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AI Apology

Tuesday 22 January 2013, 12:05

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

When I interviewed Steven Spielberg last week I felt the need to apologise to him for getting it so wrong when I first reviewed AI - here's why I have revised my opinion of this film.

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    Comment number 101.

    I'm not a huge fan of Spielberg but my favourite, as others have said, is Empire Of the Sun. I've watched it at various points in my life from childhood onwards and if it's shown on TV I make sure I watch it. The film really plays to all sorts of levels. As a child I really felt for Jim losing his parents and the sense of loss he has. Although I knew about the atomic bombs when I was young I hadn't had much time to consider the consequences of it, so when as a teenager I rewatched the scene where Jim sees the mushroom cloud and thinks it's a soul ascending to heaven but it's actually the mushroom cloud fallout of the bomb I was in shock as that scene all of a sudden took on a whole new meaning. Now ,as an adult, I just love every part of the film and it's one of the very few films that is still able to make me cry even though I've seen it loads of times.

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    Comment number 102.

    Indiana Jones The Last Crusade its the best of the Indy films and Spielberg (and Lucas) at his best.. Its one of the thoughts films you just have to watch when ever time its on and even through I must know inside out by now I still enjoy it and find something new in it. Now that's good film making.

    On a side note just because a films makes you cry does mean its any good, think of all the Star Wars fans cried when they saw the Phantom Menace come out and cried again when it was released in 3D !!!

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    Comment number 103.

    My guilty pleasure has to be The lost world Jurassic park. Despite the slightly silly city scenes and Vince Vaughn, I think the film is harshly treated. The special effects are still better than most now and the velociraptors are generally scary. However, I can never forgive him for the scene when Goldbloom's daughter shouts "hey you" to the raptor which somehow attracts its attention and saves Jeff from being eaten. NO NO NO NO NO. Ohhh and the way in which a t-rex slaughter sailors on a boat, somehow sneaking up on the "driver" and killing him leaving his hand on the wheel, without damaging anything.

    Non-guily pleasure is Catch me if you can. Excellent film.

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    Comment number 104.

    I’ve never thought of Spielberg as a film-maker where you have to look deeper. What you see is pretty much what you get. So I’ve rarely felt the need to re-visit his films and when I have my feelings didn’t change; 1941 is still a mess, Munich suffers from sitting on the fence – just who are we meant to be rooting for? Both sides end up as bad as each other, which may be true historically, but it makes for poor drama.

    I find it amazing that you like War of the Worlds. That film infuriated me! The line where the kid says: ‘Dad, I HAVE to see this!’ and Tom Cruise lets his son wander off into the middle of a battle is ridiculous! I know he’s supposed to be a bit of a deadbeat dad, but come on! It’s like saying: ‘Dad, I HAVE to stick my fingers in the electric socket.’ Or ‘Dad, I just HAVE to try heroin.’ Absurd. On re-watching I just found more annoying things about it. Why does he kill Tim Robbins? If he has the strength to kill him, he has the strength to overpower and restrain him. It’s a ham-fisted attempt to show that Tom has crossed a line due to the stress of war. Really, look at this one again, Mark. It’s a horribly written film with, admittedly, great effects.

    I too was underwhelmed by AI as well when I first saw it. Although the film looks stunning I felt it never quite knew what it was, with one foot in adult drama and one in child’s fairytale, it ends up being neither and both. And the coda IS jarring. It really feels like a tacked on afterthought. I know Spielberg has said it was in Stanley Kubrick’s screenplay, but Kubrick knew how to edit himself – wasn’t Jennifer Jason Leigh’s part cut entirely from Eyes Wide Shut? – and I can’t help feeling if he had made the film and seen the assembly, he would have cut that coda (and the whole tone would have been a lot darker).

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    Comment number 105.

    I watched "Always" again recently - a fairly odd remake which doesn't quite fit with Spielberg's other work and is essentially a supernatural romantic comedy with a thick layer of sugar. But I was surprised at just how well the performances stood up, especially Holly Hunter. She really can charm the pants off the screen. That doesn't make sense, but you know what I'm on about.

