Monday, 28 March 2016
With the fall of the Hollywood Studio System in the late 1950's and early 1960's, there was a new era beginning in American filmmaking as studios struggled to adapt to a changing world. They started by making big-budget epics like Cleopatra that nearly bankrupted them. The 70's saw the beginning of the "New Hollywood," a brief period in which a series of low-budget films emerged that were noticeably darker in tone than those of the Studio Era, and would ultimately go on to set the stage for the modern blockbuster. One such film in this period was Easy Rider, a film which served to usher in the New Hollywood, despite being an awful film. This was a bad movie, with nothing worth seeing.
Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper) are a pair of bikers who don't really do much other than ride on their motorcycles, have sex, and get high. They have somehow put together some money from buying drugs (which Wyatt very intelligently keeps in his gas tank) and want to go to New Orleans in time for Mardi Gras before they retire wealthy. They ride around, get high on marijuana, meet some people once in a while, get high on marijuana, ride around, get high on marijuana, ride around, and get high on marijuana. Did I mention that they spend a lot of the film smoking marijuana? Anyway, they make a few friends but most people apparently hate them so eventually some rednecks show up out of nowhere and fire a shotgun at them.
I really wanted to like Easy Rider. I really did. Unfortunately, this movie is dull and repetitive. Most of it feels more like the "plot" was just an excuse to show off the desert landscapes they filmed in, which I was unable to enjoy because the rest of the film was so boring. There are a variety of far better movies you could be watching if you just want to see that, or you could just use Google to look up photographs of those same landscapes or go there yourself. Most of the film basically amounts to Billy and Wyatt driving on the road while 70's pop music plays over top, with the occasional stop to get high on marijuana. The direction is terrible, the script is weak, and the editing is really, really bad, to the point where it can easily be very difficult to watch.
Wyatt and Billy have absolutely no depth or personality to them worthwhile protagonists. The intention appears to be that they go through some kind of emotional development but their personalities amount to riding, smoking marijuana (and any other drugs they can get their hands on, apparently), and occasionally giving someone a lift. That is literally the extent of everything they do in the film. Apparently there is supposed to be some prejudice involved towards them, but it is hard to relate to that aspect of the film when there is absolutely no emotional link towards them. The rest of the cast is hardly any better. Most of them amount to minor roles who are treated as being important at first but are forgotten about as soon as their role in the story is finished.
So basically, don't bother with Easy Rider. It is a dull and boring film with absolutely nothing worth watching beyond possibly the historical significance of its influence. How did this film make such an impact when it came out? It is an awful and ridiculous film that makes absolutely no sense. As far as biker films go, there are far better options you could be watching. If you want to see desert landscapes, try watching a western instead. This film is a waste of time. It is boring, dull, frustrating, and in general just very poorly thought out.
Thursday, 17 March 2016
This week, the theme for Wanderer's Thursday Movie Picks Meme is intersecting stories. These films can be very interesting when done right. This would be the types of films where there are multiple stories that all appear unrelated but end up coming together in unexpected ways. There are plenty of great options to choose from, but I've decided to find some less obvious choices. Instead of going for the generally intended meaning of "intersecting story" I've decided to find some strange interpretations of that format. Unfortunately, doing so has made it hard to find three options. I've had to solve this by choosing one that I hate in addition to two great ones.
Lost Highway (1997)
This strange psychological film from David Lynch definitely has a way of messing with your idea of intersecting stories, largely because there are many different ways to interpret what happens and how exactly its narratives are linked. To put it simply, there are two main plotlines. The first half revolves around an estranged couple who receive tapes in the mail which contain footage of the inside of their home. About half-way through, this plot thread is largely left behind (though there actually are connections to it if one looks closely) and the movie instead begins following a mechanic who gets mixed up in an affair with a mobster's girlfriend. Then there is a surreal final act which brings together elements from both plotlines. A weird subjective experience, for sure.
