A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A.I.: Artificial Intelligence is a 2001 science fiction movie directed by Steven Spielberg about a young android named David who is the first of his kind to express and feel human emotion. There is some mild profanity. This movie is rated PG-13 for some sexual references (Joe is a robot gigolo created to have sex with women), and some violence (robots are destroyed, and there's a critically ill child and characters in peril). Kids may find the theme and some of the situations disturbing, and they may also be unsettled by the open-ended nature of the story, as well as the raw emotion expressed. It will be most suitable for teens, who may enjoy debating some of the issues of love, vulnerability, the nature of humanity, the future of the human race, and even the meaning of life. There is some bullying when David's "brother" and his friends don't accept him into their clique; this, and David's seemingly suicidal fall from a skyscraper, could seem all too human for many viewers.
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What's the story?
In A.I.: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, David looks like a 12-year-old boy but is really a "mecha," a highly developed robot. He's the creation of Dr. Hobby (William Hurt), who decided to take robots a step further and develop the first robot that can feel love. One of his employees, Henry (Sam Robards), is chosen to be the beta tester. Henry and his wife, Monica (Frances O'Connor), have a son, Martin, who is critically ill. At first, Monica is horrified by the idea of "adopting" a mechanical boy, but her need for love is so overpowering that she initiates the sequence that will bind David irrevocably to her forever. He immediately changes from a pleasant if emotionless toy into a child whose mother is his whole world. He loves, which means that he is needy, jealous, and thinks like a 3-year-old, calling for his mommy and wanting her all to himself. When Martin gets better and returns home, he and David are jealous of one another. When Monica believes that David may be a threat to Martin, she sets him loose in the woods. David is determined to find the Blue Fairy, who can turn him into a real boy, as she did with Pinocchio, because he thinks that will make it possible for Monica to love him.
Is it any good?
Cross 2001 with E.T. and Blade Runner and throw in some Pinocchio, some Wizard of Oz, some Velveteen Rabbit, and a touch of Our Town, and you might have some sense of what to expect from this movie. It's an ambitious, complex, provocative movie that is likely to lead to more late-night college dorm debates than anything since the ones about 2001's monolith and the ape throwing the bone.
Developed by Stanley Kubrick and completed by Steven Spielberg, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence is a two-part invention of a movie that owes both its strengths and its weaknesses to the collaboration between two men of such prodigious talents and such different, even opposing sensibilities. Kubrick is the master of the cool image, Spielberg the master of the warm feeling. The juxtaposition of their influence is particularly apt for this story of the struggle between heart and brain, not only on the part of the mecha but on the part of the orga (humans) as well.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether or not the android David in can feel love and Dr. Hobby's real reason for creating him. Is there any way to make a robot "real?" If the movie is about making a machine that can feel, why is the title A.I.: Artificial Intelligence?
While set in the future, how does this movie address contemporary concerns such as bullying, climate change, and the evolving relationship of humanity with technology?
In science fiction films set in the future, societies tend to be either utopian, technocratic, and seemingly perfect or dystopian, barbaric, and seemingly on the verge of extinction. Where does this movie fit on this spectrum? What are some examples of science fiction movies that correspond with these conflicting visions of the future?
How do science fiction movies tend to mirror the cultural mood and spirit of the era in which they were made, and how does A.I.: Artificial Intelligence mirror the concerns of the turn of the century, when computers and the internet were beginning to become a dominant factor in our lives?
- In theaters: June 29, 2001
- On DVD or streaming: March 5, 2002
- Cast: Frances O'Connor, Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law
- Director: Steven Spielberg
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Run time: 146 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some sexual content and violent images
- Last updated: May 29, 2020
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