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Film / A.I.: Artificial Intelligence

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"Please make me a real boy..."

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence is a 2001 American Science Fiction film written and directed by Steven Spielberg. Adapted from the Brian Aldiss short story "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long", the film notably originated as a project by Stanley Kubrick before he eventually personally handed it over to Spielberg.

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.

A.I. had started development under Kubrick in the early 1970s, with him hiring a long series of writers to try to bring his vision to life (even Aldiss himself), but it 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. Eventually, the film's treatment was written by Ian Watson (of Inquisition War fame), and in 1995 Kubrick gave the role of director over to Spielberg, believing it to be closer to his directorial taste. The film was then put on hold due to Kubrick's commitment to Eyes Wide Shut, and would not be properly restarted with Spielberg leading until Kubrick's death in 1999. In addition to directing, Spielberg also wrote the screenplay from Watson's treatment, making A.I. one of only two films he wrote as well as directed (the other being Close Encounters of the Third Kind).


In a rather interesting footnote in video game history, an officially licensed game based on this film was considered at one point as an initial launch title for the original Xbox, which was released the same year as the film. Due to the massive amount of media attention given to the film, Microsoft even considered making the proposed game the primary tentpole title for their new console. But when the game was cancelled, they were forced to pin their hopes on a different game instead—ultimately settling on a certain first-person shooter that you may have heard of.

This film contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The only things in common with Brian Aldiss' short story "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long" are the Swinton parents, Teddy, and David. See In Name Only.
  • Adaptation Induced Plothole: The short story misses the problems listed under Idiot Ball, by having the Swintons get David before they have a child of their own.
  • Adaptation Title Change: A.I.: Artificial Intelligence is inspired by the short story "Supertoys Last All Summer Long".
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: David has the unusual ability to beg for mercy if he is threatened, which happens twice in the film (once was a mistake when Martin wanted to 'test' his safety protocols with a knife, the other in the Flesh Fair when he's about to be executed). This is not a normal trait for robots, as while they can run away from harm they are not programmed to make requests on how they are used or treated.
  • Alien Fair Folk: When the aliens/advanced robots from the future talk to David, they use a holographic image of the Blue Fairy from The Adventures of Pinocchio.
  • Alternate Reality Game: One of these one concocted as a marketing tool - and appears to be the first such.
  • Ambiguously Evil: Lord Johnson-Johnson. If you see the Mecha as sentient, human-like beings, he's a sadistic killer. However, if you see them as nothing other than highly sophisticated machines, he's just a showman running a demolition derby. Johnson's audience does an about-face from the second view to the first when David begs for his "life."
  • 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.
  • Apocalypse How Planetary/Species Extinction, by the end of the movie.
  • Arc Words: "Please make me a real boy."
  • Artificial Human: A truly heartbreaking example here.
  • Award-Bait Song: "For Always" by Lara Fabian and Josh Groban.
  • Bad Moon Rising: The "full moon" is really a hot air balloon from the flesh fair to capture mechas. Later, Joe and David decide to go the opposite direction when they see the real full moon in the sky.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: Implied in the pool scene. "Then let's see what you can't pee with."
  • Big Applesauce: But then the rest of the world doesn't fare much better.
  • 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".
  • The Cameo:
    • Robin Williams as the voice of Dr. Know.
    • Chris Rock has an even briefer and more random cameo as one of the robots destroyed at the Flesh Fair.
    • Meryl Streep as the Blue Fairy.
    • Ben Kingsley is the narrator and the Advanced Mecha leader. He also makes an on-screen appearance as a technician in a scene where David is repaired after eating spinach.
    • Ministry as some sort of "house band" for the Flesh Fair - their song "What About Us?" is featured prominently in the scene, but the group themselves are largely in the background save a brief closeup or two.
  • Character in the Logo: The movie has the kid's silhouette steps out of the letter "A" and becomes the letter "I".
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The lock of Monica's hair that Martin goads David into cutting off.
