Thursday, 21 July 2011

“A.I. - Artificial Intelligence”. A Review of the 2011 BLU RAY Reissue.

"…Are You 'The Blue Fairy'?”

I remember the highly respected Empire magazine giving a big spread to "A.I. – Artificial Intelligence" when it was first released in 2001 and duly awarding it their coveted 5-star rating. It was a movie of vision they said – and at the time - I thought they were right. But my oh my - how a decade and a new format can change things…

Re-watching "A.I." on BLU RAY in 2011 is a painful and frustrating experience – not just because the film hasn’t dated at all well - but mostly because for a very large part of the movie the print on this reissue is awful…

Why is the case? Anyone who’s purchased “Minority Report” and especially "Saving Private Ryan" on BLU RAY will know of the 'saturation' technique Spielberg uses sometimes to get a certain look – a gritty, slightly smoked effect. Visually this means that the picture is full of shading and speckles – and 50 to 70% of "A.I." is inflicted with this technique too. And while this may have been ok on DVD (hidden even), the heightening of BLU RAY has made many scenes unwatchable as far as I’m concerned.

Instead of making the picture better - the BLU RAY has only accentuated the speckles and haze and made things worse. At times it feels like you’re looking at a badly transferred video and not a state-of-the-art Sci-Fi film. Combine this with Haley Joel Osment’s now irritating performance as the childlike Mecca David who wants his mother’s love back (Francis O’Connor) and goes ceaselessly searching for a character in Pinocchio (dialogue above), the terrible circus-cum-torture scenes in the middle section with Brendan Gleeson looking like he’s going to break into laughter at any minute and the dreadful sappy ending with Ben Kingsley’s saccharine voiceover – and the whole thing reeks of scripted mess and confused vision. Some sympathy has to go to Spielberg who inherited Stanley Kubrick’s story and had to viably bring his 20-year 'baby' to the screen. But whatever your feelings towards how Kubrick would have done it versus Spielberg's outcome - it is NOT going to be enhanced by this reissue.

Don’t get me wrong – there are sequences that look good – even great – entering the futuristic city at night in the car through the huge heads with open mouths – flying out to Manhattan with the pleasure robot Gigalo Joe (Jude Law) in the flying/amphibious Police car – the discussion William Hurt has at the beginning with his students about making a robot that 'loves' for real – but these are few and far between. As most of the film takes place in the Swinton home (David’s parents) and the headquarters of Cybertronics (the company that makes robots for all sorts of tasks), there seems to be no escaping the washed-out look of the film. The extras are good (the 2DVD set) but if the movie’s unwatchable – then what’s the point.

I liked "A.I." then and still think it has its very definite moments to this day - but let’s be blunt about this – I just spent good money on a BLU RAY reissue of a film that is available on the DVD format for a pittance – and its not better – its worse - and absolutely not worth owning.

It is of course a matter of personal taste and choice, but it has to be said - even if you’re a rabid fan of "A.I." - I’d say hire it first to see what it actually looks like 'before' forking out any money on it.

Another huge disappointment on this increasingly frustrating format…

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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