Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
The Dissolve's Keith Phipps Will Be Uproxx's Film/TV Editor The Dissolve's Keith Phipps Will Be Uproxx's Film/TV Editor Criticwire Survey: The Worst Movie and TV Accents Ever Criticwire Survey: The Worst Movie and TV Accents Ever What Quentin Tarantino Gets Wrong About TV Critics What Quentin Tarantino Gets Wrong About TV Critics 'Manic Pixie Dream Girl' Is Officially Part of the English Language Now 'Manic Pixie Dream Girl' Is Officially Part of the English Language Now How 'Mr. Robot' Hacks TV's Empathy Machine How 'Mr. Robot' Hacks TV's Empathy Machine Joe Hill: Review Aggregrators Like Rotten Tomatoes Provide 'Confusion, Not Clarity' Joe Hill: Review Aggregrators Like Rotten Tomatoes Provide 'Confusion, Not Clarity' Noah Baumbach's Characters Are Still Coming of Age 20 Years Later Noah Baumbach's Characters Are Still Coming of Age 20 Years Later The 'Hannibal Finale' and the Dangers of Post-Mortem Interviews The 'Hannibal Finale' and the Dangers of Post-Mortem Interviews British Film Critic Was a Soviet Spy British Film Critic Was a Soviet Spy Real Life Hasn't Punished Jordan Belfort. Why Should 'The Wolf of Wall Street'? Real Life Hasn't Punished Jordan Belfort. Why Should 'The Wolf of Wall Street'? 'Fear the Walking Dead' Starts Slow, and Interest Is Already Waning 'Fear the Walking Dead' Starts Slow, and Interest Is Already Waning Daily Reads: Sexism Isn't Just a 'Straight Outta Compton' Problem, How Samuel L. Jackson Lost 'Reservoir Dogs,' and More Daily Reads: Sexism Isn't Just a 'Straight Outta Compton' Problem, How Samuel L. Jackson Lost 'Reservoir Dogs,' and More Daily Reads: Why Yale's Library Is Preserving VHS, Who Wins When a Brown Actor Plays a White Character, and More Daily Reads: Why Yale's Library Is Preserving VHS, Who Wins When a Brown Actor Plays a White Character, and More Daily Reads: What Colin Trevorrow Got Right About Female Directors, the Art of Cynical Sincerity in 'BoJack Horseman' and 'Rick and Morty,' and More Daily Reads: What Colin Trevorrow Got Right About Female Directors, the Art of Cynical Sincerity in 'BoJack Horseman' and 'Rick and Morty,' and More Daily Reads: 'Mistress America' and the Art of Making a Living as an Artist, How Summer TV Surprised Us, and More Daily Reads: 'Mistress America' and the Art of Making a Living as an Artist, How Summer TV Surprised Us, and More Criticwire Classic of the Week: Nicholas Ray's 'They Live By Night' Criticwire Classic of the Week: Nicholas Ray's 'They Live By Night' 'Scream' and 'Nightmare on Elm Street's' Wes Craven Dead at 76 'Scream' and 'Nightmare on Elm Street's' Wes Craven Dead at 76 Daily Reads: The Evolution of TV Criticism, "Queen of Earth" Is the Scariest Movie of the Summer, and More Daily Reads: The Evolution of TV Criticism, "Queen of Earth" Is the Scariest Movie of the Summer, and More 'The Gift': A Great Thriller (Almost) Ruined By a Terrible Ending 'The Gift': A Great Thriller (Almost) Ruined By a Terrible Ending Daily Reads: How 'Peak TV' Is Undermining Quality Control, Ranking Quentin Tarantino's Movie, and More Daily Reads: How 'Peak TV' Is Undermining Quality Control, Ranking Quentin Tarantino's Movie, and More

Retro/Active: Rosenbaum on 'A.I. Artificial Intelligence'

Criticwire By Matt Singer | Criticwire March 28, 2012 at 5:31PM

Defending the much-maligned ending of Spielberg's underrated gem.
0
"A.I. Artificial Intelligence"
"A.I. Artificial Intelligence"

As if written in response to my piece earlier this week examining the critic's right to suggest improvements to films and defending the end of Steven Spielberg's "A.I. Artificial Intelligence" -- no, I'm not narcissitic, why do you ask? --  comes an absolutely superb meditation on the movie's themes and allegorical value as cinema about cinema from Jonathan Rosenbaum.  Drawing upon his knowledge of Stanley Kubrick and Spielberg's filmmographies (connecting, for example, the ferris wheel that traps Haley Joel Osment's robot boy David at the bottom of the ocean with the one that rolled through Hollywood in "1941") and even sprinkling in some autobiographical details (comparing, for example, the author's feelings of loss about his own mother with the ones experienced by David), Rosenbaum puts on a critical clinic.  And he mounts one of the best defenses of the film's much-maligned ending I've ever read.  From his piece in Film Quarterly (which contains SPOILERS):

"Viewers who criticize [David and his mother's] final scene together... as sentimental usually overlook that it’s occurring long after humanity has died out. This means that the death [James] Naremore refers to has to be the death of an emotion or idea -- even if, as the film’s offscreen narration implies, it’s also the birth of a dream, a robot’s dream. Perhaps it could be regarded as an artificial and manufactured footnote to the human race, a sort of ghostly echo. Something, in short, that is very much like a film... In the pessimistic cosmology shared by Kubrick and Spielberg, cinema and death appear to be the only enduring realities, each one dominated by fixation on a maternal figure. The Blue Fairy, a deity from 'Pinocchio,' is described by [David's creator Professor] Hobby as 'part of the great human flaw—to wish for things that don’t exist'; David seeks her out to make him a 'real' boy and thus gain [his 'mother'] Monica’s love. And the Monica who loves David and appears only in the film’s final scene is a deity derived from life, but no less a fiction. For Hobby, a version of both Mephistopheles and Frankenstein, human flaws, including his own, can be 'great' and therefore cherished, but for David, condemned to love someone who won’t love him back, they can only be lamented. Both characters, in effect, are incurable cinephiles. And the film brings us closer to David than to Hobby, so that we ultimately love a film that refuses to love us back."

I'm not sure what the film critic equivalent of a drop the mic moment would be -- drop the laptop?  Nah, too expensive to replace.  Drop the notepad?  Not dramatic enough.  We'll keep working on it. -- but Rosenbaum deserves whatever it is after this piece.

Read more of Rosenbaum's "A Matter of Life and Death: 'A.I.'"

This article is related to: Retro/Active, Jonathan Rosenbaum, A.I. Artificial Intelligence


E-Mail Updates