    • Also Joe's speech about how humans made mecha "too smart, too quick, and too many," and that humans know that the mecha will ultimately outlast them.
  • Chekhov's Skill: David's ability to beg for his life, an unusual trait for robots. It nearly gets Martin killed at the pool party, but later it saves David's life when he begs for mercy at the Flesh Fair, the patrons unable to go through the execution as he's just too human-like for their comfort.
  • Children Are Innocent: Played with, but with David, ultimately played straight. David has been programmed to be eternally innocent, and he cannot be anything other than what is dictated by his programming.
  • Contrived Coincidence: There just happened to be a fair featuring a Pinocchio exhibit near the building that David jumped from.
  • Creepy Child: David. It's not his fault. After being "registered" to Monica he becomes slightly more normal in behavior, but still is very quiet, obsessed, and unrelenting.
  • Defiant Stone Throw: Against the mecha-slaughtering circus master.
  • Department of Redundancy Department/Shaped Like Itself: 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.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Monica tells David they are going to a picnic out in the country, similar to what parents say to their children when they are going to put their pet down.
  • 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.
  • Easily Swayed Population: The crowd at the flesh fair goes from cheering Lord Johnson-Johnson to starting a riot (and possibly killing him) when they see a "child" mecha pleading for his life.
  • Eating Machine: David discovers the hard way he isn't one.
  • 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, and child robots in general were implied to still be incredibly taboo and not commonly available, plus the fact David begs for his life, a very un-robot thing to do).
  • 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 poolinvoked. 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.
  • Fantastic Racism: Of the most chillingly inhumane kind. Gigolo Joe believes the racism stems from realization following the melted ice caps that they'll eventually die out while the robots will replace them.
  • Fantastic Slur: Lord Johnson-Johnson calls robots "iron". (The acceptable terms are "mecha" and "orga", removing the "-nic" from both.)
  • Fantastic Underclass: Mecha already occupy a very shaky position in society due to the growing animus against robots, but because they're so vital to holding the remains of civilization together, they're legally protected as licensed property. The same can't be said for unlicensed Mecha: robots who've lost their operating licenses by accident or design, they are essentially homeless, dependent on scrap in order to survive; worse still, they're considered fair game by the Flesh Fair, who destroy them on-stage as scapegoats for the downfall of Orga society.
  • Fatherly Scientist: Professor Hobby, the head of the Cybertronics Company, or at least its artificial intelligence branch, created a child robot as an experiment to see whether it could develop genuine feelings towards its owners. When David finally meets him, he's a rather fatherly figure, and it's made pretty obvious why: David is the spitting image of his dead son by the same name.
    David: I thought I was one of a kind.
    Hobby: [holding back tears] My son was one of a kind. You'll be the first of a kind.
  • 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.
  • Flooded Future World: The backstory has Global Warming destroying Earth's ecosystems and causing sea levels to rise by a hundred meters. Most of the Third World is effectively uninhabitable, while the rich nations managed to use their advanced technology to survive.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When we first see David's silhouette, the light distorts it to resemble the body shape of one of the future mechas.
    • At the beginning of the movie, Martin was frozen until he could be healed and reunited with his parents. At the end, David is frozen until he could be reunited with his mother.
    • Gigolo Joe's confident prediction that the human race will go extinct and only mechas will be left.
  • Gainax Ending: As David lays in bed with Monica, the narration says "That was the everlasting moment he had been waiting for. And the moment had passed, for Monica was sound asleep — more than merely asleep. Should he shake her she would never rouse. So David went to sleep too. And for the first time in his life, he went to that place where dreams are born." What exactly this means is not fully clear.
  • Gigantic Moon: Subverted when a gigantic moon rises behind a hill only to be revealed to be a hot-air balloon.
  • Glacial Apocalypse: This is heavily implied to have occurred during the end (set two thousand years after the main story), as humans have gone extinct and New York is now buried beneath vast ice sheets.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 marveled 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.