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    Comment number 106.

    I'm sure Mark will agree wholeheartedly, but after the public lambasting it received here in the US, I'm almost ashamed to admit that 'War of the Worlds' is one of my all-time favorite Spielberg films. I was 11 years old when the film first hit cinemas, and I was in a very fragile state of intellectual development. The possibility of alien intelligences beyond human comprehension existing somewhere in the universe was still incredibly new and daunting to me. When my father brought home the DVD from the video rental store, I only managed to last about 30 minutes before scuttling away to the confines of my room, pretending I hadn't just been scared out of my wits. It was only last year that I finally took the chance to revisit the film, and although I expected my then-cynical 17 year-old mind to be numb to popcorn sci-fi thrills, when I saw the first tripod burst forth from the asphalt to the beat of the brooding John Williams score, the paranoia of a young boy still afraid of the world beyond rushed back to me as if it had never left. Say what you will about alleged plot holes, disappointing denouements, and screaming children: the ability to return a viewer to his youth for two hours is proof of Spielberg's mastery of a really special kind of cinema wizardry.

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    Comment number 107.

    I have and will always be a big fan of Steven Spielberg. The man has made ​​so many wonderful and beautiful films, it's almost hard to choose my favorite. He most important film is maybe Schindler's List, it is a masterpiece which shows that Spielberg is not just a film director who makes wonderful popcorn adventures, but also can make something that is highly serious, dark, very human and chillingly realistic.
    I will admit that I love Spielberg's popcorn movies, right from Jaws to the first three Indiana Jones flicks... But the film that stands out as not only my favorite Spielberg film, but my absolute favorite movie ever ... is and will always be is E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. The film touched not only me, but a whole world and because it is so optimistic and damn touching ... although some believe it is too sentimental, it is probably one of the world's best films ever!!! Seriously the film work perfectly in every possible way imaginable, from plot to film technical magic tricks... spiced with John Williams'es beautiful music, and you got a piece of celluloid that will touch your soul. Plus!!! The saddest ending to a movie ever ... I'm still crying every time.
    And Steven Spielberg has wisely chosen to release the film on Blu-ray in its original version, because he didn't want to make the same mistake as George Lucas, when he fiddled too much the original Star Wars trilogy!!!

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    Comment number 108.

    1941 - for all it's problems it has such good memories for me. I remember watching it with my girlfriend when I stopped the film to propose to her. Now, we have been married for 21 years.

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    Comment number 109.

    A few people have already mentioned it, and it's The Terminal for me. Even though I've seen it countless times, I yearn for the plot to take a different direction each time. Tom Hanks' Viktor Navorski is a character I feel for and I hope for. He's probably the only screen character to provoke both emotions in me.

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    Comment number 110.

    Well, firstly, I want to mention "Always" which was such a complete disappointment when I saw it the first time. It looked like a soap opera TV movie at that first viewing and way too sentimental. I was even looking up info on the web if there was no mistake and it really was a Spielberg movie.

    And, secondly, the opposite to the guilty pleasure - The Terminal. I saw it and liked it very much. Enjoyed the story and some of the parts were hilarious. Though the movie couldn't stand on its feet the second time around. And now I consider this to be the weakest of all Steven's films. Just because, no matter how funny it sounds, this kind of situation would never happen even in a fictional universe.

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    Comment number 111.

    Amistad. Much underrated and, I think, would be an interesting companion piece to Lincoln.

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    Comment number 112.

    I saw AI in the cinema and liked it, except for the ending which looked like a desperate attempt to find some way of having a happy ending.
    I think a Kubrick ending would have been bleaker; after all how can a robot have a mother?

    I’m not sure a Spielberg movie can be a guilty pleasure (other than 1941, comedy really isn’t his forte); a little known pleasure is Sugarland Express, his second feature after his debut with Duel.

