Bicentennial Man (film)

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Bicentennial Man
Bicentennial man film poster.jpg
Promotional poster
Directed byChris Columbus
Produced byChris Columbus
Wolfgang Petersen
Gail Katz
Laurence Mark
Neal Miller
Mark Radcliffe
Michael Barnathan
Screenplay byNicholas Kazan
Based onThe Positronic Man
by Isaac Asimov
Robert Silverberg
The Bicentennial Man
by Isaac Asimov
Starring
Music byJames Horner
CinematographyPhil Méheux
Edited byNeil Travis
Production
company
Touchstone Pictures
Columbia Pictures
1492 Pictures
Laurence Mark Productions
Radiant Productions
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures Distribution
(United States & Canada)
Sony Pictures Releasing
(International)
Release date
  • December 17, 1999 (1999-12-17)
Running time
132 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$100 million
Box office$87.4 million

Bicentennial Man is a 1999 American science fiction comedy-drama film starring Robin Williams, Sam Neill, Embeth Davidtz (in a dual role), Wendy Crewson, and Oliver Platt. Based on the 1992 novel The Positronic Man by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg (which is itself based on Asimov's original 1976 novelette "The Bicentennial Man"), the plot explores issues of humanity, slavery, prejudice, maturity, intellectual freedom, conformity, sex, love, mortality and eternal life. The film, a co-production between Touchstone Pictures and Columbia Pictures, was directed by Chris Columbus. The title comes from the main character existing to the age of two hundred years, and Asimov's novelette was published in 1976, the year the United States had its bicentennial.

Though the film was a box-office bomb, makeup artist Greg Cannom was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Makeup at the 72nd Academy Awards. The theme song of the film, which was written by James Horner and Will Jennings and sung by Celine Dion, is "Then You Look at Me".[1]

Plot[edit]

The NDR series robot "Andrew" is introduced in 2005 into the Martin family home to perform housekeeping and maintenance duties, and introduces himself by showing a presentation of the Three Laws of Robotics. The younger Amanda is sympathetic to him, and Andrew discovers he feels emotions, and is drawn to spend more time with his "Little Miss". He accidentally breaks one of her glass figurines and is able to carve a new one out of wood, which surprises Richard, her father. Richard takes Andrew to NorthAm Robotics to inquire if Andrew's creativity was part of his programming. NorthAm's CEO Dennis Mansky claims this is a problem and offers to scrap Andrew, but instead Richard takes Andrew back home and encourages him to continue his creativity and explore other humanities. Andrew becomes a clockmaker and earns a sizable fortune managed by Richard after they find that robots have no rights under current laws.

Time passes, and Richard encourages Dennis to give Andrew the ability to present facial expressions to match his emotions. About two decades from being awoken, Andrew presents Richard with all the money he has made to ask for his freedom. Richard refuses to accept it but does grant Andrew his independence, on the condition he may no longer reside at the Martin home. Andrew builds his own home by the beach. In 2048, Richard is on his death bed, and apologizes to Andrew for banishing him before he dies.

Following Richard's death, Andrew goes on a quest to find other NDR robots that are like him, frequently communicating back to Amanda, who has since married and divorced, and has a son Lloyd and granddaughter Portia. Twenty years into Andrew's quest, he discovers Galatea, an NDR robot that has been modified with female personality and traits. Andrew becomes interested in how Galatea was modified by Rupert Burns, the son of the original NDR designer, and finds he has a number of potential ideas to help make robots appear more human-like. Andrew agrees to fund Rupert's work and to be a test subject, and is soon given a human-like appearance. Twenty years later, Andrew finally returns to the Martin home and finds that Amanda has grown old while Portia looks much like her grandmother at her age. Portia is initially cautious of Andrew, but soon accepts him as part of the Martin family.