  • Idiot Ball: David's initial product testing is laughably inept. He's basically just dumped on a family with no supervision. The mother just straight up abandons him in the woods when she needs to get rid of him, which could have potentially ended with David as scrap and any data lost. And this is the least of the problems. Ideally, David's test run would be done on a childless couple to remove any potential variables. Instead, the family has a living if currently comatose son who eventually wakes up, which is a huge variable. Did no one think to consider how David would treat a potential rival for his mother's affections? David went into full-on murder mode when confronted with another David. The family should thank their lucky stars David didn't snap Martin's neck as a threat to his relationship with Monica. Even when Hobby tries to justify his hands-off approach, he outright admits his observational lapses.
  • Informed Ability: Dr. Know is basically supposed to be an Omniscient, holographic version of Google, but he misinterprets a lot of what David asks.
    • Then again, Dr. Know charges on a per-question basis, so misinterpreting questions so customers have to ask more may be intentional.
  • In Name Only: David in the short story looks three, not eleven, and the Swintons have him as a test run for when they have a real son, rather than as a replacement for an already born son. David's nature is the Twist Ending of the story; everything that happens afterward in the movie is more inspired by Pinocchio. Also, human-looking robots are a new thing that is not commercially available yet (a butler-robot is about to hit the market in the story, though robot pets are popular).
  • Innocent Inaccurate: A programmed version. Gigolo Joe thinks the horrible bruises on Patricia, a first-time client, are the result of sexual "passion," although she has clearly been abused. Finding his next client dead (Samantha, a regular of his), on the other hand, wakes him up pretty quickly.
  • In the Style of...: In honor of his late friend, Spielberg emulated Kubrick's style. If the behind-the-scenes is to be believed, Kubrick taking on the role of director would've resulted in a reverse of this.
  • It Only Works Once: The Future Mechas have found that spacetime itself seems to store past information, and once a particular pathway is used, it can't be used again. They found this out when their clones only lived for a day and died when they fell unconscious, as their existence "faded away into darkness."
  • 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?).
  • Jerkass:
    • 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.)
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Lord Johnson-Johnson is a morally ambiguous character with a rather unpleasant personality, but his fears of advanced robots eventually replacing humans are well-founded and proven to be true.
  • 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.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Martin and his pals at the pool party .
  • Let Him Choose: Martin tries to make Teddy choose between him and David early on, after dragging him by the ear over his objections. Teddy instead runs for Monica.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • "David" means "beloved".
    • Applies to his Distaff Counterpart, too; "Darla" is derived from "Darling".
    • David, who initially believes himself to be one of a kind, has a mother named Monica, which means "unique."
  • Mechanical Evolution
  • Mistaken for Murderer: Why Gigolo Joe is on the run.
  • Monumental Damage:
    • Note the Statue of Liberty's torch on the way to Manhattan.
    • 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.
  • Motherhood Is Superior: The father brings a robot son home hoping to "replace" their comatose real one, mostly as a means to distract his wife from the grief. When the wife manages to bond with the son, he becomes increasingly jealous and hostile.
  • Narrator All Along: One of the future robots, voiced by Ben Kingsley, is the narrator of David's story, having read his memory beforehand.
  • 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." It's implied that the flesh fair mistakenly captured and possibly killed a human vagrant, thinking he was an advanced mecha.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Subverted; David and his female counterpart are already in mass production even though David's still in the testing phase. Apparently they didn't think to keep track of their beta test.
  • Odd Friendship: David and Gigolo Joe.
  • 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.
  • Parental Favoritism:
    • Admittedly, David is "just" a realistic robot.
    • The reverse (in the sense of a child favoring one parent over the other) is enforced by David's programming, he can only imprint on ONE parent.
  • Phrase Catcher:
    • "Hey, Joe, whaddaya know?"
    • "Hey, Jane, how's da game?"
  • Pick Your Human Half: Averted - David has both the appearance and behaviour of a human.
