Dorian's Movie Reviews

Is it worth seeing? Reviews are presented with no cynicism, no comparisons, no biased standards, no pretentiousness - every movie is reviewed on its individual entertainment value including technical presentation.
Scale 1 - 5
2001, DreamWorks SKG; Warner Bros.
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by Steven Spielberg
Based on a screenplay by Ian Watson and a story by Brian Aldiss

Can robots actually be refined to the point that they are human beings? This movie dramatizes the question, "What makes us human?" and what better way to know than to view events from the perspective of the robot, David (Haley Joel Osment)? The creator of David, Professor Hobby (William Hurt), did his best to make David as human as he possibly could. David can experience and show love, he can sleep and dream, and he can even think using metaphors. David, who seems to have all of the typical behavior control characteristics of a child, soon finds himself cast away from his family, and sees the Pinocchio story as a metaphor for his own life. But unlike Pinocchio, an inanimate object upon whom human characteristics were projected, David actually has the human characteristics but still can't say that he is really human. The story is his quest to be human so he can regain his human "mother's" love. As we plunge farther into the computer age, this is a question that will assume real significance to those who live with robots.

There were three flaws that I was a bit surprised to see in a Spielberg movie. There was a sound intelligibility problem in one scene where the conversation of the actors couldn't be deciphered (by me) above the noise of the flying moon machine. The second problem was that the audience wasn't drawn into a connection with the characters in the first twenty or so minutes of the story, despite the interjection of emotion into several scenes. But there was a strong connection made with David. The third problem was with story structure in a very difficult area. When wrestling in a story with unanswerable questions, such as "What makes us human," there are few good ways to handle the ending - there is no answer to give. The ending of the movie goes on and on into fantasy when it should have expressed a salient point and then provided a satisfying resolution and stopped. For more on this, see the critique.

But despite the flaws, the movie is worth seeing for a number of reasons. First, there were outstanding performances by several actors. Haley Joel Osment gave an outstanding performance throughout the movie, and he provided an excellent dramatization of the first turning point when David turns from a robot into someone capable of loving, and first says "Mommy." Another memorable performance was given by Jude Law, playing the part of Gigolo Joe. Law's performance was the epitome of what he portrayed as he moved lightly and gracefully, and carried out the part of seducing women. The voice of Teddy, done by Jack Angel, was also well done, as well as Teddy's animation. Besides the acting, the special effects were well done and enabled intriguing settings and characters. The robot characters were reminiscent of the "bar scene" quality of characters in Star Wars. If you ever wondered what New York City would look like mostly submerged, or Coney Island, these were especially well done. And the makeup used to give Jude Law an artificial look was also well done.

Director Stephen Spielberg brought us a modern day fable. Whether it will be dubbed a classic, only time will tell. It is worth seeing, but didn't strike me as that great of a story - others are sure to disagree. This is a movie that will strike different people different ways.

I give this one three spotlights out of a possible five for the acting, animation, casting, cinematography, makeup, costumes, and special effects. It carries a PG-13 rating. Enjoy!

(For another interesting question about what makes us human, see this.)

- Dorian


  • 5 Spotlights: The best of movie making, well worth seeing
  • 4 Spotlights: Good movie for the genre; may have minor technical or story problems but they hardly harm the enjoyment; clearly worth seeing; (most movies)
  • 3 Spotlights: Not bad, but has problems - worth seeing
  • 2 Spotlights: Caution - a "B" movie, probably will appeal only to some
  • 1 Spotlight: Caution - not recommended for any audience (will probably never be given)

Note: No half spotlights are given.

My reviews are not based much on my personal taste, or any standard besides entertainment value. I try to be as objective as possible, keeping in mind that entertainment value is very subjective and individualized. If I'm not interested in a movie I usually don't go see it, so it doesn't get reviewed. Each character, and each position in the production company might be highlighted if the contribution affected the enjoyment of the story as either outstanding or dismal and I noticed it, keeping in mind that many contributions are singularly distinguished by their seamless integration with the story, not calling attention to themselves and thereby escaping attention.

- Dorian Scott Cole

Inevitable Legal Disclaimer: The views expressed on this page are only opinions and should be regarded as opinions by the reader.

Here is an excerpt that discusses artificial intelligence from a book I am working on about words:

Copyright (c) 2001, Dorian Scott Cole

Knowledge VS Experience

Here is an interesting question: Can an animated character become human? The virtual character can have all of the moves and responses of a human. The character can even respond to pain and the threat of death. In fact, the character could have the experience and brain power of a hundred or more human beings behind it. It could be active 24/7 through a network, and could become alive in the hearts, minds, and activities of people. But does this make the image or even a robot human?

Other distribution restrictions: None

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