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Ice and Spielberg

January 9, 2010

Tomorrow morning I’m going to go out early and buy a sledge from town for my kids. There’s a park with a hill still full of snow just 10 minutes away and it’s obscene I haven’t bought one already. It snowed a little tonight and it’s still freezing, so hopefully they’ll still have decent sledging conditions.

The continued iciness combines with the Spielberg On Spielberg interview in ITV4 right now to prod this post into being. I like Spielberg a lot. Most people who don’t are idiots or babies. But I’ve always thought that AI and Minority Report were lost opportunities – both engaging and brilliantly realised sci-fi worlds which collapse under the weight of second-chance sentimentality right at the close.
Both films come to natural if unexpected ends with their central characters defeated and literally frozen. Haley Joel Osment’s super-creepy super toy is trapped at the bottom of the now solid ocean staring in to the dead eyes of a blue fairy statue, and Tom Cruise’s breathless, emotionally bruised future cop has been betrayed and put in a fridge prison by the brilliant Max von Sydow. Both of these characters are haunted and damaged, desperately searching for something to fix or complete them – a lost child, a lost mother. Their apparent failure is shocking – achingly, poignantly so in the case of AI, and ironically, satisfyingly so in Minority Report.
And then both films are ruined as the stalled narratives are jumpstarted and putter along to happy, forced conclusions. Aliens rescue the robot kid. Tommy breaks out and fixes everything. What a pair of refreshing and effective films we’d have if they’d ended in ice and darkness. Shame. Watch the end of AI below to see what I mean – the voiceover, the slow reverse zoom – it’s perfect. And then it keeps bloody going.
2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 9, 2010 3:21 pm

    YES YES YES YES.I've spent god knows how long raving to people who've never seen it about AI – cut the last 20 minutes of that film, and it would have been a masterpiece. I've never seen such a horrifically tacked-on ending in my life, and to an extent I suspect that maybe it was the curse of a 'test audience'…Spielberg can be brilliant, but he's far too prone to having his cake and eating it. In my mind, just as Bioshock ended with Ryan – AI ended there.

  2. January 23, 2010 1:31 am

    I have a boring theory that the Jurassic Park/Schindler's List double whammy sort of ruined Spielburger for us. Apparently his producer (I forget who) said he had to do Schindler first because he wouldn't be able to make JP after it, he'd be a different film-maker. I think he might have been right and that he can't do straight up fun anymore, not like he did with Indiana Jones, JP and Jaws. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was the nail in the coffin. But Munich was really good, he can only do serious now, right? I've not got round to AI yet. I should do.

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