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"What constitutes true love? Is it necessary for love to be returned to be valid?"


Raymond Teague is the author of Reel Spirit: A Guide to Movies That
Inspire, Explore and Empower
, from Unity House. 

He is an award-winning
journalist, an editor of spiritual publications, a popular New Thought
speaker, and a lifelong movie buff. 

His book is available by clicking the "Buy the Book" link above or by clicking here.

  Raymond Teague, 
"Reel Spirit" Movie Reviews

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
(2001, 140 minutes, PG-13)

It is set in the future and its main characters are robots, but A.I.: Artificial Intelligence focuses on an old-fashioned, spirit-powered human emotion: love.

Written and directed by Steven Spielberg and based on ideas from the late director Stanley Kubrick and short stories by Brian Aldiss, this science fiction opus tells the Pinocchio-like story of a mechanical boy, David (Haley Joel Osment), who wants to be a real boy.

David has been created by a scientist (William Hurt) at Cybertronics Manufacturing in the future, after the melting of the polar icecaps have drastically affected human civilization and population numbers. Robots are in common use, but David is unique: the first robot capable of true human emotion and the first able to love.

The scientist describes David as "a robot child who can love...with a love that will never end." He is "always loving, never ill, never changing."

When asked if it is possible for humans to return love to a robot, the scientist replies, "In the beginning, didn't God create Adam to love him?"

With humans, however, the give-and-take of love gets more complicated, as David's situation illustrates. He is "adopted" into a family and is soon imprinted with a permanent love for his human mother.

In true human fashion, complications arise in the mother's feelings for her "mecha" (mechanical) son. David's love, however, is "forever" and cannot be altered.

The film raises serious questions about the nature and boundaries of love. What constitutes true love? Is it necessary for love to be returned to be valid? Why are humans so frequently frustrated and traumatized in their pursuit of love? Where and how do we usually look for love?

The last two questions are raised especially with Gigolo Joe (Jude Law), a robot specifically designed to pleasure human women.

Besides being the first robot to love, David also is the first robot who dreams, which means that he can actively pursue his dreams. David, throughout much of the film, pursues one dream: to become a real boy so he can come home to his mother's love.

This beguiling artificial child personifies many a human child and adult as he "buys into" fairy tales about love and dreams. For David, the fairy tale is Pinocchio, in which the Blue Fairy turns a wooden boy into a real boy "in return for your good heart."

What does David's "good heart" gain him? In his own journey leading to the Blue Fairy, David gets wide-eyed views of the "real world" of human emotions such as greed, callousness, anger, fear, jealousy, and hate. David becomes mired in a fairy tale of love and dreams -- and like so many before him, eventually settles for less. The view isn't necessarily a satisfying or reassuring one.

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you about the world," David's mother says to him.

A.I., which contains outstanding visual effects and artistic designs, also raises questions about the future of humankind: Will there be drastic changes in geography, population, and life because of temperature shifts? How will intelligent life on this planet or elsewhere years from now look upon human history and humans? Will artificial intelligence be a reality in the not-so-distant future?

Hans Moravec, director of the Mobile Robot Lab at Carnegie Mellon University, sees a bright future for robots. He says, "Within the next century they will mature into entities as complex as ourselves and eventually into something transcending everything we know -- in whom we can take pride when they refer to themselves as our descendants. Unleashed from the plodding pace of biological evolution, the children of our minds will be free to grow to confront immense and fundamental challenges in the larger universe."

As a depiction of one of these early "children of our minds," David perhaps gives us a preview of what lies ahead in Moravec's vision. A.I. is certainly a questioning film, with inherent questions about love, dreams, science, robots, and the future.

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