Music From The Motion Picture A.I.


Warner Sunset Records, 2001

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


A lot of the reviews I've read for A.I., the latest film from director extraordinaire Steven Spielberg, have been lukewarm at their best. I have not seen the film (nor, do I plan to - sorry, Steve, but my money is invested in my future from here on in), but I find it interesting to compare what I've read about the film to the soundtrack composed by John Williams.

With the movie, the story has taken a bit of a beating, though the effects are said to be outstanding. With the music, the overall vibe is not the strongest body of work that Williams has created over the years, but it is the performance of two vocalists who absolutely save the day.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

For a movie set in the not-too-distant future, one would expect Williams's score to have a futuristic feel to it. Regrettably, this is not the case for the first half of the soundtrack. Tracks like "The Mecha World," "Replicas" and "Hide And Seek" all sound like they have aspects which were cast-offs from E.T., Jaws or even Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. They're almost typical Williams fare - normally a compliment, but in this case, it almost feels like the subject matter demanded more. When the futuristic elements do kick in on "The Moon Rising," it becomes clear what the body of this score desparately needed.

The second half of A.I., however, is absolutely magical - thanks to the otherworldly vocals from Barbara Bonney. It almost is reminiscent of the most poignant scenes from Dead Man Walking, and sets a mood of faith overcoming hopelessness or impending doom. Such moments can easily bring a tear to one's eye, even if you don't exactly know what the corresponding action is in the movie. This is what Williams is known for: painting a picture you don't have to see to understand.

The other vocalist who makes A.I. a work of art is Lara Fabian, whose performance of "For Always" sent shivers up my spine. Here's hoping that it doesn't get turned into the "My Heart Will Go On" of 2001 - namely, a pretty song that got more airplay than reruns of "I Love Lucy". I don't quite understand why a second version of "For Always" was needed to round out this disc, but the duet between Farian and Josh Groban is just as pretty, if not as enthralling.

Music From The Motion Picture A.I. is a soundtrack that presents Williams in two distinct modes - sticking with what's comfortable, and pushing the envelope to challenge the listener's emotions and minds. If only more of the latter had been featured, this disc would have been absolutely magical. As it stands, it has some very absorbing moments, but doesn't quite measure up to Williams's best work.

Rating: B-

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© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner Sunset Records, and is used for informational purposes only.