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DVD Review HTF REVIEW: "A.I. Artificial Intelligence"

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ronald Epstein, Feb 12, 2002.

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  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    XenForo Template  Artificial Intelligence "They made us too smart, too quick and too many. We are suffering for the mistakes they made because when the end comes all that will be left is us" For weeks I have been patiently awaiting the arrival of this DVD. I knew that watching this film again for the second time would be just as much of an event for me as the first time I saw it theatrically. This film is a near science-fiction masterpiece. It's a collaboration of two of the greatest cinematic minds who ever lived: Stanley Kubrik and Steven Spielberg. This was a pet project of Kubrik's for many years. Before he died, he collaborated with Spielberg, passing on his vision in hopes that Spielberg would faithfully bring it to the screen. It is the future. Mechas, who are exact electronic replicas of human beings have become sophisticated companions. Our story begins with Professor Hobby (William Hurt), a visioneer, talking about the morals of making these Mechas love and whether it possible to feel emotion towards an artificially intelligent being. We jump to a few months further when grieving parents give up hope on their son who has been living in a comatose state for the past 5 years. While Monica (Frances O'Conner) grieves for her son, Henry (Sam Robards) grieves for the emptiness in her life. One day, Henry brings home something extraordinarily special. It is a specially-created Mecha Boy named David (Haley Joel Osment), who looks every so much like a real boy except that he isn't. For me to say much more than this would ruin the surprise of the film. I can only say that this film becomes a sort of modern-day telling of Pinnochio -- a story of a boy who wishes to find the blue fairy and become real. Of course, getting there isn't going to come easy as the film becomes very dark and sinister, so much so, that Spielberg insisted that kids not watch it. As I mentioned earlier, the film is so much near being a masterpiece. The problem is, there is an evident struggle to tell this story through the eyes of the two filmmakers. For nearly two hours, the film is clearly Kubrik, full of dark and twisted storyline and visuals. Suddenly, as if a light switch was turned on, the film becomes filled with Spielberg's Disneyesque vision, creating a sappy ending. There are those that will forever argue what the intent was of both Directors, but ultimately, it is the audience who either accepts the way the story is told or not. In any case, Artificial Intelligence is an absolutely must-see film. There has never been anything quite like it brought to the screen, and to watch Haley Joel Osment carry the film on his shoulders makes you wonder why he never received an Oscar nod. Just as memorable, is the character of Gigolo Joe (Jude Law), who befriends David and helps him on his way to discover the secret of his identity. How is the transfer? Generally, this widescreen anamorphic (1.85:1) transfer is excellent. My only complaint is that the film is softly focused, and there is just a hint of noticeable grain in the darker interior/exterior scenes. It disappoints me somewhat, because I would never expect this of a brand new film whose transfer should be flawless. Overall color balance is even throughout the film. Flesh tones consistently look great and the film retains a very warm and natural look to it. In the film's most vividly colorful scenes (Flesh Fair and Rouge City), the colors are a bit more subdued than I would hope them to be. It's as if someone went a little too soft in the transfer. The 5.1 DTS mix is outstanding, just as good as I remember it theatrically. Sound is very bright and powerful. The rears provided consistent environment support -- especially in the cycle chases where the Mechas were rounded up. I was very happy with the distinct channel separation the DTS track provided. Special Features As I am sure you are aware, DreamWorks has put together an elaborate 2-disc Special Edition. The movie content resides on DISC ONE. A very nice animated menu sequence greets you upon inserting the DVD, creating a mechanized window that shows clips from the film. To the left are the basic menu commands. The only supplement on DISC ONE is a featurette entitled, Creating A.I., where Executive Producer Jan Harlan discusses the film's concept of creating a robot that can love. Steven Spielberg explains his collaboration with Stanley Kubrik over the years on this project. Spielberg thought the film's original story was one of the nicest he had ever heard and was immediately attracted to it. There are quite a few behind-the-scenes material shown here that show off the scope of the sets used in this film. The Production, makeup, costume and sound designers all add their individual perspectives to this 11-minute documentary. On to disc TWO.... Inserting disc two and you are greeted by a trip into Rogue city which is just as impressive as the layout of Special Features itself. Acting A.I. splits into two sections. A portrait of David clearly shows the reason why Osment was chosen to play a mechanical boy. Osment recalls how Spielberg and he first met to talk about the script. Osment tells how his robotic character progressed through the film making him more of a real boy by the film's end. As a treat, we see how the functions of "Teddy" are performed with the many electronics attached to it. A portrait of Gigolo Joe begins with Spielberg explaining the invent of the character, which was actually an idea of Kubrik's that was never