Amanda eventually dies, and Andrew realizes that all those he cares for will also pass on. He presents ideas to Rupert to create artificial organs that not only can be used in humans to prolong their lives but also to replace Andrew's mechanical workings. Andrew gains the ability to eat, feel emotions and sensations, and even have sexual relationships, resulting in him and Portia falling in love. Andrew petitions the World Congress to recognize him as a human as to allow him to marry Portia, but the body expresses concern that an immortal human will cause jealousy from others. Andrew returns to Rupert for one last operation: to change the artificial fluids driving his body into a blood equivalent. Rupert cautions him that the blood will not last forever, causing his body to age, and Andrew will die in several more decades, a fate Andrew accepts.

Decades later, Andrew again approaches the World Congress to appeal their past decision, wanting to be able to die with dignity. Later, with Andrew's body deteriorating, he and Portia are both under life support monitored by Galatea, now with a human appearance. They hold hands and watch the World Congress as they recognize Andrew as a human being, the world's oldest at 200 years, and giving all rights confirmed by that, including validating his marriage to Portia. During the broadcast, Andrew passes away, confirmed by Galatea. Portia asserts that Andrew already knew the answer to whether he was human and then, after ordering Galatea to turn off her life support, she soon dies, hand-in-hand with Andrew.

Cast[edit]

  • Robin Williams as Andrew Martin, an NDR android servant of the Martin family that seeks to become human.
  • Sam Neill as Richard "Sir" Martin, the patriarch of the Martin family.
  • Embeth Davidtz as Amanda "Little Miss" Martin (adult) and Portia Charney; Amanda is a friend of Andrew, the mother of Lloyd and grandmother of Portia while Portia is the daughter of Lloyd, the granddaughter of Amanda and significant other of Andrew.
  • Wendy Crewson as Rachel "Ma´am" Martin, the matriarch of the Martin family.
  • Oliver Platt as Rupert Burns, the son of the NDR creator that makes androids look more human-like.
  • Kiersten Warren as Galatea, the NDR android servant of Rupert and later a servant of the Martin family.
  • Stephen Root as Dennis Mansky
  • Angela Landis as Grace "Miss" Martin (adult), the spoiled older daughter of the Martin family.
  • Lindze Letherman as Grace "Miss" Martin (age 9)
  • Bradley Whitford as Lloyd Charney (adult)
  • Igor Hiller as Lloyd Charney (age 10)
  • John Michael Higgins as Bill Feingold — Martin Family Attorney
  • George D. Wallace as the President/Speaker of the World Congress
  • Lynne Thigpen as Marjorie Bota, a later President/Speaker of the World Congress
  • Jay Johnston as Charles

Production[edit]

Disney was concerned about the cost of the film, estimated to be over $100 million, and even though pre-production was underway and sets were already being built they pulled the plug and halted production. Disney Studios Chairman Joe Roth came to an agreement with Sony Pictures Entertainment Chairman John Calley, to co-finance film and paying half the cost and agreeing to distribute the film internationally.[2]

Williams confirmed in a Las Vegas Sun interview that his character was not played by a body double and that he had actually worn the robot costume.[3]

Reception[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 36% based on 97 reviews, with an average rating of 4.78/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Bicentennial Man is ruined by a bad script and ends up being dull and mawkish."[4] On Metacritic it has a weighted average score of 42 out of 100, based on reviews from 31 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[5] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.[6]

Roger Ebert gave it two out of four stars: 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.[7] William Arnold of the 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."[8]

Accolades[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Broxton, Jonathan (December 17, 1999). "Bicentennial Man – James Horner". Movie Music UK. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
  2. ^ "How 'Bicentennial Man' Survived Near-Death Experience". Los Angeles Times. 17 December 1999.
  3. ^ Neil, Dave (23 December 1999). "Robin Williams reveals the mechanics of making 'Bicentennial Man'". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  4. ^ "Bicentennial Man (1999)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
  5. ^ "Bicentennial Man Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
  6. ^ CinemaScore https://web.archive.org/web/20181220122629/https://www.cinemascore.com/publicsearch/index/title/. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 17, 1999). "Bicentennial Man". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved June 1, 2020.
  8. ^ McCarthy, Todd (10 December 1999). "Bicentennial Man". Variety (magazine).
  9. ^ a b "Blockbuster Entertainment Award winners". Variety. May 9, 2000. Retrieved May 20, 2013.

External links[edit]