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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: "A.I. Artificial Intelligence"

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#1 of 279 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted February 12 2002 - 04:24 PM

Posted Image

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


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


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


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


Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner


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#2 of 279 OFFLINE   Chuck Mayer

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Posted February 12 2002 - 04:25 PM

Can't wait... Take care, Chuck
Hey buddy...did you just see a real bright light?

#3 of 279 OFFLINE   Chad Gregory

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Posted February 12 2002 - 04:39 PM


Generally, this full-frame (1.33:1) 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.


Am I missing something here? Shouldn't your "only complaint" be that they sent you the P&S version of the movie and not the anamorphic widescreen version?Posted Image

What gives?


Edit: Otherwise very thorough review, much appreciated, just disturbed that you received a P&S copy as a screener.

#4 of 279 OFFLINE   Tino


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Posted February 12 2002 - 04:41 PM

Nice review Ron, but WHY did they send you the FULL FRAME version?Posted Image

This film was my favorite of 2001, so I also can't wait to get my hands on it.Posted Image
It's gonna be a hell of a ride. I'm ready. .

#5 of 279 OFFLINE   LukeB



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Posted February 12 2002 - 04:46 PM

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 of 279 OFFLINE   Jeremy Conrad

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Posted February 12 2002 - 04:49 PM

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:

Posted Image

#7 of 279 OFFLINE   Ed St. Clair

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Posted February 12 2002 - 04:53 PM

Maybe the 'reason' it looked "soft", was the P&S!
Movies are: "The Greatest Artform".
HD should be for EVERYONE!

#8 of 279 OFFLINE   Rob Lutter

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Posted February 12 2002 - 04:55 PM

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] Posted Image

#9 of 279 OFFLINE   Steve O

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Posted February 12 2002 - 05:31 PM

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 of 279 OFFLINE   Dan B

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Posted February 12 2002 - 05:35 PM

I was wondering about the 1.33 comment, too. Posted Image

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.


#11 of 279 OFFLINE   Dan M

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Posted February 12 2002 - 05:38 PM

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.

Posted Image

#12 of 279 OFFLINE   Talal


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Posted February 12 2002 - 05:41 PM

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 of 279 OFFLINE   Michael Caicedo

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Posted February 12 2002 - 05:53 PM


the special edition is being released in both 1:1.85

[quote] Whew!! What a relief!!
Mike, FL

#14 of 279 OFFLINE   Jo_C


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Posted February 12 2002 - 05:55 PM

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 of 279 OFFLINE   Peter Apruzzese

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Posted February 12 2002 - 06:10 PM

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.

Read the blog (please): www.bigscreenclassics.com

#16 of 279 OFFLINE   SteveGon


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Posted February 12 2002 - 06:32 PM


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.


But Kubrick didn't direct A.I. - Spielberg did. I'll be picking up the widescreen edition. Posted Image

#17 of 279 OFFLINE   RicP



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Posted February 12 2002 - 06:32 PM


I really don't appreciate long 145-minute films made "flat",

[quote] What exactly does the length of a film have to do with its aspect ratio?

#18 of 279 OFFLINE   Joe Schwartz

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Posted February 12 2002 - 07:03 PM


It will be interesting to read how our members have reacted after watching this film for the very first time.


So I guess I was hoping for a deeper, more thought-provoking sci-fi film, instead of an updated Pinocchio.

#19 of 279 OFFLINE   Tom Rags

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Posted February 12 2002 - 07:10 PM

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 of 279 OFFLINE   Bruce Hedtke

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Posted February 12 2002 - 07:12 PM

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
The Mads are calling

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