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Bicentennial Man (film)

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Bicentennial Man
Theatrical release poster
Directed byChris Columbus
Screenplay byNicholas Kazan
Based on
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyPhil Méheux
Edited byNeil Travis
Music byJames Horner
Production
companies
Distributed by
Release date
  • December 17, 1999 (1999-12-17) (United States)
Running time
132 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$90-100 million[1][2]
Box office$87.4 million[1]

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 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 immortality. The film, a co-production by Touchstone Pictures and Columbia Pictures, was directed by Chris Columbus. The title derives from the main character existing to the age of two hundred years.

Bicentennial Man was released by Buena Vista Pictures in the United States on December 17, 1999, and received mixed-to-negative reviews from critics. It was a box office bomb, grossing $87.4 million against a $90–100 million budget.[3] It was the last work of production designer Norman Reynolds before his retirement.[4]

Makeup artist Greg Cannom was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Makeup at the 72nd Academy Awards. The theme song of the film, "Then You Look at Me", was written by James Horner and Will Jennings and sung by Celine Dion.[5]

Plot

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On April 3, 2005, the NDR series robot "Andrew" is introduced 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 eldest daughter Grace despises Andrew, but her younger sister 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 her father Richard. He 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 retrofit Andrew with the ability to present facial expressions to match his emotions. About two decades after being awoken, Andrew presents Richard with all the money he has made to ask for his freedom. Wounded by this, Richard refuses, but grants Andrew his independence on the condition that 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. In 2068, during his quest, Andrew 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. Andrew finally returns to the Martin home in 2088 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.

When Amanda dies, 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 will die eventually, a fate Andrew accepts. Several decades afterwards, Andrew again approaches the World Congress, with Portia as support, to appeal their past decision, wanting to be able to die with dignity.

On April 2, 2205, 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. Andrew dies during the broadcast, which is confirmed by Galatea while Portia asserts that Andrew already knew the answer. After ordering Galatea to turn off her life support, Portia soon dies, hand-in-hand with Andrew as she whispers to him "See you soon".

Cast

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  • Robin Williams as Andrew Martin, an NDR android servant of the Martin family that seeks to become human. Before Williams was cast, Tim Allen was considered for the role of Andrew Martin, but turned it down due to his commitment on Galaxy Quest.
  • 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.
  • Stephen Root as Dennis Mansky
  • Lynne Thigpen as Marjorie Bota, a later President/Speaker of the World Congress
  • Bradley Whitford as Lloyd Charney (adult), Amanda's brat son.
    • Igor Hiller as Lloyd Charney (age 10)
  • Kiersten Warren as Galatea, the NDR android servant of Rupert and later a servant of the Martin family.
  • John Michael Higgins as Bill Feingold — Martin Family Attorney
  • George D. Wallace as the President/Speaker of the World Congress
  • Angela Landis as Grace "Miss" Martin (adult), the spoiled older brat daughter of the Martin family.
  • Jay Johnston as Charles

Production

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Walt Disney Studios 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 chairman Joe Roth came to an agreement with Sony Pictures Entertainment Chairman John Calley, to co-finance the film and agreed to split distribution responsibilities for the film between Touchstone Pictures in North America and Columbia Pictures 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.[6]

Various scenes were shot inside San Francisco City Hall, including the ball scene. The city charged Disney from $5,000 to $20,000 per day, depending on the particular location used for filming. The heat from two 10,000-watt spotlights triggered the fire sprinkler system and which resulted in flooding which caused water damage. Renovations had only recently been completed after a previous flooding incident. Filming was only interrupted for a few hours, but water damage to the ceilings, carpets, and limestone was significant.[7]

Reception

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On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 37% based on 99 reviews, with an average rating of 4.40/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Bicentennial Man is ruined by a bad script and ends up being dull and mawkish".[8] On Metacritic it has a weighted average score of 42 out of 100, based on reviews from 31 critics, indicating "mixed reviews".[9] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[10]

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".[11] 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".[citation needed] Todd McCarthy of Variety summed it up as "an ambitious tale handled in a dawdling, sentimental way".[12]

Accolades

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References

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  1. ^ a b "Bicentennial Man (1999) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Archived from the original on 2021-08-22. Retrieved 2021-01-20.
  2. ^ a b Claudia (17 December 1999). "How 'Bicentennial Man' Survived Near-Death Experience". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 7 June 2020. Retrieved 7 June 2020.
  3. ^ "Biggest movie flops: The 42 biggest box-office bombs". CBS News. 17 November 2021. Archived from the original on July 21, 2022. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  4. ^ Evans, Greg (6 April 2023). "Norman Reynolds Dies: Oscar-Winning 'Star Wars' & 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' Production Designer Was 89". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on 21 May 2023. Retrieved 6 April 2023.
  5. ^ Broxton, Jonathan (December 17, 1999). "Bicentennial Man – James Horner". Movie Music UK. Archived from the original on August 13, 2021. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
  6. ^ Neil, Dave (23 December 1999). "Robin Williams reveals the mechanics of making 'Bicentennial Man'". Las Vegas Sun. Archived from the original on 18 September 2017. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  7. ^ Yumi Wilson (19 June 1999). "City Hall Doesn't Want to See Sequel to Disney Movie Flood / Stricter regulations on events held there being considered". SFGATE. Archived from the original on 27 January 2021. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
  8. ^ "Bicentennial Man (1999)". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on April 25, 2024. Retrieved June 3, 2024.
  9. ^ "Bicentennial Man Reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on February 27, 2013. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
  10. ^ "BICENTENNIAL MAN (1999) A-". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  11. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 17, 1999). "Bicentennial Man". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on June 7, 2020. Retrieved June 1, 2020.
  12. ^ McCarthy, Todd (10 December 1999). "Bicentennial Man". Variety. Archived from the original on 7 June 2020. Retrieved 7 June 2020.
  13. ^ a b "Blockbuster Entertainment Award winners". Variety. May 9, 2000. Archived from the original on May 20, 2022. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
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