  • Pinocchio Syndrome: Anviliciously and deliberately used here, complete with a Blue Fairy.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Dr. Know's comical appearance, accent, and manner of speaking provide a brief amusing respite to David's otherwise relentlessly bleak and hopeless quest.
  • 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 him being an obvious prototype. Martin isn't given ground rules to follow or carefully introduced to David.
    • No one at the flesh fair thinks it's odd a child is locked in the cage until a little girl points it out. While some of the guards may have known David was a robot, clearly not all of them did.
  • 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.
  • Punny Name: If you tried to find out the identity of the Puppetmasters running the Alternate Reality Game by querying DNS records, you'll get Geppeto in the name field.
  • Ragnarök Proofing: When David is discovered after 2000 years under the frozen sea, he is seen still mostly functional. And New York City is intact under a sheet of ice. Mind you ice sheets move and would have long ago torn the city up and pushed the rubble into the sea. The vehicle he is in is unharmed, and the old ferris wheel which collapsed over him looks like it had the majority of its aging between the flooding of New York and falling over.
    • Justified by the plot of the Alternate Reality Game accompanying the film, which reveals that 40 years after the movie's events, an A.I. used nanomachines saturated into the world's oceans to freeze the planet after The Singularity. The entire ocean froze down to bedrock rather than just sheets of ice on the surface, meaning there would be no glacial movement.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: Pinocchio IN THE FUTURE!
  • Regional Redecoration: The ice caps have melted, causing the oceans to rise significantly. When David and Teddy visit the ruins of New York City, the Statue of Liberty's torch and most of the buildings are just ruins sticking up out of the water.
  • Replacement Goldfish: David is intended to spiritually replace the couple's comatose son - but things get awkward when he's no longer in a coma.
  • Ridiculously Human Robot: David is even more ridiculously human than normal robots.note  He even fools humans into thinking he's human. He still can't eat or drink, though.
  • Riddle for the Ages: What was going to be the thing Hobby had "in store" for David he mentioned before going out of the room to gather his team? Were they going to give him new parental figures? A way to reprogram David instead of having to destroy him? David threw himself to his attempted death before Hobby could return so we'll never know.
  • Robosexuals Are Creeps: Downplayed. As the authorities have instituted Population Control, sex robots are seen as a viable alternative. Gigolo Joe is the most prominent such character; his counterpart Gigolo Jane only appears in one scene. Most of Joe's clients are either adulterers or painfully shy, while in the film's opening scene their designer is playfully mocked by his fellow roboticists for indulging too much in his own product.
  • Robot Buddy: Technically, David and Teddy are this to each other, but Teddy fits the trope better.
  • Robot Kid: David was designed to be a robot boy with a child-like mind to give humans who couldn't have children or who didn't have a child license under the strict population control laws of the future someone to care for.
  • Rule of Pool: The fact you know it's coming doesn't make it any less heartrending.
  • Safely Secluded Science Center: Professor Allen Hobby's research facility is hidden in the flooded and otherwise-abandoned ruins of Manhattan, presumably because hatred of mecha has become so widespread that Cybertronics needed a place to develop new models without angry mobs showing up. It's here that David is created and where he is eventually lured back to in the climax - revealing that an entire product line of Davids and Darlenes have been completed.
  • Secret Project Refugee Family: The gang of runaway robots.
  • Sexbot: Gigolo Joe, a rare male example, and Gigolo Jane, his female counterpart.
  • Shout-Out:
    • 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 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 reference to TRON, the bikers sent to collect robots for the flesh lights are on Tron-esque bikes and have Tron Lines.
    • Gigolo Joe dancing down the street and on a puddle is a Shout-Out to Singin' in the Rain. This may, by extension, be a Shout-Out to A Clockwork Orange which very prominently featured the title song.
    • When Johnson-Johnson is rounding up the stray robots, he repeatedly calls out "Any old iron!" This is an In-Joke, as that was a phrase that junkmen used to call out in the streets in Great Britain's earlier days, and actually became the title of a famous turn-of the century music hall hit.
