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Watch: Steven Spielberg Defends The Ending Of 'A.I. Artificial Intelligence'

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by Kevin Jagernauth
November 20, 2012 5:12 PM
27 Comments
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Steven Spielberg Jude Law Haley Joel Osment A.I.

It was just over a decade ago when Steven Spielberg dropped "A.I. Artificial Intelligence" into theaters to a very mixed response. The picture was more famously known as a project Stanley Kubrick was shepherding for years (he was waiting for technology to be able to realistically create David -- eventually played by Haley Joel Osment -- believing no child actor could do it), with Spielberg seeing it into production and completion after the death of his filmmaker and friend. And it seems the movie could never quite shake off speculation of what Kubrick would have done versus what Spielberg actually made.  But perhaps the biggest point of contention came with the ending, which fast fowards the story 2000 years, putting a happier sheen on what would have been a darker conclusion.

However, in this segment from a 2007 TV documentary "Spielberg On Spielberg," the director defends and explains the ending. He notes that it was in the treament that Kubrick had been developing, and that he was obligated to see it through. But morever, he feels it was the natural place for the story to go as well. Hear what he has to say below, and then let us know your thoughts. [Reddit]

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27 Comments

  • Geo | June 30, 2013 2:06 AMReply

    Just saw this for the first time, and feel that the movie should have ended when David was underwater staring at the Blue Fairy. The narration comes in, and I really thought the movie was ending. We then have an unbearable additional 30 minutes to get through. It felt very convoluted at that point. Spielberg will never understand the concept of "sometimes less is more".

  • jeanettesdaughter | January 14, 2013 1:48 PMReply

    well, "we are what we create n'est ce pas?" i liked the ending and did not find the film particularly "dark." i fund it amusing that the blue angels recreated human life from a starnd of hair saved by the teddy bear who understood david's love and longing for his mother. ai was, as almost all of his movies, maybe all of them, about childhood and/or the loss of innocence. we all believe certain things, whether we are theist or atheist belief is unavoidable. the hopes of all children are dashed by maturity. in these times, we still have hopes that technology will inevitably advance human society. perhaps. i d not think we are advanced enough to really say. spielberg/kubrick seem to be saying, 'unlikely' since "we are what we create..." my thoughts on the subject!

  • J. Lucas | January 4, 2013 2:33 PMReply

    Awful ending, why the hell does Spielberg have to insert aliens in whatever movie he makes? "Recreate his mom for one day"? The only valid point of that ending was for the audience to understand that now David was just as human as any one of us, believing in an obvious lie to live happily ever after. Just like any of us. I could be done without those stupid aliens.

  • Mark S. | January 10, 2013 11:25 AM

    Not aliens. Robots. That's the big failure of the ending, the lack of clarity. Had they been aliens, yes, absolute nonsense. But they were robots, "evolved" from robots such as David. With that in mind, it makes a lot more sense. They're essentially archeologists looking for their roots.

  • John | December 29, 2012 7:36 PMReply

    I think the ending wasnt that bad at all. I liked that it wasnt usual happy end like in many other movies.

  • zatopek | November 21, 2012 5:04 PMReply

    The problem is the way Spielberg directed it. He made it look like a sappy melodrama with his Jesus-lights and sentimental score, close ups etc. The feel of the film changes in the end. Even if it was Kubrick's vision, Spielberg didn't know how to handle it.

  • cattt | November 21, 2012 9:29 AMReply

    The ending was what Kubrick wanted. People never understood Kubrick's films until years later, it's no surprise that they didn't get AI either.

  • Alixa | November 21, 2012 8:56 AMReply

    I agree. The first half of A.I. is great, but the ending is cornball fromage.

  • Farfa | November 21, 2012 8:56 AMReply

    This movie was great. I think it's ridiculous that fans tell Spielberg what he did wrong.

  • SFlare | November 21, 2012 2:45 AMReply

    I didn't find the ending to be a sad one. I actually liked that he got to have his day. Lovely movie.

  • Tom Quinn | November 20, 2012 11:25 PMReply

    Wow, I am happy to read these comments because I never understood the criticism of the ending. The boy has a completely fake moment of love from his mother that is being manipulated to gain something from him. I never understood why people felt that was a happy ending.

