Offertories Audio CD: Review By carl

  • OVERALL
    5.0
    SUPERB
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE FEATURE
Stanley Kubrick is widely known in the business as a master film maker. As far as respect goes he's one of the few directors who has received consistent praise in even his weakest films. Those of you who read my review of his most critically acclaimed film 2001 A Space Odyssey may be under the impression that I'm not a fan, but seriously I am. He was a director who would take on any genre from slapstick comedy, to Roman epic, to epic science fiction and would succeed because he always kept his own style in the films. Kubrick was a film maker who saw his films as his works of art and so always made them visually stunning and thoughtfully written.

Now you may be wondering why I've started a review of A.I with a passage about Stanley Kubrick. The thing is that A.I was sort of Kubricks pet project that never quite got off the ground. It wasn't until after he died that Spielberg finally accepted Kubricks request and took over the project. That brings with it a problem, you see Spielberg is also a fantastic director. He's actually my favorite main stream director out there because his films are usually well made despite appealing to the masses. Unfortunately he's a director with a radically different style to Kubrick and the resulting clash could potentially destroy the film.

With A.I though Spielberg has made all the right choices, in fact you could be forgiven for mistaking this for a film made by Kubrick himself as Spielberg has remained faithful enough to the original directors style.

Since Kubrick had a lot of input on the writing of the script then obviously it's been thoughtfully written and Spielberg has left the story largely intact, but he has made a lot of small changes to better suite his own directing style. (The ending was not one of them.) Actually all this time talking about directors and there's probably a few who are still wondering what this film is all about. Basically it's a fantasy film dealing with Robots and their struggle for survival. The old story is helped along by the fact that this version is genuinely emotional. It opens with a narrator using the words "Those were the times..." (more on why that's relevant later) before explaining what has happened to the world. Then we meet a scientist played by William Hurt who is working on trying to make robots more like humans. He succeeds at building a near human child named David who is capable of feeling true, human love for his parents. David is adopted by a family who's only son is basically dead, and they bring him up but are given strict instructions not to activate the emotions until they are sure they want to keep him. Once this child has an attachment to parents it can never be broken, and if the parents then change their minds it will be destroyed. Eventually the mother comes to love him like a son and she decides to activate his emotions. It all goes well until their real son makes a recovery and is allowed home. His new brother is a jealous and spiteful child who keeps challenging him to do different things that concern the parents. Eventually after an accident at a party they become convinced that he's dangerous and decide to give him up but the mother, who loves David, doesn't want him being destroyed so takes him and leaves him in the woods. David is totally unprepared for life in a world with so much hate for androids, but sets off on a journey hoping to find the blue fairy from Pinocchio so that he can be made into a real boy.

Like I said though the story has risen above anything similar due to the fact that it is emotionally engaging. There are a number of reasons for this that I'm going to be discussing; but since I started out by talking about Kubrick then I'll continue along that path here by telling you about the films amazing cinematography. It'll be a very difficult thing to top Kubrick in the cinematography department as his films were always the best quality possible in this area. Even with 2001 I was forced to admit that the films cinematography was wonderful but before seeing A.I I did wonder whether Spielberg would be able to live up to such a legend. He has done a masterful job and A.I will be likely to stand up with even the best of Kubricks work. Whether your looking for the camera work or the visual effects you'll find that Spielberg has painted an epic and unique canvas. The start of the film is incredibly beautiful and once the brother returns every scene, even down to the most relatively harmless moments, have been given a chilling atmosphere thanks to the creepy camera work. Then the visual effects, particularly the robots during the flesh fair, make for some of the most disturbing images to be found in a Spielberg fantasy.

After that though Spielberg takes the material to heart and subtly introduces area's of his own directing style in order to make the film emotional, something a lot of Kubrick movies never achieved. Spielberg has always been good at directing youngsters and in A.I he get's what is probably the best child performance I have ever seen; from Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense). He doesn't come across as a kid trying to be cute, even when the script is trying to be cute, but rather get's the material across more naturally and skillfully than most adults could achieve. It doesn't really matter whether you're looking at the playful David that you meet at the start of the film or the emotional variation that he eventually grows into because Osment's performance is flawless throughout.

As for the rest, well it was wonderful. It has a wonderful soundtrack from John Williams. Excellent supporting actors from the likes of William Hurt and most noticeably Jude Law, and any other technical area you would care to mention has been done well.

However there seems to be a lot of disdain around the film, based on it's ending. If you haven't yet seen the film then stop reading here, I'm going to be discussing the meaning of the ending and what themakers were ultimately trying to achieve.

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First of all the theory that in the end David is rescued by Martians is wrong. They're not Aliens, they're the next generation of Robots who survived the destruction of man. This is made pretty clear by the film but it's a misunderstanding I hear surprisingly often. As for whether the robots fit, well to answer that I have to go back to the beginning.

That start I mentioned earlier is essential to understanding why the ending used was correct. On a second viewing of the film you'll notice that the narrator at the beginning who says "Those were the times..." is the voice of Ben Kingsley who plays one of those robots from the end of the film. Then you realize that "Those were the times..." could also be said "Once upon a time..." and it opens up a whole new level to the film. It's a film that's been likened to the story of Pinocchio before, and not without reason. A.I is basically a retelling of Pinocchio in the future, it's the version that these robots tell each other. The story that you're watching is not true (in the context of the film I mean, obviously it's not true in real life), but rather it's a fairy tale that's being told by Robots who have lived a long time after men. Then you look at the comparisons to the fairy tales that we tell now. They are always dark and hopeless stories that suddenly feature a happy ending, and A.I does the same thing on a bigger canvas. It's the darkest most hopeless fairy tale ever, so it required a happy ending that was darker than most. In comparison to the film, the ending to A.I was light and fluffy as David saw his mother again, learned to dream and whatever, yet compared to "And they lived happily ever after..." the "And they lived happily for one day, and then she died..." ending of A.I was incredibly bleak. In my opinion the way the film ended was the right way, and the only possible way without making the stories frequent clues confusing and redundant.