    My favourite Spielberg movies are from the 70s. Jaws followed by Close Encounters then ET. Close Encounters & ET still stand out not only for their story and effects but also for their tone; aliens not hell bent on invasion or killing humans. Intelligent, optimistic, SF.

    His best since then, I think, are Shindler’s list & Minority Report.

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    Comment number 113.

    Mark I'm amazed you have overlooked the main problem everyone seemed to have with AI: the ending. As I recall, I enjoyed the film, right up to the point where it reached what could have been one the the best, most poignant, tragic movie endings ever.... and then went on for another half hour. It's not so much that the body of the film was bad, but that it ruined the opportunity of creating something worthy of myth, something truly fairytale-like. It felt to me that Spielberg was too afraid to give the film a tragic or downbeat ending, and so created that whole convoluted 'two thousand years later' space robot nonsense as a way of having his cake and eating it. Even regardless of whether you like that final part of the story or not, the thing is that he very clearly makes it feel as if the film is about to end, you're expecting the credits to roll... and then there's another half hour of a totally different story to sit through. That's just bad film-making to do that to your audience. Seriously, when I was sat in the cinema, people all around were practically falling out of their seats begging the movie to just end now please. if you've lost people's attention like that you're not doing it right.

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    Comment number 114.

    AI a masterpiece? Not loving Kubrick? Mark, you've gone insane.

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    Comment number 115.

    Jurassic Park, although dwarfed by his earlier pop-corn crowd pleasers, has a lot of charm and witty one-liners which originally passed me by in the cinema. It also has great ensemble performances with Sir Richard Attenborough, Sam Neill, Bob Peck and a seriously on-form Jeff Goldblum.

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    Comment number 116.

    My favourite Spielberg will always be "Close encounters of the third kind" however my guilty pleasure(s) would have to be "Minority report" and/or "A.I". Spielberg can do thoughtful SCI-FI; I think it is a bit of a shame that we constantly mention Kuberic/Spielberg when talking about "A.I" it is so obviously a Spielberg movie (implementation of). Spielberg would not have made "Eyes wide s**t"...

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    Comment number 117.

    I too have always loved A.I. When I first went to see it I was completely speechless over just how epic a tale it was. For me The Terminal was completely under appreciated. It has moments of real tension as well as humour and characters that you really feel for. I've also always had a place in my heart for The Lost World. It's just a good a film as Jurassic Park but has none of its ground breaking qualities, simply by being a sequel. Has a better ending though, and doesn't necessarily beg for a follow up as the first one does, something which often annoys me in films.

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    Comment number 118.

    I think there's a lot to be said for those movies released around the turn of the millennium, notably A.I, Minority Report and War of the Worlds. These movies have a certain edge and a real gritty feeling to them; each film is has its moments of tension and suspense and I always liked how they felt like much darker additions to Spielberg's canon.

    Despite this, I still think that A.I. and Minority Report suffer from the same fault that keeps them from being recognised among his best, in so far as the films are about twenty minutes too long. The codas that finish out A.I. and Minority Report feel tacked on and I would have preferred if Minority Report stuck to the kind of ending that could have been expected from the Philip K. Dick story rather than the happy ending committed to the screen. Had A.I. left out the coda it would have been, in my opinion, Spielberg's best picture (I'm tempted to level this criticism against the ending to "War of the Worlds", however I'm aware that the ending to Wells' is somewhat similar to the film).

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    Comment number 119.

    Minority Report for me. I NEVER hear this mentioned with regards to Spielberg's cannon. Simple but exciting action fun.

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    Comment number 120.

    Although he didn't direct I'm going to say *batteries not included. It bears all the Spielberg 'family value' traits and was a childhood favourite of mine. To this day my bottom lip still wobbles at the sight of the baby flying saucer attempting to finish Frank's floor mosaic after the apartment has burnt down.

 

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Outspoken, opinionated and never lost for words, Mark is the UK's leading film critic.

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