Film I cried at the end of A.I.. Long time readers will know this is nothing new, that I’ll cry at almost anything. And I’m not sure why this story in particular provoked me. I was sure of one thing afterwards, however. That if the combined efforts of Kubrick and Spielberg, a twenty-year gestation period and all of the special effects technology available today couldn’t get this right, I was witnessing the end of cinema.

This is film production as memorial, the celluloid equivalent of Paul McCartney taking a break mid-set, looking out into the crowd, grunting ‘Here’s one from an old mate who’s sadly not with us,’ and bursting into ‘Imagine’ only changing the words to take in his view of the world. Lennon would roll in his grave, and it’s hard to think Kubrick didn’t walk out of the celestial multiplex before the end credits of this farrago.

Its first mistake is being unable to decide who the story is about. The film begins with a mother who’s lost her child and suddenly gifted a replacement who’ll never grow old and give her unconditional love, and the implications of that. This section, is great, beautiful to look at, emotionally charged and yet tender. Enough here for a domestic, yes, but arresting piece of cinema. Then, the mother eventually makes the only choice she is can make and we care for her. But as soon as she closes her car door after abandoning the kid, it’s as though the story has been handed over to someone else to finish and they’ve no idea how it began. We want to know how the mother coped with the choice she had to make, how her marriage is. How it’s affected her relationship with her real son….

…but instead we are suddenly in the centre of the city from Blade Runner following a plastic pal whose fun to be with out on the job as a sex-bot – until he bumps into the lad. So we think that in this section it will be how another ‘Mecca’ relates to the boy and how he reflects back upon him. But the relationship is hardly developed at all – it’s the boy’s reaction to his own kind not the other way around, which makes the new character somewhat superfluous – we don’t learn anything new about either. We find out a lot about the world, but it’s pointless and unfocused and in too many ways exploitative.

And it’s only in the next section that we find ourselves in the place we should have been in the first moments of the film – following the boy’s story completely. We should have been there when he opened his eyes. When he was first picked up by his surrogate father. We should have seen his mother the way he sees her. It may have meant in these last moments when he comes to terms with his own lack of mortality (and in terms of story this is as far as I’m prepared to go) and the film finally gets back of track, we would have cared naturally, and not through an emotional manipulation as nasty as that imprinted in the fictional boy.

I’m being harsh? I’m not sure that I am. This is Steven Spielberg. The ET guy. He made Jaws. Schindler’s List. He’s seen as many films as we have and must know that entertainment and intelligence can go hand in hand. And here we have an amalgamation of hoary old sci-fi clichés, hacked together bits of other films and an inability to see a direct line through a story. ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ proved that classic films can happen by chance – you can’t just set out to create them in a factory. Shame on you.

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