Steven Spielberg’s next job could easily be a CGI enhanced vision of Stanley Kubrick spinning in his grave. The notoriously warm and fuzzy “Duel” director worked with the late auteur on A.I. on and off for years, but wrote the script (based on Brian Aldiss’ “Super Toys Last All Summer Long) by himself after Kubrick’s death. The result is a half-realized film, entirely competent in execution (except for, quite possibly, the most offensively bad ending ever to grace celluloid) yet lacking the true magic necessary to pull of such a film.
Haley Joel Osment is nearly flawless as David, a prototype robot that can actually feel love for its “parents.” Osment does not blink once in the entire run of the film, and his performance demands both compassion and dissonance. Jude Law is even better as an earlier model “mecha,” one that allows lonely women to induldge in the safest sex imaginable. The two team up after David is chased out of his home and Law’s prostitute is accused of murder.
Their odyssey takes them from the Flesh Fair, a place where humans destroy mechas for sport, to an underwater New York City still sporting the tops of the World Trade Center. Their most disappointing excursion leads them to Rouge City in search of the Blue Fairy (don’t ask, Pinocchio runs rampant). For Rouge City, Spielberg simply copies Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” without any of Scott’s subtle touch.
If the film didn’t matter, though, the new Dreamworks DVD would be a fine package. The double disc set has a beautiful transfer of the film, showing off the deep colors and glorious special effects. Spielberg’s talent lies in the visual, and DVD is the perfect format (off of the big screen, anyway) to showcase his talent.
The first disc includes a standard (but not uninteresting) documentary on the making of the film, rife with talking head interviews (including the director). The only major omission is a commentary track, though Spielberg gives plenty of info and anecdotes in the documentary.
The second disc is all extras, made up mostly of featurettes on various aspects of making the film. The best of them is an early look at the “Teddy” character at Stan Winston studios. Teddy is a plush bear with a mechanical mind of his own, as well as the most entertaining aspect of the movie. He has a thoughtful, wise voice and his expressions and movements are truely amazing. Add to that storyboards, trailers, drawings and more photos than you can shake a stick at, and fans of the movie have plenty to salivate over. The rest of us must remain content imagining how good the movie could have been if the high priest of irong, Father Kubrick, could have hung on just a few more years.