I don't want you to think I'm trying to change anyone's mind. I misunderstood the ending when I first saw it, and was one of those calling for the removal of the final 10 minutes, yet if I can convince you to look at the film from a different angle then you may be able to appreciate the ending better. A.I is a masterpiece, it's my choice for the best film of this millennium so far (early I know) as well as my favorite Spielberg movie to date.
THE EXTRAS
Disk 1

The first disk has just one extra. It's a doc*mentary titled Creating A.I which looks into the the difficulties in making the film. It explains how Spielberg was a little hesitant when Kubrick asked him to direct A.I and how he didn't accept until Kubricks wife contacted him after his death.

Disk 2

Disk 2 of the A.I set is absolutely packed with features. The first on the list is a 2 part doc*mentary entitled Acting In A.I. This looks into first the casting of David and see's the other actors talking about what it was like working with Osment and how impressed they were with his performance. Then it looks into the casting of Jude Law as Gigolo Joe the android who accompanies David on his journey. It talks about what Spielberg was looking for in the role and what attracted Law.

This is followed by another 2 part doc*mentary titled Designing A.I. The first part A.I: From Drawing To Sets talks with the concept illustrator Chris Baker and the production designer Rick Carter who discuss what is was like designing the fantastical sets of the film.

Then the second part Dressing A.I speaks with the costume designer Bob Ringwood about what he felt he brought to the proceedings. He speaks about what he was trying to achieve from the futuristic costumes of the film, right down to the more down to earth clothes seen in the films family scenes.

What follows next is a lot of extra's with regard to the films fantastic visuals. The first is simply titled Special Effects and it's a basic overview of the effects involved. Telling you about both the difficulties and dangers involved in the film.

Guess what The Robots Of A.I is about. This doc*mentary looks into the aspect of the effects used in the robots, and it's pretty in depth. It looks at the different techniques used from the humans in costumes, the puppets and the fully CGI creations. It explains how they designed Jude Law, and informed me because I thought his hair was plastic but it was his normal hair with some makeup around the hair line. The doc*mentary also looks into the steps behind making one of the films best characters, the Jimminy Cricket variation, Teddy.

Special Visual Effects And Animation: ILM is a 5 part doc*mentary. An Overview is an Overview of the effects by Dennis Muren.

The Robots offers a little more insight into the creation of the robots in the film. This time the techniques used to get the realistic lighting effects.

The Miniatures looks into the sets used in the film such as the Pinocchio Land theme park used towards the end.

The New York Sequence: Shot Progression is a look into the different effects techniques used for the scene set in the flooded New York.

Finally Animating A.I looks into the fully CGI characters of Teddy, Dr. Know, The future robots and The Blue Fairy. Particularly interesting was how they portrayed the emotions in Kinglseys character who had no face or anything else usually used to portray emotions.

The Sound And Music Of A.I is a 2 part doc*mentary that looks into the sound of the film. Now I didn't look in too much depth to the sound in my main review because I wanted to mention it here. Sound Design looks into the general sound effects used in the film from the voice acting to the background noise. The voice acting is brilliant, among the big names are Robin Williams, Ben Kingsley and Meryl Streep who have been perfectly chosen for their roles. This doc*mentary explains why they were chosen. Then it explains the films very atmospheric background noise, showing how he used his key board to produce the subtle sounds that fit objects so well.

Score then looks into the films emotionally high musical Score. John Williams is probably the best composer in movies having worked on films such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jaws and most recently with Spielberg on Minority Report and Catch Me If You Can. He talks about the different things he saw in the film that influenced his Score.

Closing: Steven Spielberg: Our Responsibility To Artificial Intelligence is basically a brief monologue by Spielberg who talks about how man needs to be careful with it's technological leaps.

A.I Archives features 2 teaser trailers for the film. Kaleidoscope and Intralink. Intralink is just my all time favorite trailer, it's subtle and emotional and gives you the tone of the film without any story details. There's storyboards, portfolio's on Clive barker, the Production Design and Industrial Light & Magic. There's production photographs and finally Behind The Scenes Photographs of Steven Spielberg.

Finally there's the usual array of filmographies for the crew of the film.

Still no commentary though, Spielberg insists that he doesn't want to spoil his films by talking through them. Someone should tell him that people watch the commentaries after the film because some of his films are excellent commentary fodder, this film included.
THE VIDEO
The film looks great, but it's not anything particularly groundbreaking. The compression rate is all it could be as all 7Giga Bytes of disk space has been used up on disk 1 but I can't help but feel that if the first doc*mentary had been moved to disk 2, making the extra's slightly lower res then the film would have looked much better.
THE AUDIO
The sound is great. Sound effects come through nice and clearly, and Williams Score thunders out of your speakers. The film has a great Dolby 5.1 track too.
THE FINAL WORD
This is easily my favorite post millennium film so far. It's carries that classic theme of protecting minorities, once again using androids, but does it in an emotionally enthralling way. The disk is packed full of extra's and is great quality too.

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