fleshed out. Jude Law recalls a phone call from his agent that told him how Spielberg was interested in having him play the part. Jude so much enjoyed playing this character as every day was new and inventive for him. Included is the make-up session taking him from Human to Mecha form. Designing A.I. takes us through the film's conceptual drawings by concept illustrator, Chris Baker. Production Designer Rick Carter was able to take those drawings and turn them into the awe-inspiring sets. Costume Designer Bob Ringwood talks about the clothing used in the film. He wanted basic dress with the main characters, and more controlled costumes with the other characters. The flashy costumes were left to the population of Rogue City. Lighting A.I. introduces us to Director of Photography, Janusz Kaminski, as he talks about the many lighting techniques that gives the film its very eerie quality. Special Effects introduces us to Special Effects Supervisor, Michael Lantieri, who talked about how instead of having his own agenda, he went over all the effects options with Spielberg. The first sequence we are shown is the climatic shooting a Mecha from a cannon. A dummy was rigged up with cable to shoot across the Coliseum and then erupt in flames. The next sequence involves construction of a track through Rogue City to support the helicopter that goes out of control. The last sequence shows the effects work involving the Blue Fairy. Robots of A.I. explores the world of the Mecha robots. Special Robotics Effects wizard, Stan Winston, talk about the real electronic robots made for this film vs. the heavy prosthetics human actors wore to simulate robots. It is interesting to note that actors with disabilities were used to supplement the roles of these robots. There is yet another sequence that shows how "Teddy" was brought to life. We even meet the man who voiced Teddy. Fascinating stuff! Special Visual Effects and Animation takes us to ILM where Visual Effects Supervisor, Dennis Muren, talks about his early conversations with Kubrik involving the effects work on the film. On a Thanksgiving Day, the two sat down and looked at early drawings and how technology could bring them to life. There are 4 major categories of effects presented here. The first, The Robots, gives us a look at how the human actors were able to act as robots. Most notably shown here is how the female Nanny robot with only a front and back (no side features) was successfully animated for the film. We then take a look at The miniatures that were built for the underwater sequences where Osment arrives at an underwater Coney Island. How do you film underwater with no water? Watch this and find out how! The New York City Sequence introduces us to Doug Smythe, who shows us how the CGI was created against the live action and models that were created in advance. Animating A.I. shows us the animation processed used for creating DR. KNOW, TEDDY, THE BLUE FAIRY and THE MECHAS. In each of these sequences, we see the early tests that lead up to the final project. The Sound and Music of A.I. introduces us Sound Designer Gary Rydstrom who got involved with the art department early on to get an idea of what the designs looked like, hoping to inspire the sounds he would create. It is interesting to watch Gary create sounds on a large keyboard. I also discovered that the Blue Fairy was voiced through Meryl Streep. Composer John Williams talks about weird tones that were created for the film. The use of electronic music was more prominent in this film than any other Williams had worked on. This piece concentrates more on listening to John Williams talk about music rather than showing him conducting an orchestra for the film. In Responsibility to Artificial Intelligence, the DVD credits are rolled as Director Steven Spielberg preaches his moral opinions on how we as a species must be very careful about the future we create for ourselves. A.I. Archives is chock-full of material. First up are two Theatrical trailers, one being the teaser and the other being the final. There are Storyboards that take us through three of the film's key sequences. There are tons of portfolio designs of the characters, effects, set designs and so on and so forth. I would dwell into this more, but it looks as if there are just tons of material here to sift through. One of my favorite features were the Behind the scenes photographs of Steven Spielberg, who is seen in candid moments, mostly Directing Osment. You can see there was a lot of fun that took place on the set. There are very nice separate Cast and Filmmaker bios that give us pictures of each individual, followed by a short text summary of who they are, followed by a resume of all their work. Production Notes tells the story of A.I. from its concept from a short story entitled "Super Toys last all Summer long" by Brian Aldiss, to the purchase of the story rights by Kubrik, to the passing of the baton to Steven Spielberg. Final Thoughts It will be interesting to read how our members have reacted after watching this film for the very first time. This movie did not do well in the box-office, yet it is very clear that DreamWorks understands the significant importance of this film and has put together a remarkable Special Edition truly worthy of the word "Special". Whether you think this film hits its mark or misses its target is going to depend on the individual. This is just one of those movies that not every two people will agree upon. Thankfully, this elaborate DVD release will give the opportunity for more people to experience this film in their homes and decide for themselves. Release Date: March 5th, 2002
     
  2. Chuck Mayer

    Chuck Mayer Well-Known Member

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    Can't wait...