The Weight of Water (2000)
One of the lesser known films to be directed by Kathryn Bigelow (yes, the same Kathryn Bigelow who made The Hurt Locker). This adaptation of Anita Shreve's 1997 novel features two narratives in different time periods connected by one incident. In one, we follow a journalist who is researching an incident in Maine during which two women were killed. In the other, we follow a young Immigrant woman as we learn the backstory leading up to the murders. It is a beautifully made film, though it can be disorienting and hard to follow. It is a bit more of an art film compared to some of Bigelow's more linear projects, but it is an interesting film to see. And because I know you're wondering, yes there is a lesbian sex scene, but in order to see it you'll have to sit through a beautiful two-hours first.
Still Life (2006)
This slow and tedious docudrama about a dying Chinese town is a very good example of how not to do intersecting storylines. In this case, it is because there is virtually nothing linking them. The first act follows a guy trying to find his wife. About a third of the way into the film, he sees a UFO (seriously) which serves as a transition into a second story about a woman, Shen Hong, who searches for her husband. We follow her through the same town with otherwise no real link to the first story. Then once we've finally gotten acquainted with her, the movie decides to forget about her and go back to the first guy. Shen Hong's plot is definitely the stronger of the two storylines, but the movie in general is poorly made, in large part because it fails to make any attempt to actually link these two obviously unrelated narratives.
Wednesday, 16 March 2016
So it just so happened that there was a screening on Campus of Paul Gross's latest film Hyena Road. Being interested in war films as I am I quickly registered to see it, but it gets better. Not only did I get to see it, but Paul Gross himself showed up to answer questions about it afterward. I even got to talk to him up close and gave him a link to this blog. Now I can say I've met three major directors, and might even have one reading my work. Anyway, Hyena Road made for am interesting experience. A variety of different emotions went through my head as I watched. It was a very intense movie, as well as a bit disorienting and hard to follow at times (though never to the point of where I was lost). It was also a long film, though it was remarkably well-paced. It might be one of those films you have to watch multiple times to really get.
In Afghanistan, the Canadian military is working on building a road going straight into enemy territory. The Taliban do not take kindly to this and a lot of people have been killed as a result. Meanwhile, a Canadian sniper team led by Warrant Officer Ryan Sanders (Rossif Sutherland) is endangered when they are spotted by insurgents and make a run for it. By total luck, they find a village where they are saved by an Elder. Later, Captain Pete Mitchell (Paul Gross) becomes interested in learning who saved his team, and begins to think it was a legendary soldier known as "The Ghost" who was able to take down the Red Army. Now believing the Ghost could be a valuable asset to the Canadian Armed Forces he makes efforts to track him down. Meanwhile, tensions begin to mount between Pete and Ryan as they both struggle to deal with ethics, military beaurocracy, and their own emotions.
Upon my initial viewing, I had mixed feelings, though that might be from not knowing what to expect. There are many aspects of this film that are hard not to appreciate. Aside from being quite possibly only the second film ever made to show the Canadian military (after Gross's earlier film Passchendaele), there was an intense amount of research that went into making it. Not only did Gross manage to talk to real soldiers and get support from the army, but he even went as far as to actually travel to Afghanistan to witness the war first-hand. Gross even claimed to have seen more action than most soldiers do (apparently not a lot of people actually leave what he called "The Wire"). The story itself is fictional, but a lot of it comes from stories he had heard (the "Ghost" was a real person) and many of the people depicted were based on soldiers he had met.
The action is also very good. One can see the influences of a variety of earlier war films such as Jarhead, Black Hawk Down (which Gross described as, "a beautifully shot movie"), and The Hurt Locker. While the shaky cam can be a bit excessive at times, it never reaches the point of making it hard to see. There are some intense battle sequences, reminiscent of moments from Black Hawk Down and The Hurt Locker, but in an interesting move there is also an emphasis on the soldiers' everyday life. In a manner that one might argue more closely resembles Jarhead, there is a lot of focus on what goes on when the soldiers are not fighting. As Gross noted, some of them never leave their base, and even those who do often have to deal with extended and tedious waiting. This is especially true of the sniper team, who are shown on multiple occasions waiting long stretches of time just for something to happen. Of course, that also can add to the tension when it does, most notably when they get into moral conflicts with their superiors back at HQ.
