‘A.I.’: Alternative Interpretations


What if Stanley Kubrick’s pet project, bequeathed to Steven Spielberg, had fallen into the hands of another filmmaker? Here are 15 could-have-been scenarios.

PEDRO ALMODOVAR After his Vicodin-addled phone-sex operator Mommy sets fire to their chartreuse-and-crimson bungalow, little mecha David does bondage house calls for cash and is succored by wry, motherly drag queen Gigolo Joe, who encourages David to pay a cathartic pilgrimage to Our Lady of Fatima. There, he coincidentally encounters his penitent mama, who is now a man and played by Carmen Maura.

TAKESHI KITANO David confronts the kind alien’s bad news—about the ephemerality of David’s cloned mother, Monica—by jamming a shattered glass into the creature’s face. Then he finds his father’s hidden gun (which David had used to put his brother Martin back in cryogenic freeze) and blasts his way out to a cube-ship, which he drives to Tokyo.

LARRY CLARK Neglected by his cheerfully clueless Mommy and Daddy, shirtless latch-key waif David meets skate-kid-turned-CK-One-model Gigolo Joe. They hang out in Rouge City, a theme park modeled on Alphabet City in the 1980s. David becomes a pothead, befriends a repressed homosexual who sticks him with a discarded hypodermic syringe, and falls into a coma. Two thousand years later, he’s resurrected by aliens who promptly crack open his skull for a Your Brain on Drugs demonstration.

KEN LOACH After a 45-minute discussion with Gigolo Joe about the collective bargaining potential of mecha workers, David gives up his search for organicness and begins drinking heavily. Aliens of the future provide him with a clone of his mother, whom he beats with a belt in a boozy rampage.

MICHAEL BAY David turns out to be a homing beacon built by the twiggy space creatures; they’re planning a sneak attack on Coney Island. Daddy has to leave Mommy behind to go and fight the aliens, prompting many claustrophobic close-ups and hurried montage sequences. Aerosmith performs “A Bicycle Built for Two” over the end credits.

EMIR KUSTURICA The whole movie is set in Rouge City, which is peopled largely by table-dancing, gun-toting Serbian orgas in a constant state of hooch-fueled revelry. The deathless conflict with the mecha consists of stray sniper shots, lobbed eggs, and the occasional catapulting of goat shit. Lost in the chaos, 16-year-old David eventually finds the Blue Fairy (actually, a tattooed hooker dwarf), loses his virginity, and sprouts real-boy back hair.

ATOM EGOYAN “Is this a game?” David asks Martin after showing him the videotape he’d shot of his new mother and father having sex. After that, everybody stops talking to each other. Meanwhile, Gigolo Joe attempts to understand the loneliness of his human clients by watching porn, and Professor Hobby exercises his grief over his dead son by paying mecha strippers to do the dishes.

TERRENCE MALICK David stares endlessly at the windswept, grassy plains of Monmouth County as he contemplates in voice-over the nature of nonbeing. Then he shoots Daddy and takes Mommy on an existential crime spree. Ninety percent of their dialogue is cut from the film; all six hours of it take place at dusk.

WONG KAR-WAI A generation after “losing” David amid a gangster shoot-out in a seedy noodle joint, Mommy unwittingly moves into the flat next to her grown son; they sometimes make fleeting contact as they brush past each other. Mommy often steals into David’s flat to scrub the bathroom tile; David spends his evenings at the local tavern leaning stoically on the jukebox, which forever plays Nico’s “It Was a Pleasure Then.”

PETER GREENAWAY His search divided into 46 distinct sections—one for every chromosome he doesn’t have—David’s identity crisis is compounded by the fact that his little cock grows a Pinocchio half-foot every time he says, “Will my mother love me?” In the end, the metaphoric fusion between fiber-optic hardware and human flesh is somehow complete, with David’s mother’s clone cooking breakfast for a Palm Pilot.

KEVIN SMITH Narrowly escaping a Shit Monster who is ravaging the Jersey shore, orphaned David forms a symbiotic bond with pimp-manqué convenience-store clerk Gigolo Joe (David: “Are you the Blue Fairy?” GJ: “I’m not a fuckin’ fag, you fuckin’ fag”). Upon being revived, the real Blue Fairy—in fact an inflatable sex toy named Betty Blueballs—administers a blowjob to David and conjures from his spunk a doting three-breasted Mommy.

LEOS CARAX Crazed Mommy dumps David in the Black Forest, though the unswayed boy crawls after her for 40 minutes of real-time pursuit through the nighttime thicket until he happens upon a nihilist commune of mechas foraging scrap metal for their found-instrument performance of Scott Walker’s “The Old Man’s Back Again (Dedicated to the Neo-Stalinist Regime).” After Gigolo Joe is struck and killed by a tire iron during rehearsal, distraught David plunges into the blood-red Seine while fireworks explode overhead and fatalist mechas turn deranged cartwheels on the Pont-Neuf.

DAVID LYNCH The film takes place in two intersecting realities: suburban New Jersey, in which Patricia Arquette plays Monica, and decadent Rouge City, where corset-clad Rosanna Arquette is Mommy. Maybe they’re the same person, maybe not. Ben Kingsley provides the narration—but in character as Don Logan from Sexy Beast.

TERENCE DAVIES After mean drunk Daddy dumps David in an alleyway during a rainstorm, kindly, strapping construction worker Gigolo Joe comforts the miserable moppet with a trip to the movies, where the Blue Fairy appears to David in the form of Doris Day in The Pajama Game. The 2000-year time jump is signaled by an eight-minute tracking shot across the Hudson River, after which the aliens clone dead Daddy but fail to resurrect dead Mommy (Gillian Anderson).

DAVID CRONENBERG David succeeds in finding the Blue Fairy, who does her new-flesh best to make him a real boy—leaving him a demented, oozing cyborg with both a large vaginal orifice and a giant hydraulic penis. David impregnates himself, and begets a new race of meta-mechas.

Compiled by Michael Atkinson, Mark Holcomb, Dennis Lim, and Jessica Winter

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