Brian Aldiss’ “Supertoys Last All Summer Long” is an interesting story which was adapted to film by Steven Spielberg in the movie “AI – Artificial Intelligence. Reading the story initially one would notice that the story ends with a hanging ending. There seems to be no closure in the story except that the audience is left wondering what happens to David since the couple, Monica and Henry, already acquired the license to conceive a real human child. The story is extremely short and would be impossible to adapt to film if not for the additions that have been made in its movie form.
However, the short story itself forms the basis for the entire film save for it’s being extended to feature length. The narrative additions in the film were not added just so the basis, which is the short story, would become feature length, instead these additions serve three basic things – they appropriately conduct the story to a logical and closed-ended conclusion, they serve to explain certain things that have not been explained in the short story because of its length, and they give the story material a more visual feel instead of the almost vignetted presentation in the literary piece.
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The narrative additions in the film expand the sphere of explanation for the story; something that was not done in the short story version. Noticeably, in the short story, Aldiss focused on the singular scene of the depressing interaction between Monica, David, and the super toy, Teddy. These interactions are limited to the revelations of how David reacts to the obvious disregard of Monica for him. David wonders why he cannot be loved as much by Monica whom he considers to be his mother.
While the short story does not explore this fully, the film makes slight modifications by presenting Monica and Henry as a couple who had a child in suspended cryogenic animation. So, with that addition in the film, Monica is given a reason for her depression and her obvious distance and indifference for the robot kid, David. In addition to this, the re-introduction of Monica’s real child who emerges from suspended animation serves to add another layer of conflict to the story which was surprisingly linear and less complicated in the short story version.
Aside from these critical pieces of the story that were expanded and well explained in the film version, the movie also drew from the robot background of the story and created an entire world where humans interact with robots in the film. The only reference to this in the story is the serving-man which David presented to an audience as a new innovation in robotics as well as David who is the young robot boy.
Of course it is assumed that with the existence of these two robots in the short story, the setting for the story becomes the future, but the film explores this further by portraying many other forms of robots to establish the idea that in the world where the story occurs, robots are made for various and different purposes. So, judging by how the material was expanded as more detailed narratives in the film, such narratives were not superfluous in the sense that these narrative elements had added more details to the story and made it more tangible as opposed to the fleeting and almost fickle clues that were given in the short story version.
Another obvious development in the film that explains why the narratives were purposely introduced is the fact that the additions such as the adventure of David in the absence of Monica and Henry made the story more visual. In effect, the short story was merely used as a jump off platform for the movie, hence the phrase ‘based on the story’. This is expected in most film versions because most of the time, short stories create imaginary worlds in the reader’s mind that are far from tangible.
So, while most of the narrative elements introduced in the film are no longer found in the short story, all of these elements can be derived from certain features of the short story itself. This is done to give the film a more material existence. Of course film is a different media an in this type of media, the story is told by visual cues and portrayals as opposed to how a story is told in literature which is mostly through mental images or what is known as imagery resulting from the expert arrangement and presentation of words.
So, the addition of the narratives is in fact purposeful and intentional, the intention being to give the audience a more effective portrayal of what was initially only perceived through the imagination. The narratives give flesh to the imaginary world that was presented in the short story version allowing the film version to tell the story itself as well as allow audiences a privileged perspective into the world where the short story takes place in. The most important feature that the narratives gave to the film is the existence of a more satisfying and close-ended conclusion to the story.
It will be recalled that in the short story version the story merely ends with the couple ecstatic at knowing that they were now allowed to conceive a real child. While it is implied in the short story version that the couple had planned on disposing David because of this development when Monica says that David was malfunctioning; (Aldiss) in the film version, David pursues his dream of becoming a real boy and in the end, is reunited with his mother, Monica.
While the ‘becoming a real boy’ part does not come true for David, he is given the opportunity to live life as a real boy in the end. The ending of the film is more satisfying for the audience compared to the ending in the short story because while there have been many narrative elements added to the film, these narrative elements worked together to effectively conclude the film version. Without the narrative elements the ending would have been strange and totally illogical.
This, perhaps, is the most important role that the narrative elements played in the film in relation to the short story version. So, while some might say that the addition of these elements totally destroyed the original story as told in the short story version, the narratives actually serves to expand the story enough for an appropriate ending or conclusion to be made. Had the narratives been absent from the film version, with the same ending that was used, the audience would have been left with nothing to base the ending on.
The short story ended with an open ended conclusion in that the readers are left to assume what happens next, none of this occurs in the film largely because of the narratives which effectively told the story from start to finish and gave the ending sturdy foundations in the body of the film itself. So, the narrative elements in the film are not there merely to extend the short story into a feature version because like literature, any addition to a piece is always intentional.
The purpose of adding the narrative features into the film was to allow a more expanded perspective on the material as well as give the story a more visual appeal which is what is intended; but of course, the most important purpose of the narratives was to allow the story to end successfully. It is impossible to compare a short story to a movie when the movie openly admits that it is only based on the short story.
In cases where such is in effect, where the movie is merely based on existing literary material, the literary piece may just be a minute portion of the film as a whole. In the case of Aldiss and the movie “AI” the director of the movie succeeded in his intentions of adding narrative features to the existing material which is the short story while at the same time preserving the integrity of the basis for the film.
In many cases, the base material is lost in the telling of the story through film, but in this case both the director as well as the screenplay writer succeeded in preserving the basic material while offering a film that was both entertaining and water-tight, story-wise. ? Works Cited Aldiss, Brian. "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long. " N. p. , 2007. Web. 12 July 2010. <http://downlode. org/Etext/supertoys. html>.
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