Now, one thing I was somewhat worried about when I watched this film was the fact that, even though this is a film dealing with a modern war and focusing on a country whose military has been integrated for years, there are next to no female characters. I mean, surely it would not have hurt to maybe have one or two women in the sniper team, right? What made things different this time was that I was actually able to ask Paul Gross why he made this decision, and his answer was somewhat surprising. As he noted, he actually did make an effort to put female soldiers into his movie, and it was something he struggled with.
According to Gross, even though the restrictions against women have been lifted, there are still some areas where women have yet to enlist. Most female soldiers are infantry, which is a different area from what is shown in the film. In order to become a sniper, one first has to serve in a recon platoon. Even though it is entirely legal, there have not yet been any women serving in recon, and thus not yet any female snipers (though as Gross also noted, there probably will be in the near future). Ultimately, he eventually decided that showing female snipers would have, at least for now, made the film less authentic. Now one could argue whether this reasoning justifies his actions, but there is a bright side. Not only did Paul Gross make an effort to include female soldiers, but he also appears to have no issues with women serving in the military. It is nice to for once find someone who isn't trying to use outdated pseudoscience to argue that women are inferior to men and thus should be excluded by default.
That said, I do feel like the film could have handled its one female lead, Captain Jennifer Bowman (Christine Horne) slightly better. To be fair, Christine does manage a solid performance and her character actually does have her moments to be strong. My main issue is that I felt like she could have had a more active role in the story. This might be just me, but I don't think I would have put quite as much focus on her romance with Ryan. Actually, I probably would have cut the romance altogether. The scenes where they get intimate are handled alright, but this romantic interest did sometimes appear to overshadow the stronger aspects of her personality.
I think part of me also hoped to see her get more directly involved with the action, though one could argue that it would have been difficult to incorporate that into the plot short of her actually joining the sniper team. Of course, the moments where Bowman did get to show her strength of character were still great. I guess I would have just liked to see more of them. Still, even though the result might not be perfect, Gross admitted that he struggled to find a way to make it work, which is more than can be said for a lot of modern war films. If nothing else, there is the possibility that being able to make Jennifer as strong as she was may open the door to future depictions of women in the military. In that sense, she handles the film okay.
Hyena Road is definitely an interesting film, and one I would recommend taking a look at. While it may be long and not always easy to follow, it is an intense look at the ethics and morality of war. I would be okay with watching it again now that I have a better idea of what to expect. It is also a rare attempt to show a war from the Canadian perspective, something that almost never seems to happen. If nothing else, it is worth seeing just for the authenticity. Even Kathryn Bigelow was unable to shoot The Hurt Locker in Iraq, while Paul Gross was able to film on location (at least partially, some of it was also shot in Manitoba). It is a very dark war film and definitely a worthwhile experience.
Thursday, 3 March 2016
For a director like Steven Spielberg, the release of A.I. Artificial Intelligence proved a strange choice upon its initial release. It was poorly received at the Box Office, with critics bashing the film for various reasons. Much of that arguably had to do with the film's strange history. It originated as a project by Stanley Kubrick, who was interested in the question of whether it is possible for a machine to become essentially human. He had already explored these ideas through the HAL 9000 computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but was interested in going deeper into the psychology of artificial intelligence.
Over the course of his career, Kubrick began trying to find a way to explore this concept. He eventually found a narrative in the short story Super Toys Last All Summer Long and began planning it. Kubrick was also close friends with Steven Spielberg, and suggested a collaboration between the two. Ultimately, Spielberg turned this down. Kubrick still worked extensively on developing his vision of the film. He wrote storyboards, some early drafts of the script, and even tried to find ways to capture the robot child protagonist. His first idea was to have David played by an animatronic, allowing for him to display an uncanny appearance.
When this proved costly, he considered CGI after seeing it used to make dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. Eventually, it became clear that David would have to be played by a child actor. This in turn was also one of the main reasons Kubrick turned to Spielberg. In the amount of time it took Kubrick to make a film, the child cast as David could age enough that he looks noticeably different from when the film started production. Spielberg, being credited as the man responsible for the modern blockbuster, was much faster. He could cast an actor and film the movie in a much shorter period of time.
