Posts Tagged ‘A.I. Artificial Intelligence’

In part one I set up the reason for my visit to the Kubrick Archive and highlighted one of the first drafts of the A.I: Artificial Intelligence script which Ian Watson wrote. In part two I discover just how many permutations of the story Ian Watson did… Short answer: a ludicrous number.

Filled with a delicious lunch from the Japan Centre, including a matcha green tea [a real energy boost] I descended once more into the archives to try and make some more sense of the process through which the film A.I: Artificial Intelligence was created.

For my second day trip to the archive I placed the boxes of materials in as close to chronological order as possible and picked out the earliest box. Most of the materials, which were not in order, [why would anyone want to make my life easier] were from drafts in 1990.

Through reading a series of faxes I began to see how the writing relationship between Ian Watson and Stanley Kubrick worked. It seems that almost every day Watson would fax a new iteration of a section to Kubrick, which would be read, notes made and faxed back with ideas for changes and edits.  As a writer the very idea of working like this made me want to collapse with exhaustion. I’ve had experiences of turning out very quick re-drafts of treatments but nothing on this scale—I think this went on for about eight months.

Ian Watson has a fantastic article on his own website about his time on A.I. which gives more of a sense of the pressures and inventive freedom of working with Kubrick which can be found here.

What continued to surprise and delight me as I read through the numerous iterations of A.I. was the sheer inventiveness of Watson. There are some thoroughly wonderful visual and thematic ideas that just never made it near the end film—ideas that I would love to turn into movies in their own rights.

There are robot oracles stuck in abandoned reactors, where the area around has turned into a crystal encrusted tomb; Rouge city as noir a gangster controlled nightmare Las Vegas with dark secret revolving on eternal life; there are robot cults of various types who worship or sacrifice David, our little robot boy. The crystalline imagery does make it to the final film as the Blue Fairy statue frozen in ice after many centuries have passed.

Any of these ideas sound more interesting than the final film? Yep, that’s what I thought. Although at the same time I see how much of a risk they would have been to film; robot popes, I’m imagining, have always been a hard sell. Then there is always the question of audience, it seemed that Kubrick initially wanted this to be a general audience film that the whole family could see… it is clear that some of these darker, sordid drafts didn’t conform to this image. Nor did the final movie which got awarded a 12 certificate in the UK or PG-13 in the USA.

Another fascinating element that emerged from trawling through these different drafts is how Watson would get attached to a motif which would appear in various versions, each time slightly changed, to fit the new agenda. I’ve found I have a tendency to do the same thing when I’m writing. I get attached to an image or a concept which doesn’t work, I cut it out and then when another story comes along I try to mold my cut motif into the new story.

Bell Tower at Reschensee - Image fro http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reschensee

Bell Tower at Reschensee – Image fro http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reschensee

I’ve been trying to get the town under the man-made lake at Reschensee into a screenplay for about four years now. The location has been in my mind far longer, from tales my grandparents told of this underwater town and others like it. At one time or other this place has featured in three projects, from which it has been cut each time because, although it is beautiful/ haunting/ making a statement of man vs nature, it has never been quite right. I’ve always felt that I’ve been shoe horning it in somehow. One day, Reschensee you will be the location for a touching romantic moment or more likely, a stirring action sequence. I did see a Miyazaki, The Castle of Cagliostro, which has a similar location in after I wanted to write about this place, so at least someone has managed to make the image work.

With Watson it is a different image, a pit that bores deep into the ground that repeats. It is a source of eternal torment and punishment a la Dante’s Inferno, or a mysterious location which could great immortality. See how the image modulates in the different iterations, same location, very different purpose.

It’s the same with characters. Often as I start a new story my gut tells me I need a character in a particular moment to move the plot along, but that character might be drastically changed by the time the drafting process is over. The same thing happens in Watson’s drafts for A.I. The boy robot, David, and his friend Gigolo Joe need a sympathetic helping hand to push them on the quest, that much is clear, but who that character is alters dramatically from journalists to recluses.

There was so much potential in that tiny box, only a fraction of the creative output that went into the movie. To a lover of science fiction, Watson’s drafts are a real demonstration of the power of an imagination to generate different variations under pressure of tight deadlines. I’m the kind of writer who also functions best, sometimes, when the deadline looms like the blade of a guillotine.

Whether this brief trip to the archive was completely useful to my own research is up for debate. There was one very noir version which I would love to find in its entirety to read, and perhaps there is a conversation to be had with Ian Watson about it in the future, and I would love to know which anime he recommended to Stanley Kubrick.

However, visit has inspired a desire to read multiple drafts of the film scripts from my core texts: Blade Runner, Gattaca, Dark City, The Matrix to see how they developed into the final films. Perhaps there are gems in these drafts that, due to various elements of economics or risk, never made it to the final product.

As a screenwriter it has made me think about early drafts and that perhaps I need to be more inventive, maybe I need to go that extra step outside the box and be more experimental in the early story stage. Because even at my strangest, I have nothing on some of the things I’ve read in the Kubrick Archive.

To finish here’s the theatrical trailer for A.I.