    However, it speaks to something that is true about the classic "Spielbergian ending." The truth is that most of the moments people gripe about are quite sad, and he has set up why earlier in the film, but in the moment he has you feeling a swell of emotions. It is a masterful trick, but sadly, many critics have never looked past this.

    Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Roy abandons his family. We saw earlier during the family fight at night how much this is hurting the children and can only imagine the pain his abandonment will cause.

    ET: Elliot loses the one friend he has, mirroring the loss of his father.

    In Jaws, the characters are miles from shore on a barrel.

    He is the master of making you feel happiness in the moment, but the mechanics of what is going on are more complex and, often, darker. I always thought AI and CCTK were the best examples of that.

  • AIOLAI | November 20, 2012 10:31 PMReply

    A.I. was beautiful

  • Ryan Sartor | November 20, 2012 7:36 PMReply

    I like A.I. a lot. I don't think it's particularly valid, though, for Spielberg to discuss a need to be completely loyal to Kubrick's vision. A lot of things change in the creative process and Kubrick himself was such a perfectionist that he never would have stuck to someone else's Bible while creating his movie.

  • Dryer | November 20, 2012 7:22 PMReply

    I think this is the darkest and most emotionally cold film Speilberg has ever directed. If he'd adapted to his own style I think the film would've worked better, but Speilberg is more interested in prompting the audience to feel he's being being provocative. I haven't watched it since its initial release.

  • daniel | November 20, 2012 6:59 PMReply

    I don't understand how anyone views this as anything but the most apocalyptically misanthropic ending to any film in history. Humanity has died out from it's own self absorption, and the supermecha blatantly say to david that they don't know what the point of being alive is, and they were hoping they could tell him. Davids answer may as well be "bottomless, selfish wanting at the expense of everyone and everything else, even the thing that you love." An absolute nightmare ending image that condemns anything remotely good about humanity as base need. David is a monster who destroys virtually everyone he meets, and and even kills a little boy (though it turns out to be another robot, he doesn't know it when he kills him) simply for being possible competition for his hideously selfish mothers love. Kubrick clearly wanted Spielberg to make the film because if you go into a Kubrick film, you are getting misanthropy, but you go into a Spielberg film you get ET -- so the fall is greater.

  • JD V | November 20, 2012 6:53 PMReply

    It's basically the same ending as 2001.

  • Donella | November 20, 2012 6:43 PMReply

    I checked out of this movie when Gigolo Joe died.

  • Kevin | November 20, 2012 8:26 PM

    Seconded.

  • Alex | November 20, 2012 5:57 PMReply

    You have to love a film where the greatest love a mom can give a son is abandoning him at the side of the road.

  • rich | November 20, 2012 5:55 PMReply

    It end with David spending one day with his mother, before she dies and is lost forever, and we as an audience are already made aware that David will continue to love and crave her basically forever, without any hope of ever seeing her again. And all of humanity has been extinct for a very long time. Its a very very sad ending.

    I don't really get why this is only now a playlist post... I saw this video years ago, when I was writing a paper on A.I. :)

    A truly underrated film.

  • Anonymouse | November 20, 2012 5:55 PMReply

    what ruins the film for me is spielberg's sappiness. kubrick may have had similar intents with the treatment, but in no way would his detached nature produce such an emotionally juvenile film.

  • Jack | November 20, 2012 5:49 PMReply

    Couldn't wait for this movie to end. I got the ending and appreciated it on a certain level but man....did not enjoy it at all.

  • gary | November 20, 2012 5:44 PMReply

    Nice. Glad to see people defending this. If you thought that AI had a happy ending, you missed the whole point of the movie. It's a dark and pretty fucked up one, though at the same time saying something positive about what makes us human. One of Spielberg's best films and his least-appreciated after Empire of the Sun.

  • Tony Harris | November 20, 2012 5:34 PMReply

    I feel like I was one of the few to love that movie and completely "get" the ending. It has a profound emotional resonance to me.

  • Adam | November 20, 2012 5:24 PMReply

    People who thought the ending was a happy one didn't understand the ending. Hell, three quarters of people were stupid enough to think that the advanced mechas at the end were aliens.

  • dan | November 20, 2012 5:22 PMReply

    maybe I'm weird but I've always found the ending extremely sad.

  • Rob | November 20, 2012 5:31 PM

    Hell yeah, that's because it is. It's heartbreaking!

    The allegation of a "typical Spielbergian ending" has always been such a dimwitted criticism of this severely underrated film.

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