The collaboration was later revisited, with Kubrick enticing Spielberg with an opening credit: "Stanley Kubrick presents a Steven Spielberg film." Kubrick planned to start working on the film after he finished Eyes Wide Shut, but he died before production could begin. Spielberg was now left alone, and after being encouraged by Kubrick's family, decided to continue the project. It was a very daring move on his part. Spielberg had to take everything his friend had designed and somehow make a film out of it. After writing a draft of the screenplay based on Kubrick's notes, Spielberg began production.
This has inevitably resulted in a notable controversy. Is AI Artificial Intelligence a Spielberg or a Kubrick film. One could argue either way. It is true that Spielberg was the one who completed the film, but it was based in large part on the vision Kubrick had spent years developing. This dual authorship is alluded to in the opening credits, which identify the movie as "An Amblin/Stanley Kubrick Production." (Amblin is Spielberg's production company, named after one of his first projects). While Spielberg wrote the final draft of the script, the story was designed by Kubrick. Even the often-despised final act where David is found buried in the ice, was based on ideas designed by Kubrick.
Now it would be improper to say that AI Artificial Intelligence lacks the trademarks of a Spielberg film. Even the use of a repetitive title calls to mind the similarly-named E.T. The Extraterrestrial. However, the themes and ideas explored are very much those of Stanley Kubrick. It presents the final chapter in a long series of films that bring out the very simple question of what it means to be human. Throughout Kubrick's career, he explores themes of humanity, both in questioning its nature and in its loss. In his first feature Fear and Desire, a group of soldiers struggle to control their own feelings while under stress. Paths of Glory forces the viewer to question just what it means to be brave, while also showing the human lives wasted in fighting a pointless war. Spartacus sees an army of slaves trying to find an identity for themselves. 2001: A Space Odyssey asks just how advanced a machine can become before it is considered essentially human. In A Clockwork Orange, Kubrick showed how forcing a person to change their nature destroys them. Full Metal Jacket shows a group of ordinary people gradually losing themselves as they are turned into killing machines. Finally, Eyes Wide Shut brings the nature of love into question, and shows how people are driven by their sexual urges. Had he lived to begin production, AI Artificial Intelligence would have simply been the latest incarnation of a theme that had fascinated Kubrick from the beginning.
The plot of AI Artificial Intelligence revolves around robotics. During the film's opening, an unseen narrator (who is not revealed until the final act) explains that in the near future the polar ice caps have melted, flooding much of the world. The government is enforcing birth control regulations, and thousands of people have been displaced by the flooding. As a result of all the social problems occurring, robots have become an essential part of the economy and the workforce.This is hardly an optimistic moment. Already, we realize things are bad enough for the human characters in the film, to say nothing of what will be faced by the robot who will guide us through this world.
The press conference that begins the film's story sets the tone for much of the rest of the film. We meet a scientist named "Dr. Hobby" (William Hurt) who shows the progress that has been made in the robotics industry. He does this, fittingly enough, with a female android. At first she blends in with the others at the meeting, facing away from the camera. It is only when Dr. Hobby begins to show his control over her that she becomes apparent. He orders her to undress, and she has no choice but to follow his orders. For all intents and purposes, she is his slave. Much like how Spartacus was bought and trained to follow orders, this android was built and programmed to do as Hobby asks.
The slave metaphor goes even further when David encounters an old scrapyard. He witnesses a truck dumping a pile of old mechanical parts into a ditch. These old pieces are presumably left over from robots were were found to no longer be useful and subsequently destroyed. Humans see machines as lesser beings only to be kept around as long as they are useful. What is shown is essentially a robot mass grave, not unlike those used by the Nazis to dispose Holocaust victims. David is not alone in this scene, either. He also encounters a group of old worn-down robots who, like dumpster divers, desperately search the remains for spare parts. The fact that many of these robots are in such poor condition that they have to resort to grave robbing just to survive shows humanity's disregard to their well-being as soon as they stop being useful.
