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A.I. Artificial Intelligence (Soundtrack) by John Williams

Subtly Overwhelming
Review by Christopher Coleman

 

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (Soundtrack) by John Williams

Artificial Intelligence
9/10
Buy A.I. Articificial Intelligence (Soundtrack) by John Williams from Amazon.com

Category  |   Score

Originality 9
Music Selection 8
Composition 10
CD Length 9
Track Order 9
Performance 9
Final Score 9/10

 

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Composer 
John Williams

 

 

Composed, Conducted and Produced by John Williams
Orchestra Arranged by Williams Ross
Lyrics by Cynthia Weil (For Always)
Performed by Lara Fabian; Josh Groban; Barbara Bonney (Soprano Vocal)
Executive Producer: Danny Bramson
Released by Warner Brothers Records July 3, 2001

The combination of a Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg produced film is just popping with possibilities.  These two names merely being associated with the film A.I. - Artificial Intelligence has put it under a spotlight (and microscope) like no other film will be in the Summer of 2001.  Add to that ripe trove of creative genius, the legendary talents of composer John Williams, and expectations could hardly be made any higher.

A.I. - Artificial Intelligence has much more in common Bicentennial Man than it does with Spielberg's family-oriented film, E.T. The Extraterrestrial.   A.I. like Bicentennial Man, which was based on a couple of Isaac Asimov stories,  were both sorely mis-marketed towards younger audiences.   For those anticipating A.I. to be reminiscent of E.T., they were undoubtedly disappointed.  Likewise, anticipating a score like E.T. could lead to equal disappointment.  This film is a far cry from the sorts of Summer-blockbusters Spielberg churned out years ago. Similarly, John Williams score is a far cry from those earlier collaborations with the director.  Still, at least one thing remains in tact.  John Williams' score for A.I. a near perfect fit for the film, and is one that will be remembered and talked about for years 

Months ago, based on the trailers, many surmised that John Williams would take a Hook-like or "Extraterrestialesque" approach to the score.  Others guessed that it would be some of John Williams most understated and mature music to date.  While, the score for A.I. may contain the smallest hints of childlike innocence and wonder a la Hook, or better yet Stepmom,  it often flows with a dark, foreboding, presence.  As it turns out, Williams music mesmerizes and hypnotizes but slightly disturbs as well.

The score for A.I. centers around one main theme that is subtly used throughout the film - named on the soundtrack, Monica's Theme.  It is most often delicately played on piano with accompanying orchestra.  The theme receives a brief but poignant performance on cello before moving into the full piano performance in track 8.  In the film, this theme receives its clearest and best performance in the end credits which corresponds to track 9, Where Dreams are Born.  Here, the siren-like soprano of Barbara Bonney croons the wordless melody unforgettably.  The soundtrack release also features two, vocal performances of Williams' main theme which are not used in the film... and with good reason.

Lara FabianJosh GrobanThe choice to keep the two pop-vocal tracks off of the film was wise, for they simply do not fit the overall mood of the film nor its sobering messages.  For Always is much too romantic for a film like A.I.  That said, Cynthia Weil's lyrics are fitting and Lara Fabian delivers a vocal performance that borders on Celine Dion's powerful presentation of My Heart Will Go On from Titanic.   The duet of Fabian and Groban, in track 13, is nothing short of stunning and many will experience those Titanic-sized goose-bumps once again.  The only shame in their absence from the film is that neither can be nominated for an Academy Award - something each performance easily warrants.   Look for the duet to fill the airwaves for months...and months to come.

Outside of the main theme, the remaining music is somewhat more difficult to rate.  Adhering to John Williams' recent sensibilities, the action music is adequate for their respective scenes but are nothing like the action/suspense cues that made John Williams what he is today.  The opening track, The Mecha World (1), effectively draws one into the score with a methodic, if not "mechanical" feel and provides somewhat of a foretaste of the music to come.  The track eventually flows into the introspective music utilized in the trailer before concluding with a sampling of the darker, suspense music that Williams uses more extensively later on.  Hide and Seek (4) is the most playful of pieces here and along with Stored Memories and Monica's Theme (8) are the closest to the fairy-tale feel that Hook has in such abundance.  Much of the more intense music such as Abandoned in the Woods (2), and the first moments of Rouge City (10) shows a completely different side of the composer as it takes on forceful, stylistic elements perhaps not heard since his work for Seven Years in Tibet.

A.I. is a film that has many subtexts that will be lost on young children and even on inattentive adults.  It is a film that is rich in commentary on the essence of life and humanity.  Just as the  visual effects add substance to the story without falling prey to the "look what we can do syndrome," John Williams score contributes significantly to the film without spotlighting itself.  The score stealthily draws the listener deep into the film's feeling through hypnotic performances and barely fathomable emotion.  A.I. happens to be a score that is helped immeasurably by experiencing it within the film.  Those who only listen to the soundtrack apart from the film may find it average or even thin.

Artificial Intelligence turns out to be the perfect showcase for the current-day John Williams.   The days of the Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Superman films being the best platform for Williams' talents appear to be over.  Now, movies with layer after layer of substance and commentary such as a Schindler's List,  or an Angela's Ashes or an A.I. provide John Williams the opportunity to haunt audiences into remembering his music as opposed to merely thrilling them.   As much as the visuals and messages of A.I. are stunning and memorable, the simple musical theme from this score will subtly overwhelm and long remain in the minds of all who experience this music, especially as a part of the film.


Track Listing and Ratings

 Track

Title Time

Rating

1 Mecha World 6:25  *****
2 Abandoned in the Woods 3:06  ****
3 Replicas 5:58  ****
4 Hide and Seek 3:08  ****
5 For Always - Lara Fabian * 4:42  ****
6 Cybertronics 3:21  ****
7 The Moon Rising 4:26  ***
8 Stored Memories/ Monica's Theme 10:57  ****
9 Where Dreams are Born (Monica's Theme) 4:23  *****
10 Rouge City 4:56  ****
11 The Search for the Blue Fairy 6:11  ****
12 The Reunion 7:46  *****
13 For Always Duet Version -
Lara Fabian & Josh Groban *
4:42  *****
 

Total Running Time

70:07  

* Not used in film

*The Experience-O-Meter displays the track to track listening experience of this soundtrack based on the 5-Star rating given to each track.  It provides a visual depiction of the ebbs and flows of the CD's presentation of the soundtrack.

 

Referenced Reviews
Bicentennial Man  | 
Stepmom

 

 

 

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