Bicentennial Man (film)
|Directed by||Chris Columbus|
|Produced by||Michael Barnathan
|Written by||Isaac Asimov
|Based on||The Positronic Man
by Isaac Asimov
|Music by||James Horner|
|Editing by||Neil Travis|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures
(USA & Canada)
Columbia TriStar Film Distributors International
|Running time||132 min|
Bicentennial Man is a 1999 American science fiction comedy/drama family film, starring Robin Williams. Based on the novel The Positronic Man, co-written by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg, which is itself based on Asimov's original novella titled The Bicentennial Man, the plot explores issues of humanity, slavery, prejudice, maturity, intellectual freedom, conformity, sex, love, and mortality. It was directed by Chris Columbus and a co-production between Touchstone Pictures and Columbia Pictures. The title comes from the main character existing to the age of two hundred years, and Asimov's novella was published in the year that the U.S. had its bicentennial.
The NDR series android "Andrew" (Robin Williams) is introduced in April 2005 into the Martin family home to perform housekeeping and maintenance duties. The family's reactions range from acceptance and curiosity to outright rejection and deliberate vandalism by Grace (Lindze Letherman), which leads to the discovery that Andrew can both identify emotions and reciprocate in kind. When Andrew accidentally breaks a figurine belonging to "Little Miss" Amanda (Hallie Kate Eisenberg), he carves a replacement out of wood. The family is astonished by this creativity and “Sir” Richard Martin (Sam Neill) takes Andrew to his manufacturer, to inquire if all the robots are like him. The company's CEO (Stephen Root) sees this development as a problem and wishes to scrap Andrew. Angered, Martin takes Andrew home and allows him to pursue his own development, encouraging Andrew to educate himself in the humanities.
In 2025, Andrew has an accident in which his thumb is accidentally cut off so a middle-aged Sir again takes him to NorthAm Robotics for repairs, ensuring first that Andrew's personality will remain unharmed. Andrew requests that while he is being repaired his face be upgraded to allow him to convey the emotions he feels but cannot fully express. The bitter and older CEO informs them that upgrade modification will be very expensive—in fact, larger than the sum he earns in an entire year—but the price is well within the Martin family's means, comprising a month of Andrew's income from the sale of his carpentry and other woodworks and crafts.
After the wedding of an older Little Miss (Embeth Davidtz), Andrew realizes there are no more orders for him to run so he asks for his own freedom in 2037, much to and elderly Sir's dismay. He grants the request, but banishes Andrew so he can be "completely" free. As Andrew leaves, Sir comments that he has stopped referring to himself as "one". Andrew eventually builds himself a home at the beach and lives alone. In 2053, Andrew sees Sir one last time on his deathbed. Sir apologizes for banishing Andrew knowing have his freedom was the right thing, as he bids farewell to Andrew, stating that it was an honor serving him.
After reluctant help from Lloyd Charney (Bradley Whitford), Little Miss's son, Andrew goes on a quest to locate more NDR series robots to discover if others have also developed sentience. After more than a decade of futility, he finds Galatea (Kiersten Warren), an NDR robot that has been given feminine attributes and personality. These however are simply aspects of her programming and not something which she developed as Andrew did. Galatea is owned by Rupert Burns (Oliver Platt), son of the original NDR robot designer. Rupert works to create a more human look for robots, but is unable to attract funding. Andrew agrees to finance the research and the two join forces to give Andrew a superficial human appearance. In 2073, Andrew comes back to visit Little Miss but instead meets Portia Charney (Embeth Davidtz), her granddaughter (Lloyd's daughter) who looks nearly exactly like a younger Little Miss. The aged Little Miss explains to Andrew that it's a genetic likeness that skipped a generation. As Andrew gets to know Portia, Little Miss is hospitalized after suffering a stroke. Andrew and Portia visit her, noticing that she is clutching the wooden horse he carved for her when she was young. After Little Miss silently passes away, Andrew feels the pain of not being able to cry and realizes that every human being he cares for will eventually die.