Finally, these robots, who are minding their own business, are the victims of slavery by way of the "Flesh Fair," a carnival-like event with an emphasis on the destruction of old robots. In order to find participants, ringmaster Lord Johnson-Johnson (Brendan Gleeson) sweeps the surrounding area in an airship, using a large net and a group of motorcyclists to round up any robots he finds and bring them in. In other words, robots are taken against their will for no other reason than because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. At the carnival, Johnson-Johnson also states that the event is designed to embrace the imagined superiority of humans, emphasizing further the bigotry going on. This idea of promoting human superiority by destroying robots is really not much different from a lynching at a Klu Klux Klan rally to emphasize the alleged dangers of racial integration.
It is strange and ironic then that what Dr. Hobby proposes is the idea of a robot who is capable of loving. He wants to design a robot that is programmed with "everlasting love" and bases its appearance on his own dead son. Hobby appears to believe that the emotions shown by his android slave are nothing more than imitations, and wants to go what he believes is a step further by creating a machine capable of real emotions. Hobby only seems to be interested in seeing if such a creation is possible. When a woman at the conference questions whether the fact that they can build such a machine automatically means they should, Hobby dodges the question.
This calls back to the HAL 9000 computer in 2001. During a BBC broadcast of the Discovery mission, the question comes up if HAL really thinks and feels or if he merely acts like he does. David Bowman (Keir Dullea) points out that this is a question nobody can really answer, but he feels as though HAL is a sixth member of the crew. Likewise, the audience is also left to think about this on a philosophical level. However, the film does seem to support the idea that HAL does think and feel on at least some level. While HAL speaks in a consistently monotone voice (famously delivered by Douglas Rain), he does show that he appears to have a consciousness.
HAL is also interviewed in the BBC broadcast and speaks fondly of the Discovery's crew. Later, we also see him casually greeting Dr. Bowman and complimenting his sketches. Bowman also has no issue with this, agreeing to show HAL his sketches and even moving them closer so that he can get a better view. This early moment is conveying a sense of camaraderie between man and machine. Bowman treats HAL as he would a human crew member; exactly the opposite of the humans depicted in AI Artificial Intelligence. It is shown that HAL is capable of feeling (being able to recognize Bowman's artistic talents as well as express concerns about the mission), and that he is capable of developing relationships.
It is true that HAL goes on to begin murdering the crew of Discovery, but on some level this makes him all the more human. While the film does not explicitly state the reason for HAL's malfunction, it is given in both the novelization and the sequels: he was given a series of conflicting orders (providing accurate and reliable information while also keeping details of the mission secret) and finds himself confused about how to reconcile them. When Bowman speaks privately with his second-in-command Dr. Poole (Gary Lockwood) in the EVA pod, HAL reads their lips and becomes afraid of deactivation. Bowman and Poole both speak of HAL like a medical patient in critical condition, unsure of whether he will recover and how to proceed if the worst happens.
HAL sees disconnection as equivalent to death; he subsequently panics and commits what is essentially a crime of passion in self-defense. What becomes more interesting is when Bowman finds himself the only remaining crew member. He dons a spacesuit and enters HAL's memory core while the computer is desperately pleading for his life. It is somewhat ambiguous, but HAL appears to be displaying signs of guilt over his actions. If indeed his murders were a crime of passion committed while he was not thinking clearly, he is now starting to come to his senses and recognize what has happened. In any case, HAL remains scared of his own fate, but the danger he has already posed leaves Bowman no choice but to dispose of him.
Bowman's relationship to HAL actually bears a surprising resemblance to that of David and Monica (Frances O'Connor). Like HAL, David is a machine who becomes part of a family. He is initially constructed as an experimented, and tested as a substitute for Monica's son (who has been put into stasis for an indefinite time due to his life-threatening disease). Monica is, like the audience, unsure about David at first. His strange robotic mannerisms and ability to move around the house undetected makes her uncomfortable. Despite this, Monica comes to accept David as her own child, even giving him a friend in the form of a robot Teddy (Jack Angel). Even after Martin returns home, she is the one person who tries to accept David as part of the family. It is the distrust of his father Henry (Sam Robards) and Martin's refusal to accept his "brother" that lead to her having to lose David.
