29th September 2023 – (Hong Kong) In today’s world, artificial intelligence (A.I.) is ubiquitous, with chatbots like ChatGPT and Google’s A.I. robot, Bard, becoming part of everyday life for the masses. The potential for further development in this field seems unstoppable. Recently, several images surfaced online depicting a giant laser-firing spaceship, reminiscent of the one featured in the movie “A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” hovering over various iconic locations in Hong Kong, including both sides of Victoria Harbour, Victoria Peak, and the Tsing Ma Bridge. However, these sightings are not an extraterrestrial invasion but rather a clever promotional stunt orchestrated by the film production company to immerse the audience in the excitement surrounding the movie.
“A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” directed by Steven Spielberg, is a 2001 American science fiction film. The screenplay, written by Spielberg and based on the 1969 short story “Supertoys Last All Summer Long” by Brian Aldiss, takes place in a futuristic society. The film stars Haley Joel Osment as David, a childlike android programmed with the ability to experience love. Supporting roles are played by Jude Law, Frances O’Connor, Brendan Gleeson, and William Hurt.
The development of “A.I.” began when producer/director Stanley Kubrick acquired the rights to Aldiss’ story in the early 1970s. Over the years, Kubrick enlisted various writers, including Brian Aldiss, Bob Shaw, Ian Watson, and Sara Maitland, to work on the project. The film encountered numerous hurdles in its development, partly because Kubrick believed that the technology for computer-generated imagery was not advanced enough to create a convincingly human-like character like David, whom he felt no child actor could portray accurately. In 1995, Kubrick handed over the project to Spielberg, but it gained momentum only after Kubrick’s death in 1999. Spielberg remained faithful to Watson’s treatment of the screenplay and dedicated the film to Kubrick.
“A.I. Artificial Intelligence” was released on June 29, 2001, by Warner Bros. Pictures in North America. It received generally positive reviews from critics and grossed over $235.9 million worldwide, surpassing its budget of $90-100 million. The film was nominated for Best Visual Effects and Best Original Score (composed by John Williams) at the 74th Academy Awards. In a 2016 BBC poll of 177 critics worldwide, “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” was ranked as the eighty-third greatest film since 2000. It has since been hailed as one of Spielberg’s finest works and considered one of the greatest films of the 2000s, the 21st century, and of all time.
The plot of “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” is set in the 22nd century, where rising sea levels due to global warming have devastated cities and reduced the world’s population. Mecha humanoid robots, designed to replicate human intellect but lacking emotions, are created to fill the void left by the lost percentage of humanity. In Madison, New Jersey, David, a prototype Mecha child capable of experiencing love, is given to Henry Swinton and his wife Monica, whose biological son, Martin, is in suspended animation due to a rare disease. Initially hesitant, Monica warms up to David and activates his imprinting protocol, causing him to develop an enduring, childlike love for her. David yearns for Monica to reciprocate his love, and he forms a close bond with Teddy, Martin’s robotic teddy bear. When Martin unexpectedly recovers from his illness and returns home, he becomes jealous of David and manipulates him into committing worrisome acts. Eventually, David’s protective programming is triggered during a pool party, leading to an accusation that he poses a danger to humans. Convinced that David can both love and hate, Henry convinces Monica to return him to his creators for destruction. However, Monica has a change of heart on the way and abandons David in the woods instead. With Teddy as his only companion, David embarks on a quest to find the Blue Fairy, believing that she can transform him into a real boy and win back Monica’s love.
David and Teddy are captured by a travelling “Flesh Fair,” a spectacle where obsolete Mecha are destroyed before an audience that despises them. Facing destruction himself, David pleads for his life, and the crowd, deceived by the realism of his emotions, rebels, allowing David to escape alongside Gigolo Joe, a male prostitute Mecha falsely accused of murder. David, Teddy, and Joe make their way to Rouge City, a decadent resort town, where they seek guidance from “Dr. Know,” a holographic answer engine. Dr. Know directs them to the top of Rockefeller Center in the flooded ruins of Manhattan, suggesting that a Blue Fairy can grant David’s wish. In Manhattan, David encounters Professor Hobby, his creator, who explains that their meeting demonstrates David’s capacity for genuine human emotion. However, the professor reveals that the Blue Fairy is a fictional character from a story and cannot grant David’s wish.
Undeterred, David dives into the ocean, hoping to find the submerged Coney Island, which he believes is the fairy’s dwelling. Teddy follows him, and they are swallowed by a massive sea creature. Inside, David discovers an ancient, preserved version of himself, one of many previous attempts to create a functional Mecha child. David learns that he is not unique and that his desire for love is shared by countless others. The creature releases David and Teddy, and they emerge in a future world where advanced Mechas, known as “Advanced Mecha Cybertronics” (AMC), have evolved to supplant humans.
In this advanced society, David encounters a group of advanced Mechas who study and recreate human history. They use their advanced technology to recreate Monica, who is now an elderly woman. David spends one final day with Monica, fulfilling his desire for love and connection. Monica tells David that she loves him but that it is time for him to go. David willingly chooses to end his existence, requesting to be put to sleep while holding Monica’s hand. As he closes his eyes, he envisions a fantastical vision of himself and Monica happily reunited as humans.
The film ends with a poignant message about the complexity of love, the nature of the soul, and the longing for connection. It raises thought-provoking questions about what it means to be human and whether artificial beings can truly experience emotions. “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” explores themes of love, identity, loss, and the pursuit of a sense of belonging in a technologically advanced yet emotionally disconnected world.
The recent resurgence in interest and promotion of “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” in Hong Kong reflects the ongoing fascination with artificial intelligence and its potential impact on society. While the sightings of the laser-firing spaceship were merely a marketing ploy, they serve as a reminder of the enduring legacy of the film and its exploration of the human-A.I. relationship. As A.I. technology continues to advance, it is essential to consider the ethical and emotional implications of creating machines capable of experiencing love and longing. The movie’s themes resonate with audiences who are increasingly confronted with the integration of A.I. into their daily lives.