From Book to Screen- “Supertoys Last All Summer Long” by Brian Aldiss / “Artificial Intelligence” by Steven Spielberg pt. 2
The story caught the imagination of the late Stanley Kubrick. He turns to his friend Steven Spielberg for help in bringing the vision of this story to the big screen. Kubrick proposed he would produce the film while Spielberg assumes the director’s chair. Spielberg reluctantly agreed to direct the film. During the pre- production process, Kubrick passed away. Spielberg picked up the pieces and carried on with the production. It was Kubrick’s dream to bring this story to the big screen, and Spielberg sees his last wish come true.
The movie blurs the line between traditional, literal, and radical adaptation. The movie stays true to the theme of the story. The movie also stays within the context in which the world is constructed in the story. You would call it a literal adaptation, but it’s not. Since the story
only plants the seed of curiosity
about realness inside David’s head, the movie expands on that curiosity. This is where you can file the film into the traditional adaptation category, but not quite. As the film progress into its third act, we see the world two-thousand years from the present future set in the film. This definitely constitutes as the radical part of the adaptation. What stands out about this particular film adaptation is the three meshes flawlessly with each other.
There were some tweaks and slight changes in the story line. In the story, David is already established in the house. Monica is beginning to be troubled by David’s unusual behavior. Teddy is also in the story from the beginning. Henry is Managing Director of the Synthank Corporation. The story opens up with the child problem with David, then goes Henry’s announcement of a newly developed robot. Monica is comfortable with having a robot boy around the house to satisfy her maternal needs. Her selfish reasons for keeping David around commands sympathy for the naive robot boy who loves her.
In the movie, Monica and Henry are coping with the condition of their son. The son is in a coma, with little hopes of coming out of it. Henry works at the Synthank Corporation, but not as a Managing Director. The film brings in a new character name Hobby to be Managing Director. The film opens with Hobby talking to his colleagues about advanced artificial intelligence in robots. He proposal to make a robot boy who can love stirs concerns among his colleagues. After the question of love and responsibility is established, we cut to Monica and Henry. They are in a car driving to the hospital where their son is. Meanwhile, Hobby wants to recruit a worthy couple to test run their new product. Hobby finds an employee in the Synthank Corporation who would be a perfect candidate.
This is how David is introduced in the film. He’s a gift to Monica from Henry. At first, Monica is shocked and appalled by the introduction. David looks exactly like a real boy, which makes it hard for Monica.
She cannot outright dismiss David as a clunky piece of metal without emotion. Henry tells Monica if she decides to keep David, there are special words that must be said to David. By saying these words, the love David has Monica would be permanently hardware into his brain. It’s not so much of Monica learning to love David, but more of Monica excepting her real son’s inevitable death. She says the words to David, and now she has a “replacement” son to fill the void.
Teddy is introduced to David as one of her son’s old toys they kept. There is an interesting dynamic in the film between David and Teddy that was touch upon in the story. Teddy acknowledges his existence as a robot, therefore he knows his limitations. On the other hand, David is programmed to love like a human being. He rejects his limitations based on the principle that he acknowledges love, and love is limitless. Teddy serves as a reality check for David on their journey.
Once Monica and Henry get news their son is out of his coma, reality comes crashing down on David. David is confronted with his existence as not being “real”. Monica’s “real” son constantly remind David of his inferiority. It isn’t until a moment in the film where out of fear, David almost drowned Monica’s son. Monica makes the decision to take David back to his “maker”. Monica knows if she sends him back to Synthank, they will destroy him. David is confused when he is dropped in the woods by Monica, never to return.
The body of the film focuses on David’s journey back home. With Teddy, and new robot friend Gigolo Joe, David look for answers. Before David is abandoned by Monica, she read him the story of Pinnochio. In essence, Stanley Kubrick wanted to make a Pinnochio story set in the future. In the film, David assumes finding the “Blue Fairy” would make him a real boy. His love for Monica fuels his determination to overcome the odds to get home. He is oblivious to the fact that he was exiled from his home, but that does not stop him from getting back to Monica.
This film is a good example of expanding the story from which it came. The Pinocchio plot in the film is a logical and fitting expansion from the short story. Adding Gigolo Joe brought a counter point of view for the viewers. Joe acknowledges what he is, he also knows the nature of man. Joe is a survivor, fitting in where he can to allude extinction at the hand of hateful humans. He helps David get to the Synthank Corporation, where David was manufactured.
I love how the movie takes you on David’s journey challenging our beliefs of what makes a human…human. We gradually see David is more human that human by his actions. He believes he is special and unique, unlike any other boy. Not because he is a robot, because he possesses love for someone. The movie beautifully reinstates one of the most profound statements, “I think, therefore I am”.