Over time, Andrew and Rupert begin to study medical designs capable of producing mechanical equivalents of human organs, including a central nervous system, which eventually allows Andrew to acquire tactile sensations and taste. Meanwhile, his friendship with Portia evolves into romance. At first, Portia is uncertain about "investing her emotions in a machine" and almost marries someone else but Andrew confronts her about her emotions and they eventually engage in a relationship that is both romantic and sexual. But both Andrew and Portia realize that their relationship would never be socially accepted. Andrew petitions the World Congress to recognize him as a human being which would allow him and Portia to be legally married. The Speaker of the Congress rejects the proposal, explaining that society can tolerate an everlasting machine, but argues that an immortal human would create too much jealousy and resentment.
In 2128, an elderly Portia is physically middle-aged due to Andrew's medical breakthroughs but decides that she doesn't want to have her life forever prolonged by them. Realizes that he wouldn't want to live on without her, Andrew has an elderly Rupert to introduce blood into his system which will cause his brain to gradually decay and allow him to age to which Rupert welcomes him to the human condition. Years later (either 2158 or 2168), a naturally aged Andrew attends the World Congress a second time to petition to be declared a human being again while a physically elderly Portia watches. When the World Congress decides to review the decision before making a final determination, Andrew says "I tried" to Portia.
In 2205, Andrew and Portia are in intermediate care with life support machines but the more elderly couple are hand-in-hand happy with each other's company. Finally, the President of the World Congress's broadcast that acknowledges Andrew's humanity (as well as being the oldest human being in recorded history at 200 years old) and validating his marriage with Portia. When Andrew dies while listening to the broadcast, Portia orders their nurse (a human-looking/sentient Galatea) immediately after the broadcast to unplug her life support machine. As the film ends, Portia whispers "See you soon" to Andrew as husband and wife die hand-in-hand together.
- Robin Williams as Andrew Martin
- Sam Neill as Richard "Sir" Martin
- Embeth Davidtz as Amanda "Little Miss" Martin (adult) and Portia Charney
- Wendy Crewson as Rachel "Ma´am" Martin
- Hallie Kate Eisenberg as Amanda "Little Miss" Martin (age 7)
- Kiersten Warren as Galatea
- Oliver Platt as Rupert Burns
- Stephen Root as Dennis Mansky
- Angela Landis as Grace "Miss" Martin (adult)
- Bradley Whitford as Lloyd Charney (adult)
- John Michael Higgins as Bill Feingold
- Lindze Letherman as Grace "Miss" Martin (age 9)
- Igor Hiller as Lloyd Charney (age 10)
- George D. Wallace as the first President/Speaker of the World Congress
- Lynne Thigpen as the second President/Speaker of the World Congress
Bicentennial Man received mixed reviews; the film holds a 37% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes with 35 out of 93 critics giving it a positive review with an average rating of 4.8 out of 10, with a consensus saying 'Bicentennial Man is ruined by a bad script and ends up being dull and mawkish', while the review aggregator Metacritic gives it a score of 42.
Roger Ebert gave it two out of four stars saying, "Bicentennial Man begins with promise, proceeds in fits and starts, and finally sinks into a cornball drone of greeting-card sentiment. Robin Williams spends the first half of the film encased in a metallic robot suit, and when he emerges, the script turns robotic instead. What a letdown." William Arnold of Seattle Post-Intelligencer said the film "Becomes a somber, sentimental and rather profound romantic fantasy that is more true to the spirit of the Golden Age of science-fiction writing than possibly any other movie of the '90s." Todd McCarthy of Variety summed it up as "An ambitious tale handled in a dawdling, sentimental way".
- Academy Awards — Best Makeup
- Blockbuster Entertainment Award — Favorite Actor — Comedy (Robin Williams)
- Blockbuster Entertainment Award — Favorite Actress — Comedy (Embeth Davidtz)
- Hollywood Makeup Artist and Hair Stylist Guild Award — Best Character Makeup — Feature
- Blimp Award — Favorite Movie Actor (Robin Williams)
- Razzie Award — Worst Actor (Robin Williams)
- YoungStar Award — Best Young Actress/Performance in a Motion Picture Comedy (Hallie Kate Eisenberg)
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- Bicentennial Man at the Internet Movie Database
- Bicentennial Man at the TCM Movie Database
- Bicentennial Man at allmovie
- Bicentennial Man at Box Office Mojo
- Bicentennial Man at Rotten Tomatoes
- Bicentennial Man at Metacritic