Location: University Archives and Special Collections Centre
London College of Communication
Elephant and Castle
London
SE1 6SB

Website: http://www.arts.ac.uk/study-at-ual/library-services/collections-and-archives/archives-and-special-collections-centre/stanley-kubrick-archive/

When I started my PhD, little did I think that I would be pawing through Stanley Kubrick’s original notebooks and other written ephemera related to the unfinished [for Kubrick] film AI: Artificial Intelligence. Let’s face it, I didn’t think anyone would let me get my grubby little student hands anywhere near anything belonging to Kubrick, not without going through some trails by decontamination first.AI Poster

Of course Kubrick is renowned for movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining and A Clockwork Orange, but it is the movie AI: Artificial Intelligence that fits loosely into my area of PhD research. It is about an unreliable protagonist, a robot boy who isn’t entirely sure he’s a robot at first, nor that he isn’t an individual, who on realising this information wants to become a real boy and sets off across sci-fi noir landscape on this quest.

[Actually it is debate-able in the final film, which was finished by Steven Spielberg that David, the robot, is the only protagonist. It feels to me that David’s “mother,” Monica, is just as much of a protagonist in the first section of the film as he is. The unsatisfying feeling I get  during resolution and quest of the movie stems from the fact that Monica’s goal, her story, is not fully explored. Although for this post that’s beside the point – what was I saying about PhDs and focus?]

The year that Kubrick bought the rights for Super Toys Last All Summer Long from Brian Aldiss was 1982, the year Blade Runner was released in the cinema. It was with Aldiss that Kubrick began work on the screen idea [thanks for the term, Ian McDonald] that would become the Spielberg film A.I.

There were multiple writers brought onto the project and, after re-watching the film, I was interested to get a little taster of different drafts that eventually evolved into the final movie. As a screenwriter myself, I find it fascinating to see the different ways a script story develops from the original idea, through the influence of directors/producers/studios and even actors, to the final product.

Naturally I was a little excited, in what I hope wasn’t too obviously a fangirl kind of way, to be entering the Kubrick Archive at the London College of Communication. The room itself even threw off a Kubrickian aura, white being the dominant colour, clean lines, glass partitions and a luminous ceiling. It was like a scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey and I was well on my way to a little researcher heaven when the trolley arrived with, as I’d been warned, the un-catalogued material on A.I.

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2001:A Space Odyssey

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The Stanley Kubrick Archives

There was more material than I imagined and, excitingly for me, most of it different drafts of the scripts. Unfortunately the material was not in chronological order so a later draft from 1999 was mixed in with something from 1990.

In hindsight, the logical thing to do would have been to get all the scripts onto a table and order them before starting to read. But it was my first foray into the world of the academic researcher so I picked up the box nearest me and just about managed to work through it. This gave me a flavour of the collection.

  • Cue cards covered with Kubrick’s mostly legible scrawl, questioning key points, brainstorming scenes, locations, characters and especially character motivations.
  • Notebooks filled with slightly less legible scrawl again showing Kubrick’s mind at work on the project, locating the plot holes, the places where pace dies in various earlier drafts and trying to find ways to fix the problems.
  • Script drafts and script-ments [these feel part way between a screenplay and a treatment]. I looked at two different script-ments by Ian Watson.

The first scriptment, Foxtrot, was a long way from the final film and I feel shows a lot of influence from the cyberpunk novels of the 1980s like William Gibson’s Neuromancer. There was a voice over, noir narration from a super artificial intelligence which reminded me of Wintermute in Gibson’s book. The untrustworthy narrator of this version really caught my interest as it fits into one of patterns I am exploring in posthuman noir science fiction films and anime. The scriptment read more like a sci-fi novel than a script and with that carried an  unfilmable quality, some scenes would certainly be difficult to get into a PG or even a 12 certificate film.

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Rouge City in the final film of A.I – the dark cyberpunk influence remaining from Watson’s first story idea

As a story, though, Foxtrot was a compelling and complex look into the relationship between humans and their robotic creations. The obsession of a little boy to become the person his mother wants him to be, a ‘real boy,’ and the dawning of childhood’s end.  The imagery and set pieces were mind-blowingly creative, making me feel a bit tame in the way I approach screen stories.

In another link to my PhD research, this scipt-ment by Ian Watson’s first stab involved multiple references to Japanese language and culture, like the cyberpunks fictions of the 1980s and 90s. So far, so exciting – for me, anyway.

When I’d found myself connected to the interwebs later, I discovered Foxtrot was a short story Watson was commissioned to write as a sample piece before he was hired to work on A.I. You can read the full article about his experience working on A.I. on Ian Watson’s website.

The second script by Ian Watson, dated around 1993, was far closer to the film made. It has the figure of Gigolo Joe and the locations of Rouge City and the Heavy Flesh Festivals. The super-A.I. is gone, Teddy is spared his Wintermute styled AI possession, and the journey David, the robot boy, takes follows a similar pattern to the film.

There is one character, a female recluse who hates humans, who Kubrick has copious notes about but who clearly will never make it to the end. As I closed the box for the day it was she who was playing very vividly on Stanley’s Kubrick’s mind.

More to come in Visiting the Kubrick Archive – Part Two...

Details of the Kubrick Archive:

Location: University Archives and Special Collections Centre
London College of Communication
Elephant and Castle
London
SE1 6SB

Website: http://www.arts.ac.uk/study-at-ual/library-services/collections-and-archives/archives-and-special-collections-centre/stanley-kubrick-archive/