    Take care,

    Chuck
     
  3. Chad Gregory

    Chad Gregory Well-Known Member

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  4. Tino

    Tino Premium
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    Nice review Ron, but WHY did they send you the FULL FRAME version?[​IMG]
    This film was my favorite of 2001, so I also can't wait to get my hands on it.[​IMG]
     
  5. LukeB

    LukeB Well-Known Member

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    Ok in the time it took me to get to reply I see others have already said it. There is a widescreen version coming out, right?

    Odd they would send you the 1.33:1 crap...
     
  6. Jeremy Conrad

    Jeremy Conrad Well-Known Member

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    Here's a shot from the New York sequence so you all can rest easy that it was, in fact, not changed as they promised:
    [​IMG]
     
  7. Ed St. Clair

    Ed St. Clair Well-Known Member

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    Maybe the 'reason' it looked "soft", was the P&S!
     
  8. Rob Lutter

    Rob Lutter Well-Known Member

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    1.33:1? UH... Ron... they seemed to have sent you a MARed version of the film (OAR of A.I. is 1.85:1). [rant]SEND IT BACK! IT'S PAN AND SCAN![/rant] [​IMG]
     
  9. Steve O

    Steve O Well-Known Member

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    Ron,
    Please tell us that the movie is available in the OAR and that the "Special Edition" you referred to is indeed not P&S (please, please, ... a typo, ... right?!).
    I can't (in good conscience) call any P&S transfer "Special" -- even if they include ten-thousand extra discs with supplemental material!
    Thanks for the thorough review though. I'm looking forward to seeing the film if/when it is available in widescreen.
    - Steve
     
  10. Dan B

    Dan B Well-Known Member

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    I was wondering about the 1.33 comment, too. [​IMG]
    I really thought this was an excellent movie...even with it's flaw(s?). The fact that it is loaded with extra features has me eager to add this one to my library.
    Thanks for the review.
    -Dan
     
  11. Dan M

    Dan M Well-Known Member

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    Uh oh......
    I hope this does not turn into another one of those "Kubrick wanted us to see it full frame for home video" debates.
    [​IMG]
     
  12. Talal

    Talal Well-Known Member

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    the special edition is being released in both 1:1.85 and p&s editions.

    go to dvdfile.com for a review of the anamorphic widescreen 2 disc set.
     
  13. Michael Caicedo

    Michael Caicedo Well-Known Member

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  14. Jo_C

    Jo_C Well-Known Member

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    Seeing that it's not unusual for long films to be made in 1.85:1 and Kubrick always preferred his films shown in full screen, I believe HTF made the correct choice in reviewing the full screen version.

    I really don't appreciate long 145-minute films made "flat", and I'm sorry Mr. Spielberg if I disagree with your non-belief in scope films.

    I would much rather watch a long film originally shot flat shown full screen than a widescreen version. In this case, I am in the camp of Kubrick fanatics who want to see everything as Kubrick intended, fullscreen. "Eyeswideshut", "Full Metal Jacket" and "The Shining", as you know, were shot at 1.33:1 and matted for theatrical release. But Kubrick wanted his art to be shown on video and TV a certain way, to his original vision, and had he been alive today he would have approved A.I. in fullscreen format.

    The full screen A.I. will be the correct vision for me.

    hips
     
  15. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Well-Known Member

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    Except, hips, that many, many scenes in AI will be pan-and-scanned due to the effects shots. The proper presentation of this film is 1.85 only.
     
  16. SteveGon

    SteveGon Well-Known Member

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  17. RicP

    RicP Well-Known Member

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  18. Joe Schwartz

    Joe Schwartz Well-Known Member

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  19. Tom Rags

    Tom Rags Well-Known Member

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    Can anyone specify if the 1.33:1 version is open matte and the 1.85:1 is matted? Or is the full frame a Pan and Scam?

    Thanks!
     
  20. Bruce Hedtke

    Bruce Hedtke Well-Known Member

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    Joe, it would've been interesting...but, they weren't building robots to hate, only to love. Broken down, David was a machine and since "hate" wasn't programmed into him, he had no cause to adopt it.

    *still shaking his head at the gall of a studio to send out Full Frame screeners*

    Bruce
     

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