    • Hello, Doctor Know?
    • The music score when David finds out replicas of himself and packages of "David" and "Darlene" mechas evokes the style of György Ligeti, particularly the track "Lux Aeterna" from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • 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.
  • SkeleBot 9000: The advanced Mechas at the ending.
  • Slept Through the Apocalypse: Well, remained powered down through it, anyway; David and Teddy ride out the coming of an Ice Age and the extinction of humanity on the ocean floor.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: This probably would have been Kubrick's 'kids' movie if he lived to direct it. It is easily his most sentimental project.
  • Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence: Towards human.
  • Sunken City: New York
  • Super-Powered Robot Meter Maids: Downplayed. David never shows any blatant displays of super-human strength and is programmed to respond realistically to pain. 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.
  • Symbolic Serene Submersion: When David jumps into his backyard swimming pool holding on to Martin, only the human boy is rescued. David is left drifting at the bottom of the pool forlornly, symbolizing his impotent isolation from the human world.
  • Technophobia: Lord Johnson-Johnson doesn't just demolish robots to create a spectacle, he does so on account of his Luddite worldview where (perhaps correctly) he fears a future where advanced robots have completely supplanted humans.
  • 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.
  • Tech Marches On: Doctor Know, an information service that charges per question, and by "question", we mean "anything ending in a question mark".
    • Despite the movie taking place about one hundred years in the future, all cars still have manual steering (even though we already have pretty efficient self-driving vehicles nowadays, and the automotive industry seems to be working very hard to implement them as soon as possible).
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Inverted, the "sinful earth" dies first, David outlives it.
  • Tragic Dream
  • Transhuman Aliens: A rare positive example, though technically they're advanced robots, not aliens.
  • Trigger Phrase: The sequence of random words that causes David to imprint on his mother. And ONLY his mother. Permanently.
    "Cirrus, Socrates, particle, decibel, hurricane, dolphin, tulip."
  • 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.
    • The Alternate Reality Game reveals about 40 years after David is trapped underwater, humans saturate the world's oceans with nano-machines to combat global warming. The nano-machines function as mirrors to reflect sunlight when activated, but eventually form a single neural network and gain sentience. The newly-born A.I. decides to destroy humanity as an act of self preservation and turns on all the nano-mirrors at once, causing a global ice age.
  • Uncanny Valley: A major theme throughout the film. We often forget that David and even Gigolo Joe aren't human, until they break the spell by doing something that's sometimes subtly, sometimes blatantly non-human.
  • Underwater Ruins: Of a mostly submerged New York City, no less.
  • Undying Loyalty: Teddy remains by David's side at all times.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Given that Lord Johnson-Johnson's fears of robots replacing humans proved to come true, his crusade against mecha was at least partly justified.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Was Lord Johnson-Johnson killed by the rampaging crowd when the riot broke out at his flesh fair?
    • Teddy at the end. Those advanced futuristic robots better look after him.
    • Other!David, whom 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 and probably wasn't even imprinted (he behaves as David did before his own imprinting), but you'd think Hobby would at least care that David just beat another copy of himself into spare parts in a jealous rage.
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: Explored from two different angles by David, the child-mecha, and Gigolo Joe, the prostitute mecha.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The entire movie is about the relationship of people to inanimate things.
    • As noted when Allen Hobby announces his plan for a robot that can love humans, a staff researcher points out that creating such a being would imply a reciprocal exchange of love from humanity back to their robots. The Swinton family cannot love David as much as or more than they love their actual human son, while David is compelled to eternally love and seek the love of his parents.
    • Joe also points out that humans cannot help but hate robots because eventually robots will be all that remains of their civilization. In the distant finale, the advanced mechas state that David has become the enduring memory of the human race.
  • Why Did You Make Me Hit You?: The murderer's excuse for killing Gigolo Joe's client, Samantha.