Big things are happening on TV Tropes! New admins, new designs, fewer ads, mobile versions, beta testing opportunities, thematic discovery engine, fun trope tools and toys, and much more - Learn how to help here and discuss here.
What do you get when you cross a Steven Spielberg movie with a Stanley Kubrick movie?You get A.I.: Artificial Intelligence.In the 22nd century, global disasters have drastically reduced the human population. In an effort to maintain human society, humanlike androids called mechas are developed and programmed to simulate humanlike behavior and emotions. Among them is an advanced prototype named David (Haley Joel Osment), a child robot with the ability to virtually feel love, rather than simulate the appropriate behaviors. The Cybertronics company tests out David on two of its workers, Henry and Monica Swinton, whose son Martin has been placed under suspended animation until a cure can be found for his rare disease. Though Monica is initially afraid of this artificial child, she eventually warms to him after activating his imprinting protocol, which irreversibly causes him to feel love for his new "mother".However, disaster strikes after Martin is cured, leaving David cast off and alone with his mechanical teddy bear companion Teddy, searching for his place in the world, ultimately embarking on a journey to find his own humanity alongside Gigolo Joe (Jude Law), a "love mecha" also on the run after one of his clients is killed.Released in 2001, this adaptation of the Brian Aldiss short story "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long" had started development under Kubrick in the early 1970s, under a long series of writers hired by Kubrick himself to try to bring his vision to life, but had languished in Development Hell for years due to the limitations of CGI, which Kubrick believed would be necessary to bring the childlike robot hero to life. Finally, in 1995 Kubrick handed over the project to Spielberg, but it continued to languish until Kubrick's death in 1999.
And I Must Scream: Thousands of years of being locked in ice, staring and praying at a statue that can never grant what David wants. Yikes.
On the other hand, David is a mecha and is probably not bothered by the passage of time like humans are. Also, when he is found, he is not moving or talking, and has evidently been dormant (or at least out of power) for quite some time and thus not conscious for the majority of his time in the ice.
Bittersweet Ending: The transhuman robots of the future find David and Teddy frozen, the only two functional mechas who knew living humans. Using David's memories, the mechas reconstruct the Swinton home, and explain to him via the Blue Fairy that he cannot become human. However, they recreate Monica from a lock of her hair saved by Teddy and restore her memories from a space-time "imprint" that all living things leave behind. She can only live for a single day though and the process cannot be repeated. Thus, David spends the happiest day of his life playing with Monica and Teddy. Monica tells David that she has always loved him as she drifts slowly away from the world. And so, David closes his eyes for the last time, and goes "to that place where dreams are born".
Department of Redundancy Department / Shaped Like Itself / Viewers Are Morons: The title, obviously; it's a bit like calling a movie "FBI: Federal Bureau of Investigation." The film was originally titled simply "A.I.", but apparently the studio discovered that moviegoers misread the poster as "A.1." and wondered why anyone would make a movie about steak sauce.
Note that this is not the first Spielberg film to have such a title.
Dissonant Serenity: Invoked intentionally during the flesh fair. David is panicking realistically, while the other robots who presumably do not have his advanced emotion programming have dull, calm expressions even while fleeing for their lives.
Distant Finale: David and Teddy remain frozen in the ice for over 2,000 years before they're thawed out by the Future Mechas, when humanity has long since died out.
Do Androids Dream?: The role of David's and Gigolo Joe's original programming in shaping their behavior, or not.
Driven to Suicide: After he's told by Professor Hobby that the Blue Fairy isn't real and being confronted with an entire assembly line of copies of himself, David jumps off the Cybertronics building into the ocean. Subverted, as since he's a mecha the fall can't kill him, and he can't drown.
Earn Your Happy Ending: And HOW. If any character outside of Dickens or Shakespeare had earned a happy ending, it was David. And even it was, to say the least, bittersweet.
Einstein Hair: Dr. Know is a cartoon Einstein, complete with (of course) the hair.
Even Evil Has Standards: The patrons of the flesh fair cheer as machines are horribly disfigured and destroyed. But when the undamaged David has to step up they are rapidly disturbed by how alike to a real human child he is, and reluctant to destroy him (and by extension his guardian, Gigolo Joe). It's aided by the fact that the flesh fair is implied to have melted a real human before, and the crowd isn't completely convinced David is actually a mecha (his model has yet to be made public).
Eye Awaken: When Monica activates David's seven-word code in the trailer. Very slowly.
Failsafe Failure: Shortly after Martin is cured, he's having a party with his friends, and the kids decide it would be a hilarious idea to test David's personal safety subroutines. Right next to the pool. They do this by gently approaching his arm with a knife, at which point he takes a death grip on Martin and begs him to "Keep me safe", which freaks out Martin, overbalancing them both into the pool and nearly drowning Martin.
For that matter, did no one think to test what would happen if two imprinted Davids met? David went into full-on murder mode when confronted with the reality. A mass rollout would have been a disaster.
Fantastic Slur: Lord Johnson-Johnson calls robots "iron". (The acceptable terms are "mecha" and "orga", removing the "-nic" from both.)
Ferris Wheel of Doom: Subverted (or submerged, even). The rusted-out underwater Wonder Wheel falls over and traps the police hovercar on the ocean floor, with David and Teddy inside.
Foreshadowing: When we first see David's silhouette, the light distorts it to resemble the body shape of one of the future mechas.
Gigolo Joe's confident prediction that the human race will go extinct and only mechas will be left.