In both cases, it is the person closest to the machine who must ultimately destroy it. Bowman is shown to have an emotional connection with HAL, and he displays noticeable fear when disconnecting him. This is not unjustified, as he is presumably experiencing a mix of emotions. There is the obvious fear of being alone and the shock of losing his crewmates, but there is also his previous relationship with HAL. Making matters worse is that technically Dave is unable to kill HAL so much as lobotomize him. He has to cut off his own friend's higher brain functions while he slowly pleads for his life. All Dave can do is stay focused while trying not to make things worse. The only comfort that can come is when HAL relates his "birth" and offers a distraction for both by singing a song he was taught by his programmer.
Similarly, it is Monica who takes the responsibility for removing David. Henry might have been very cold and casual about taking David to the factory where he was made, and Martin might even have enjoyed it. However, even here Monica displays some compassion for David. She tries to make it easier for him, setting up the trip as a one-on-one family outing. Just as Bowman had trouble disconnecting HAL, Monica has trouble losing David. Unlike Bowman, she ultimately cannot go through with destroying something she loves, and instead chooses to abandon him. Even this is not easy, though. David is shown desperately pleading for his mother to keep him much like HAL pleading not to be disconnected. In both cases, the machines show their humanity through fear.
Monica does try to make it easier for David, calmly explaining to him what is happening and letting him keep Teddy; as well as leaving him money and trying to advise him on how to look after himself. Just like Hal's singing of "Daisy" these provide only a small amount of comfort. Hal's singing is able to calm Bowman enough to finish his job, and keeps him distracted, but it does little to ease the tension of the lone survivor being forced to lobotomize his only remaining friend. Likewise, Monica's attempts to give David the means to start a new life also do little to change his emotional state. It is through such a moment that the machine is able to show its humanity.
It is also through an act of human error that the machine becomes dangerous. Both HAL and David are victims of their own programming. David is programmed with the ability to love, but it works too well. Because of his programming, David is unable to understand anything other than earning his mother's love. HAL was given conflicting orders, and believed he needed to defend himself when he thought the Discovery crew were going to disconnect him. Just like HAL, David is also provoked by humans. Martin is responsible for psychologically tormenting him by convincing Monica to read them Pinocchio, giving David the idea that the Blue Fairy can turn him into a "real live boy." Martin's friends are also responsible for scaring David and his near-drowning, the final act that leads to his being cast out of the family.
This conflict between humanity and artificial intelligence is one that has become a common theme in science fiction. John Carpenter would later borrow it in his 1974 comedy Dark Star. This time around, the artificial intelligence emerged in the form of talking bombs. In this case, the inability of humans to co-exist with machines becomes a source of humor. Unlike HAL, Bomb 20 (Adam Beckenbaugh) is designed to explode making its emotions far more dangerous and yet still human. Like HAL or even David, the bomb is shown to have feelings. It shows excitement upon being deployed, and expresses frustration whenever the computer orders it to return to the ship.
The most famous moment, of course, comes when Lt. Doolittle (Brian Narelle) must face the bomb at the end. In keeping with the themes of human error, this machine has gone unnoticed by the crew until now. The bomb has a very clear desire to explode, to the point where it has no regard for the safety of the crew. This is likely a flaw in programming, but it is also here that the bomb strangely becomes human. Lt. Doolittle approaches the bomb, and begins teaching it the fundamentals of rationalist thinking. Bomb 20 shows its humanity by being able to engage in a philosophical discussion (even if it does not fully understand what its discussing), at one point quoting Descartes: "I think therefore I am." The bomb is capable of independent thought, and is in fact smarter than it appears. Of course, in a humorous twist, this ends up backfiring on the crew when the bomb's interest in rationalism leads it to conclude that they are "false data" before detonating inside the ship.
