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  Deus ex Machina
Art Posted by Xnoubis on July 10, 2001 @ 02:39 PM
from the algorithm-and-blues dept.

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
Directed by Steven Spielberg
An Amblin/Stanley Kubrick Production
2 hours 25 minutes

[The following review is almost entirely composed of spoilers. Do not read it if you haven't seen the movie.]

I didn't like it at first, even though I really wanted to. Kubrick is a near god in my eyes, so I was determined to see the good in A.I., no matter what Spielberg did to it.

It seems to begin as an inquiry into the nature of love. What is real love, when simulated love can be made to serve genuine human needs? By exploring love in this context, the film hints that we will discover what it means to be an authentic being.

Once David is abandoned by his mother, though, the story is transformed into the archetypal quest. For a while, it seems possible that it might serve as a parable of the search for the Holy Guardian Angel, though how it could be consummated is unclear. But after Rouge City, after escaping again from the lab that created him, David is trapped, and the inevitable hollowness of his search crashes down on us just as the carnival ride crashes down on his vehicle, leaving him abjectly beseeching on the ocean floor for two thousand years.

If it had ended at this point, it might have come across as a piece of stealth existentialism, or possibly a Buddhist meditation on emptiness. But then, in the far future, it changes direction yet again.

The conclusion is the section of the movie that Spielberg has been most widely criticized for. It is a resolution of the quest that is acceptable on David's terms, but is utterly unsatisfying on ours. That it is delivered with all of the sentimental manipulation that the director is capable of only makes the dissatisfaction more cutting. I came to the conclusion after watching A.I. that art that says nothing about the human condition shouldn't be offered for human consumption.

It hit me several days later.

Has any other movie ever stated so clearly that we are programmed and that, although our programming may be relevant at the time it is burned in, it can become something monstrously inappropriate once circumstances change?

But if this is the message the story is intended to impart, wouldn't it have been sufficient to end with David pleading to the Blue Fairy as the seas iced over? If it had, though, it would have been too easy to come away with nothing more than nihilism. David wants something we all want, and ultimately, he Just Can't Have It.

My theory is that the discomfort that comes along with the ending is absolutely intentional. David gets the closest thing possible to the fulfillment of his impossible desire, and it is nowhere near enough for us. This forces us to look at the necessity of taking responsibility for our own programming. We are beings of the same order as David, as long as we never make the effort to transcend our imprinting. By asking ourselves, "Do I have a Blue Fairy that I pray to as my real opportunities slip by?" we transform ourselves into something real.

This, then, is a worthy successor to 2001: A Space Odyssey after all. 2001 announced to the world that the Transition (or should I say, "Equinox of the Gods"?) is taking place. A.I. tells us what each of us needs to accomplish for its realization.



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    Re: Deus ex Machina
    by Mark Shekoyan on Tuesday July 10, @05:59PM
    93 Michael,

    Continuing our conversation, I just wanted to share some of my thoughts about the movie.

    Has any other movie ever stated so clearly that we are programmed and that, although our programming may be relevant at the time it is burned in, it can become something monstrously inappropriate once circumstances change?

    I personally found his hunger touching and inspirational. I found its naivity a very powerful metaphor for the FOOL on the path.

    In my opinion, his WILL was fullfilled. He got what he sought in alignment with his very nature in the end. Though it may not be satisifying for us as humans, in his world it was.

    He was instilled with a obsession that he couldn't resist, but as a recent article in Time Magazine discussing the biological basis of religious experience states, so in many ways are we. Our brains are hard wired by over 4 billion years of planetary/genetic evolution to seek out religious experience in some way or form.
    The hunger for altered states of consciousness leading to transcendance is a human universal, and is partly ground in our biological wiring.

    What if, as Terrence Mckenna implies, our very existence is drawn forward through time by some transpatial, transtemporal chaotic attractor that impels our very actions torwards union across the fabric of human history. Are we not "Wired" for the Divine Love of God in some ways as well?

    David wants something we all want, and ultimately, he Just Can't Have It.

    Ultimately, it seems to me, he gets what he wants. He fulfills the circle of his being.