A God Am I: Implied with Professor Hobby, David's creator. When one of his colleagues asks him what the moral implications of creating a truly sentient robot child would be, Hobby responds that God first created Adam to love him too. This is made much more heartwrenching later on when it's revealed that David is made in the image of Hobby's dead son, making him David's Father in more than one way.
The Hero Dies: David, but he lived long enough to find his happy ending.
Humans Are the Real Monsters: Downplayed at the end of the flesh-fair, when Lord Johnson Johnson is exhorting the crowd to kill David and they turn on him instead.
Humanity's Wake: The Future Mechas at the end of the film are either the last creations of the extinct human species or of their own predecessors (robots building more sophisticated robots). They are marvelled by David because he actually knew living humans from before the end of their civilization. Their leader explains that he mourns their death because they consider humans to hold the key to the meaning of life.
Humans Are Special: The Future Mechas clearly say that they are studying humans because they believe them to hold the key to the Meaning of Life.
Innocent Inaccurate: A programmed version. Gigolo Joe thinks that a client's horrible bruises are the result of sexual "passion," although the woman has clearly been abused. Finding her dead, on the other hand, wakes him up pretty fast.
It's What I Do: Gigolo Joe's response when David asks him about the dancing. Part of the film's Do Androids Dream? debate (a freely willed act, or just executing a string of code?).
Martin, David's "brother", since he's highly resentful of having been "replaced" by a robot.
Henry qualifies when you think about it. He's the one who brings David home to "replace" Martin and then gets creeped out by the fact that David is so "creepily human". On top of that, AFTER Monica bonds with David, Henry shows signs of hostility towards David even before Martin gets better. Which leads to the unfortunate implication that mothers and offspring can and will form powerful attachments, but fathers and offspring can not and will not form any attachments even if their lives depend on it. (This is actually a theme that Spielberg has explored in many of his films.)
Just a Machine: There is a group of humans who hunt and brutally destroy mechas to vent their rage at the automation of labor.
Just Before the End: Human civilization is pretty much on the way out even at the beginning of the film. Even some of the robots seem aware of the fact.
Inverted, jarringly, with the World Trade Center, still mostly intact 2000 years later.
Moral Myopia: We see a group of humans that make a sport and spectacle of publicly destroying sentient robots in various ways. They are shown having great concern when the possibility that a child has gone missing on their grounds and that it may have been confused with a robot is presented to them. Meanwhile, the crowd who've gathered to see this show end up rioting when the MC tries to have the child-mecha David dissolved in acid, and it's clear that they did this mostly because the MC failed to prove that David was a robot.
Noodle Incident: Before hunting down Gigolo Joe, Lord Johnson-Johnson asks his subordinate to confirm that Joe isn't human, alluding to an otherwise unexplained (but probably fatal) "Trenton incident."
No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: They do seem to be working on more "David" models, but it's obvious no one is keeping tabs or notes on the "Introduce a child mecha into a human family" experiment.
Our Souls Are Different: Apparently, space-time itself stores information about past events and people. It's pretty much a handwave so David can get something approaching a happy ending.
Poor Communication Kills: There's lots of poor communication, because the plot depends on it. No one from Cybertronics ever seems to check in on David's progress, despite being an obvious prototype. Martin isn't given ground rules to follow or carefully introduced to David. A girl notices David in the cage at the flesh fair, but despite a child mecha never having been seen before none of the burly guys pulling the mechas out consider him odd at all.
Population Control: Mentioned in the expository voice-over as a response to the polar ice-caps melting and the coastlines flooding. This is why Martin's parents haven't tried for another kid.
The beginning of the Flesh Fair scene involves an elaborate, drawn-out, single-camera shot involving fair workers and Teddy. This is generally regarded as an homage to Stanley Kubrick’s style of cinematography.
Whether intentional or not the film has a few Disney related references, some blatant, others subtle. There's the entire Pinocchio plot but then we have Monica (David's mother) playing "Once Upon a Dream" from Sleeping Beauty to her cryogenically frozen son... She's then also humming the tune later before going to a party with her husband and as they're leaving her shoe slips in a Cinderella moment. There is a possible referance to TRON, the bikers sent to collect robots for the flesh lights are on Tron-esque bikes and have Tron Lines.
Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: Gigolo Joe goes down this route once it becomes clear that David will stop at nothing to find the Blue Fairy and be reunited with his mother, whether or not he has to abandon Joe in the process.
Super-Powered Robot Meter Maids: Averted. David has no super powers, and when injured he reacts like any child would. That said, he locks onto Martin with a death grip well beyond the strength of a child his size, and it takes the parents some effort to pry him off.
Tomato in the Mirror: David already knows that he's a machine. He later discovers to his horror that he isn't special - there are other Davids (and Darlenes), all mass-produced, all not special. To say he takes this badly would be an understatement.
Transhuman Aliens: A rare positive example, though technically they're advanced robots, not aliens.
Turing Test: David causing a riot at the Flesh Fair for being mistaken for a real boy could be seen as sort of an unofficial one.
Turned Against Their Masters: Possible aversion. It is unclear what happened to humans by the end of the movie, but it is apparent that they are extinct, and the silvery robotlike beings outlived them. Plus, they were also genuinely interested in studying humans and were utterly fascinated with them.
Other!David, who protagonist David destroys on the spot insisting he is the real one. Professor Hobby doesn't even acknowledge this. Granted, it's obvious that David isn't coming back, but you'd think Hobby would at least care that David just beat another copy of himself into spare parts in a jealous rage.