I'm obsessing about it way too much.
It's making me really steamed.
I made the mistake of watching "A.I." on cable the week they
showed it about 792 times, and I ended up watching it EVERY TIME
IT WAS ON. I think it's a great movie--one of the most original
movies ever made--and so this wacko ending is BUGGING ME.
I'll tell you how bad it's gotten. I actually went out and
bought a copy of "Pinocchio." The movie's so full of Pinocchio
references, with Joel Haley Osment constantly saying "I want to
be a real boy," and the whole Blue Fairy thing, and the mad
cartoon scientist who tells us Pinocchio is the secret to getting
his wish, that I thought it must be some kind of Spielbergian
reinterpretation of the Pinocchio story, with space aliens
instead of a giant shark and a friendly tuna.
But that didn't really help. The original Pinocchio is an
obnoxious brat who always does the wrong thing (until the very
end), never loves anybody except himself (until the very end),
and has no intelligence at all, artificial or otherwise (until,
of course, the very end).
We already know that David, the Joel Haley Osment character,
is a good-hearted android/puppet, because from the very beginning
William Hurt programs him to be full of perfect love. If anything
this story is the Anti-Pinocchio. Instead of a brat wandering
down strange byways where he's constantly in fear of death, we
have a loving perfect boy who's forced by his own parents (okay,
step-parents) to survive in the cruel world, where he's NEVER in
fear of death.
From the moment his "mother" abandons him in the woods, we
identify with the android, not the humans. (Of course, I guess
the same could be said of Pinocchio.) David is the moral
conscience of the movie--and yet he's a machine. And so Spielberg
seems to be saying that perfect love is possible--it's just not
possible for we imperfect humans.
So the whole movie is based on a single suspense element--
will David be able to find his mother? Will he be able to express
But does it really matter? So what if he does find her?
She's already pretty much demonstrated she doesn't love him
because she left him out in the woods. What are we really
expecting to happen?
I think we don't have any earthly idea what's gonna happen.
This is one of those rare movies that has a totally original
plot. It goes in directions we could never predict, and moves
only according to its own internal logic. But there are several
key moments that tell us what it means.
One is where David and Gigolo Joe find the Albert Schweitzer
cartoon guru fortune-teller, supposedly the smartest guy in the
world, and he tells David that the only possible answer to his
dilemma is a combination of fantasy and reality: Pinocchio is the
answer. This means he has to find the Blue Fairy.
So what IS the Blue Fairy? In the original "Pinocchio"
adventures, the Blue Fairy is a young girl in the early stories
and a mother in the later stories, and she's this sort of magical
Perfect Woman who always forgives Pinocchio and rescues him from
But David has no idea who or what the Blue Fairy is, because
he's never seen her. Still, for some reason he follows the advice
of this eccentric computer-animated genius and he searches for
her in Manhattan, which is now mostly underwater. But first he
has to have all his illusions destroyed.
This happens when he finds his maker, the Geppetto figure,
William Hurt, and discovers that there are hundreds of "Davids,"
that he's not unique at all, and that his love for his mother--
which he thinks is so special--is actually programmed into all of
them. This is a pretty horrifying idea--sibling rivalry magnified
by a factor of a million--which, in fact, so enrages David that
he destroys one of the David androids in an act of brutal
violence. He then becomes depressed and tries to commit suicide
by plunging into the murky waters that have engulfed Manhattan.
And then he finds the Blue Fairy. She's down there on the
bottom of the ocean.
Only one problem. The Blue Fairy is fake--just a Madonna-
like statue that was once part of an attraction at Coney Island
but has now sunk to the bottom of the sea. But David won't give
up. He parks his underwater craft in front of the statue and
waits, staring at the emotionless enigmatic plaster woman.
At this point I thought the movie was over. It SHOULD be
over. If it's over right here, it's a great movie. Create
synthetic love and what happens? It will seek out synthetic
things to love. The story was a tragedy from the moment David was
created. It was arrogant to think you can build machines to love
us. What you've created is a longing that can never be satisfied,
if for no other reason than that we're going to die and the
machine is not.
Spielberg even does a back-tracking crane shot at this
point, the traditional way of ending a story. Is he intentionally
trying to fool us? Did he at one time want the story to end here?
But there's 20 more minutes of movie!
Two thousand years pass. David waits, never moving. And then
the waters recede and he gets out of the little watercraft and
touches the Blue Fairy, and of course she crumbles to dust. Okay,
a weaker ending, but still, an ending. His final illusion
But then we go into total fantasy land with these see-
through robotic creatures that now populate the earth. These
advanced life forms that look like the aliens in "Close
Encounters" take David under their care, read all his thoughts,
and explain to him that he's in a world where the last humans
died out many centuries ago. Everyone is a synthetic being, just
And then they tell him two things so incredible that they
should have fired the screenwriter who came up with them.
One, there IS a Blue Fairy. She's this ethereal goddess with
the voice of Meryl Streep.
And two, they have a way to rip open the fabric of the
universe and bring back any being from the past, but only for one
day. David WILL get to see his mother.
So David spends a fantasy day with his mother and at the
very end, before she dies again for all eternity, she tells him
she loves him and she always loved him. And David cries real
All right, aside from the fact that I don't buy the ending--
you can't just CHANGE ALL THE RULES at the end--I'm not sure what
it means that he cries real tears. Is the movie saying that an
android CAN become human? Does David become some sort of Christ
figure at the end, bringing new life to the world (but in
reverse--instead of dying to bring life, he is born to bring
I have no idea. William Hurt has already told him that he's
a machine and he'll always remain a machine. And why does the
mother suddenly love him? SHE DUMPED HIM IN THE WOODS! Why should
we believe her? Furthermore, WHY would she love him more than her
Okay, I'm getting waaaaaay too worked up again. It's bugging
me. Why this extra material at the end of the movie? How can we
let Spielberg change all the rules in the last 20 minutes? Isn't
David's love just as pure, REGARDLESS of whether the mother
returns the love or not? Isn't it a better story if he loves
without being loved back?
Okay, I'll stop.
No, I won't. I demand to know the answer!
"A.I." Web site: aimovie.warnerbros.com.
To reach Joe Bob, go to joebobbriggs.com or email him at
JoeBob@upi.com. Snail-mail: P.O. Box 2002, Dallas, Texas 75221.
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