    My theory is that the discomfort that comes along with the ending is absolutely intentional. David gets the closest thing possible to the fulfillment of his impossible desire, and it is nowhere near enough for us. This forces us to look at the necessity of taking responsibility for our own programming. We are beings of the same order as David, as long as we never make the effort to transcend our imprinting.

    I didn't feel discomfort at the end. Though David was programmed, he got what he sought within the limits of his existential possibilities. I saw the movie as a romantic fairytale appealing to the desire for unified, one pointed devotion. Though we as humans ultimately seek to transcend all limits and conditions, the intensity of David's devotion is something worthy of consideration.

    We can critque that David was conditioned, but for me, that was not the key issue. It was David's devotion and unified one pointedness that was key.

    His Love was not complicated. His was not riddled with self doubt or distraction. His was not tainted.


    The key question for the movie sparked for me was have we ourselves become so machinelike, that we must look to the model of an artificially created, "Pure" child/robot to remind ourselves what a unified, one pointed, devoted Love is?

    As Gurdjieff says, we are all "Machines" until we wake up and claim our humanity. But what impulses us along the path to true awakening in the radiant light of love/awareness in the first place?

    Yes, his Love was ultimately "artificial" but, as a metaphor I found the movie a powerful allegory for the unified devotion to source that is, for me, essence of the Great Work.

    He wanted his "Mother's" love , and he crossed 2000 years to find her. He got what he sought in the end, and his cycle of being was made complete therof.

    By asking ourselves, "Do I have a Blue Fairy that I pray to as my real opportunities slip by?" we transform ourselves into something real.

    David had no other opportunities. His was a 1-1 existence. Their was a narrow course he followed with one pointed determination. He followed his orbit to the end.

    Food for thought.

    93 93/93

    Mark

    Re: Deus ex Machina
    by Dionysos Thriambos on Wednesday July 11, @10:53PM
    93

    By asking ourselves, "Do I have a Blue Fairy that I pray to as my real opportunities slip by?" we transform ourselves into something real.

    What "real opportunities" was David missing? What better to do than invoke often?

    In general...

    I thought that the movie would have been profoundly more satisfying if the far-future androids had just provided David with a mecha-mom in full conformity to his memories of his "real" mom. He would then be the realest boy imaginable in his circumstance. "And he lived happily ever after," never knowing the irony that it was not he who has become more real, but the world that was less so.

    The "resurrection" of David's "mother" was goofy and utterly contrived. And his "going to sleep" (dying?) at the very end was emotionally flat, despite the heavy-handed cinematography and the narrative pretense of resolution.

    I couldn't help wondering, as David made coffee for his resurrected mom, if he was going to keep her hopped up on joe for 2000 years, so she wouldn't go to sleep....

    93 93/93

    • Re: Deus ex Machina
      by Xnoubis on Thursday July 12, @09:41AM
      > What "real opportunities" was David missing?

      There are no opportunities for David. But if we place ourselves in his position, we have the opportunity of saying, after an unsatisfying hour or so spent with the Fairy, "This isn't working. Maybe I need to look at things differently." We can get up off the ocean floor, possibly sulk for a while, but then go out to engage the world as it is, and not as we demanded that it must be.

      > What better to do than invoke often?

      Good point, but to me, it is not the machine in us that does the invoking. David is only lusting for result.


    Re: Deus ex Machina
    by Nick Weishampel on Sunday August 05, @11:12PM
    I myself thought it was a horrible movie. I love Kubrick's work but can't stand Spielburg for the most part. It was simply a partial retelling of Pinnochio and a bad one at that. It was too juvinile to be a film for most adults to enjoy, but was to adult to be your typical kids movie, especialy with an AI giggalo for David's side kick a third of the film. When the alien sat down on the bed with David and had a heart to heart, half the movie theatre, with myself inclued could be heard saying "Oh come on.." or, "Give me a Break." You could see the underlying symbolism that was probably Kubricks, but almost all of that symbolism could be applied to Pinocchio as well, except for the metaphors of programing. All in all it just wasn't a good movie. It would have been a better ending if he just was left in the ocean.

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