This idea of a machine acting human becomes a major theme in both the second and third acts of AI Artificial Intelligence. In the second act, the viewer is introduced to Gigolo Joe (Jude Law) a robot prostitute who despite the allegations of Dr. Hobby (who maintained that robots made before David cannot actually feel) does act remarkably human. He is shown enthusiastically engaging with clients, and apparently does such a good job he has to deal with multiple women across different locations in one night. He has a pager which lets him know when there is work to be done, marches through the streets, and even stops to casually greet his female counterpart Gigolo Jane (Ashley Scott). This exchange is brief, but the enthusiasm the two show suggests a friendship between colleagues. Finally, when Joe discovers that his latest client has been murdered, he is genuinely panicked.
It only makes sense that a character like Joe should become a father figure for David. While it is true that he is a very eccentric individual and not even that intelligent (he does after all believe David's claim that "the Blue Fairy" can turn him into a real boy) he develops a close bond with him. When David voices his desire to become a "real live boy" Joe immediately agrees to assist him. These two machines, supposedly unable to think, are forming a close friendship. Joe could have left David and tried to continue his work as a prostitute, but instead he becomes interested in assisting another person like himself. While his solution of asking a program called "Dr. Know" (Robin Williams) might not be the most practical choice, he is showing a newfound loyalty to his friend which might not have been in his original programming. While speaking to Dr. Know, Gigolo Joe and David both have to work together to find the right questions.
When Joe and David go to the flooded ruins of Manhattan, there is a reveal that challenges David's understanding of the world around him. He arrives at the office where he was created, and discovers an identical robot, who is quickly destroyed. David is faced with the possibility that, contrary to what he has been told, he is not special or unique. However, this may not be entirely true. David is showing his humanity at this moment, as for the first time showing that he is capable of anger, but more interesting is the behavior of his double. The two Davids are exact opposites of each other. The David encountered at the office proves to be friendly, enjoys reading, and has no issue with seeing a copy of himself. The David the viewer has followed is much more impulsive, refuses to accept another copy of himself and eventually resorts to murder. Even though these two may look the same, they have shown very different personalities, suggesting that David is more unique than he appears.
However, the true extent of how far these ideas can go is not made evident until the third and final act of the film. At this point, David has managed to find a statue of the Blue Fairy, but becomes trapped underwater for two thousand years, during which time he continues to ask the Blue Fairy to transform him until he runs out of power and shuts down. The movie then jumps ahead to a distant future where humanity has become extinct and a new ice age is underway. With their creators gone, the robots have taken over. Two thousand years later, the descendants of these robots have evolved into an advanced race of beings (who were often mistaken for aliens by the film's initial audience).
An expedition manages to uncover David and Teddy, as well as reactivate both. Their initial motivation is pure scientific interest. The fact that David resembles a human, and would have had memories of being around humans proves to be a remarkable discovery for these robots, who have been studying their creators. However, they do not simply exploit David and discard him when they are finished. Instead, they try to assist him. To do this, they create a virtual replica of David's home. Much like David Bowman before him, this functions as a means to ease his transition into a new world, and eventually to motivate a transformation. The robots initially refrain from speaking to David in person, instead communicating through a projection of the Blue Fairy (Meryl Streep) who eventually "agrees" to briefly resurrect Monica.
The robots depicted here deliver the most compassion David is able to experience in the entire film. Only one is given any major focus, an official voiced by Ben Kingsley (who has also served as the film's narrator, creating the impression that the entire film has been him looking back on the past). This particular individual becomes a new parental substitute for David, being the one member of his race to directly confront him and doing what he can to improve his well-being. He is the one who ultimately decides to clone David's mother (though not without first making sure he understands she can only live for one day) and letting him have the happiest moment of his life.
Throughout the film, David has understood little more than the love for his mother, but now he begins to show that his feelings are much more complex. He is seen playing with a toy spaceship and finds it reminds him of the amphibicopter Joe used to take him to Manhattan. When he spends the day with his mother, the narrator mentions that he was not allowed to tell her what was happening, but he still draws inspiration from his journey. He is shown painting pictures of Joe, as well as other encounters he has experienced over the course of the film. As the day comes to an end, David is able to experience a moment that was forbidden by the society into which he was born: his mother expressing her love for him.
