what people like White swallowed before watching it.

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If you have finished all the lofty bullshit

Er, what lofty bullshit? What you're spouting there is anti-intellectual bollocks, sunshine.

you are left with the same pragmatic questions as before (as Alex described rightly above): why the sickening populist arena stuff, motorbike hunting, Rouge City which looked like a Disney theme park version of Blade Runner (thank you, Quint), Dr. Know....

"Pragmatic questions?" LOL. You're so good at splitting hairs, you should've considered a career as a hair dresser.

The arena and Rouge City are like the mall and the "virtual wish fulfillment" club (or whatever it's called) in MINORITY REPORT. Depraved, nihilistic, hedonist theme parks, where people buy sex, consumer goods, fantasies, and Colosseum-like entertainment. In A.I., it's necessary for David to experience this hell as a contrast to suburban bubble he lived in. It's his introduction to the dyspeptic real world. Likewise, Rouge City is basically a twisted spin on "Pleasure Island" from PINOCHIO, hence the Disney look. The imagery of driving through giant lips on the tunel sells it pretty well.

In short, the ideas may be there, the translation into a dramaturgical satisfying screenplay is what AI sucks at (imho). Interestingly, for reviewers like White, there's no middle ground.

"Dramaturtical satifiing screenplay?" Can you explain that in English, please?

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If you have finished all the lofty bullshit

Er, what lofty bullshit? What you're spouting there is anti-intellectual bollocks, sunshine.

And? You act as furious as a mama dog defending her puppies, but at least the fun stays in the discussion. ;)

As for the rest, i think, in plain english, that the filmic translation of those dystopian worlds, as well as the middle-class bubble, just seems off. For me, that is. It's both, too sanitized and too clichéd. It never inspired me to think how this future world really plays out. All i saw were sound stages and effects to bring home some violently obvious plot points (Dr. Know was the clumsiest exposition in that regard). Of course there are some great images, but as often with post-2000 Spielberg, they hang amidst a cloud of half-baked story ideas (and as much as the reviews claim it away, AI IS a story-driven film, not a surreal exercise which lays its abstract ideas out in the sun to digest).

And let's face it, only because Kubrick developed the rough draft doesn't mean a good author couldn't improve on it, heretic as this may sound to some.

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