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HTF REVIEW: "A.I. Artificial Intelligence"



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#1 of 279 Ronald Epstein

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Posted February 12 2002 - 11:24 AM

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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

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#2 of 279 Chuck Mayer

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Posted February 12 2002 - 11:25 AM

Can't wait...

Take care,
Chuck
Hey buddy...did you just see a real bright light?

#3 of 279 Chad Gregory

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Posted February 12 2002 - 11:39 AM

Quote:
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?

-Chad

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

#4 of 279 Tino

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Posted February 12 2002 - 11:41 AM

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 LukeB

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Posted February 12 2002 - 11:46 AM

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 Jeremy Conrad

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Posted February 12 2002 - 11:49 AM

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 Ed St. Clair

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Posted February 12 2002 - 11:53 AM

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

#8 of 279 Rob Lutter

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Posted February 12 2002 - 11:55 AM

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 Steve O

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Posted February 12 2002 - 12:31 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 Dan B

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Posted February 12 2002 - 12:35 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.


-Dan

#11 of 279 Dan M

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Posted February 12 2002 - 12:38 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 Talal

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Posted February 12 2002 - 12:41 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 Michael Caicedo

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Posted February 12 2002 - 12:53 PM

Quote:
the special edition is being released in both 1:1.85
Whew!! What a relief!!
Mike, FL

#14 of 279 Jo_C

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Posted February 12 2002 - 12:55 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 Peter Apruzzese

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Posted February 12 2002 - 01:10 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.
"What we're fighting for, in the end...we're fighting for each other." - Col. Joshua Chamberlain in "Gettysburg"

 


#16 of 279 SteveGon

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Posted February 12 2002 - 01:32 PM

Quote:
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 RicP

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Posted February 12 2002 - 01:32 PM

Quote:
I really don't appreciate long 145-minute films made "flat",
What exactly does the length of a film have to do with its aspect ratio?

#18 of 279 Joe Schwartz

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Posted February 12 2002 - 02:03 PM

Quote:
It will be interesting to read how our members have reacted after watching this film for the very first time.
I was impressed by the effects and by Osment's creepy robotic acting, but I found the story lacking in more than just the ending.

Specifically, I wanted the film to explore the idea that a robot could hate as well as love -- that you can't allow one without also allowing the other. In one early scene, the father mentions that possibility, but nothing comes of it. And when David freaks out and destroys his twin robot later in the film, his inventor doesn't seem concerned at all! You'd think he would at least send David back to QA for more testing...

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

#19 of 279 Tom Rags

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Posted February 12 2002 - 02:10 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 Bruce Hedtke

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Posted February 12 2002 - 02:12 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