Artificial Kubrick

Artificial Kubrick

A film still of the iconic tollbooths leading into Rouge City in Artificial Intelligence.
Courtesy Thames & Hudson

AI: Artificial Intelligence: From Stanley Kubrick to Steven Spielberg
Edited by Jan Harlan and Jane M. Struthers
Thames & Hudson, $60.00

As a longtime subscriber to Cinefex, the special-effects-must-have-monthly-for-up-to-the-minute-behind-the-scenes-tricks-of-the-special-effects-trade-secrets (which, by the way, is all it claims to be), I waited for the review copy of Artificial Intelligence with not too artfully hidden anticipation. The book was rumored to contain the ultimate revelations about the making of the Kubrick-inspired, Spielberg-written-and-directed science fiction epic. That is, the Pinocchio story, give or take a millennium or two, and insert robot for puppet, oops, marionette. Two tees.

An irony of the so-called digital era is the proliferation of what may come to be known as “legacy volumes.” These are different from the coffee-table books of bygone times, which sought to catalogue in print what was by and large inaccessible by any other means. And they are different in other ways as well, in that they purport to disclose behind-the-scenes stories, and to present a composite view of process as well as product.

Artificial Intelligence is such a book. An important one.

Chris Baker’s concept art for a destroyed, robot-infested New York.

It is immediately evident from the ballistic-grade paper, majestic proportions, and Mil-Spec binding that no expense was spared to create a book worthy of the motion picture, and that the authors and publisher prayed that Kubrick’s spirit would favor them with a smile in recognition of their dedication.

AI was born of a short story that caught Kubrick’s fancy during the making of Eyes Wide Shut, sometime before the worldwide glut of science-fiction films, and a decent interval after 2001 had kicked off the genre. Clearly a parable, and imbued with a then-prescient insight into the apocalyptic nature of a global computer network (.