I gave this movie a chance -- 6 years of chances. I've seen it many, many times. Here's what I've decided:
This movie is terrible, ridiculous, and, most of all, it insults the legacy of Kubrick. I think it might be the new gold standard of a Bad/Good film, replacing Forrest Gump. Yes, A.I. might be the worst Bad/Good movie of all time.
You know you're in for a treat when A.I. starts off with a voice over telling us that the ice caps have melted due to all of those greenhouse gases. At the time the movie came out it was shades of Waterworld, and today that plot is even more ludicrous simply because it seems so human-race-hating and politically motivated.
It's unfair to say that this movie hates the human race because at the end, robots from the future repeatedly tell the recently unfrozen Haley Joel Osment how humans were the most perfect creation in the history of the universe. No, I am not exaggerating and I don't care if I just spoiled the movie for you. You deserve better than any of this, so spoiling it is no problem.
The only credit I can give this movie is that the first 10 minutes are very Kubrick. Spielberg was channeling Kubrick in a lot of ways. As soon as Osment enters the picture, that all goes to hell. The pacing is way off from anything Kubrick would have made and the dialogue is absolutely atrocious. Let me give you an example. When it came to "imprinting" Osment (the robot boy) with Monica to be his programmed love-mother forever and ever, this great bit of irreversible dialogue took place between Monica and her husband:
"Monica, don't imprint David until you are absolutely sure."
"Silly man. Of course I'm not sure."
Holy shit, can you believe Steven Spielberg, who wrote A.I. actually sat down to write the words "silly man," then actually told an actress to utter those words, then let the camera roll on those words, and then, in editorial, left those words in, and finally, actually let the studio print thousands of reels with those words and ship those words to theaters worldwide? That's like two or three years of knowing the words "silly man" would be in this movie.
Steven Spielberg did that. This is supposedly one of the greatest directors of our time and the director of my favorite movie (Raiders of the Lost Ark).... Are you frickin' kidding me?
More gems of screenwriting:
Monica: "I'm sorry I didn't tell you about the world!"
David: "I'm DAVID! I'm unique!! I'm special!!" <*smashes with lamp*>
When this movie was being made, it was with insane levels of secrecy. Few people got to read the script. Now we know why.
The movie takes a slight uptick when it becomes a buddy/journey picture with Jude Law, but just when you think it might get better, it again becomes a futuristic movie of whateverness where everything is over-art directed. I really can't stand movies about the future that add details that make zero sense for the sake of cool art direction. When that random art direction tries to look like Tron, like the "hounds" on motorcycles, ya gotta wonder exactly why someone bothers to make the movie.
Spielberg tries to force this movie to be good throughout. He throws in lots of long, symbolic, meaningful, desperate shots of Osment to try to make some point about humanity and love. Many of the hero shots play like they came directly from the art director's gouache tube. The specter of Kubrick was looming over Steve's shoulder and he felt the need to make something deep. Contrast this to Minority Report with its very limited amount of sappy material. That movie obviously came easily to Spielberg, and resulted one of his best movies in ten or fifteen years.
When this movie came out, most people found the third act to be the most offensive. I didn't agree with them at the time, and I think I know why. The two hours of setup for the ludicrous third act make that part of the movie actually seem pretty imaginative. Spielberg defended the end of this movie by claiming that it was Kubrick's idea. Yup, blame the horrendous parts of your movie on the dead. Nice job Steve. CLASSY!
Rating: Bad/Good. Possibly the worst movie ever that was actually supposed to be good.