This is what he has always wanted, and it sets up the narrator's final lines: "So David went to sleep too, and for the first time in his life, he entered that place where dreams are made." It is a strange line, often interpreted as meaning his death, but it is something else. David has finally managed to find closure. The narrator refers to "dreams," as in other than being loved. This experience has finally allowed David to move on. He has wanted to become a real boy, and in a manner of speaking, the robots have allowed him to do so. He cannot be literally transformed, but they have allowed him to move past love, allowing him to grow up (although being a robot he will still retain the outward appearance of a child). In that sense, he is finally learning to think beyond his programming, and may even be able to live a good in this future life just as Monica wanted.
This is not unlike the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey, when David Bowman finds himself carried through the "Star Gate" and brought to a hotel room, likewise meant to assist him with a transformation. This room, presumably constructed by the aliens, serves to make it easier for him to make contact. It is also in this room that Bowman metaphorically "grows up" on a larger scale. In this case, his grown involves experiencing a rapid evolution, where he alone learns what is in store for humanity's future (represented by his transformation into a fetus). It is not clear exactly what this entails, but a new world has opened up for Bowman, just as later would for David.
AI Artificial Intelligence depicts this same journey. What 2001: A Space Odyssey did for humans, AI Artificial Intelligence does the same for robots. The final product may have been directed by Spielberg, but it is very much a Kubrick film. The themes of human nature and just what it means to be human presented here are the ultimate extent of a lifetime of movies on the subject. From Fear and Desire to Eyes Wide Shut Kubrick has studied human nature, and AI Artificial Intelligence is no exception. He shows human nature, both the positive and negative, but also how in the end there is no reason to assume machines cannot think or feel. If anything, Kubrick is more worried about how humanity would treat artificially intelligent machines if they were to be made than how they would treat their creators.
This week, the theme for Wanderer's Thursday Movie Picks Meme is Storms and adverse weather. Disaster is something that has always fascinated Hollywood, largely because of the spectacle involved in depicting them. That's probably why there are so many films about the sinking of the Titanic (at least 10 theatrically-released films, plus those two Italian animated versions). There was also the series of (terrible) big-budget disaster films made in the 70's. Natural disasters are also a popular choice, for the same reasons. Just last year we got San Andreas, a movie which I can only assume involves Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson somehow beating up an Earthquake (I never actually saw it).
Anyway, the theme this week is storms, and there are a lot of films one could bring up for this category. I've tried to find some less obvious choices, which in this case means that I've only got one real disaster film on the list. Here is what I've come up with.
The Perfect Storm
Wolfgang Petersen's disaster film tries to capture one of the worst storms ever recorded. The "perfect storm" was basically the result of three hurricanes colliding to devastating effect, especially for those unfortunate to be at sea when it happened. The actual plot alternates between several groups of characters caught in the tempest, but focuses primarily on the famous story of the Andrea Gail, a fishing boat that was caught in the storm and sank with all hands. That last part required some guesswork on the filmmakers' part, but there are some really good effects used to depict the actual storm.
Take Shelter (2009)
This is a stranger one, but no less interesting. It's a somewhat subjective film about a man who has visions of an oncoming storm and can't quite tell if they're genuine or if he is suffering from schizophrenia. The rest of the movie centers around his efforts to make sense of what is happening while also struggling to hold his family together. Jessica Chastain also plays a very strong role as his wife, who tries to support her husband through a difficult time while simultaneously trying to cope with his deteriorating mental state and still allow the best for their daughter. It's a bit more ambiguous than some choices, but storms remain a central motif throughout.
The Martian (2015)
Time to add some strange variety by including a storm on another planet. Okay, technically this one is very brief, but it is extremely crucial. After all, while this storm might only make up about the first ten minutes of the film (if even that), it is the catalyst that sets the entire narrative in motion. It is this adverse storm that leads to Matt Damon being separated and presumed dead, as well as forcing the others to evacuate without him. Adverse weather also emerges from time to time as an obstacle faced by the titular character after he is stranded.