Bicentennial Man (film)
|Directed by||Chris Columbus|
|Produced by||Chris Columbus|
|Screenplay by||Nicholas Kazan|
|Based on||The Positronic Man|
by Isaac Asimov
The Bicentennial Man
by Isaac Asimov
|Music by||James Horner|
|Edited by||Neil Travis|
|Distributed by||Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures|
(United States & Canada)
Sony Pictures Releasing
|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 novel The Positronic Man by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg (which is itself based on Asimov's original novella The Bicentennial Man), the plot explores issues of humanity, slavery, prejudice, maturity, intellectual freedom, conformity, sex, love, and mortality. 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 novella was published in 1976, the year the United States had its bicentennial.
Despite being 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".
The NDR series robot "Andrew" is introduced in 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 their rebellious older daughter Grace, who treats him as a mere robot and continues with her rebellious ways while growing up. This leads Andrew to discover that he can both identify emotions and reciprocate in kind. When Andrew accidentally breaks a figurine belonging to "Little Miss" Amanda, he carves a replacement out of wood as way to apologize to her. The family is astonished by this creativity, and “Sir” Richard Martin takes Andrew to his manufacturer to inquire if all the robots are like him. The company's CEO, Dennis Mansky, sees this development as a problem and wishes to scrap Andrew. Angered, Richard takes Andrew home and allows him to pursue his own development, encouraging Andrew to educate himself in the humanities.
Years later, Martin again takes Andrew to NorthAm Robotics for repairs following an accident in which his thumb is accidentally cut off. Richard ensures first that Andrew's personality will remain un-tampered with. While he is being repaired, Andrew requests that his face be altered to convey the emotions he feels but cannot fully express. Twelve years later, Andrew eventually asks for his freedom, much to Richard's dismay. He grants the request, but banishes Andrew so he can be 'completely' free. Andrew builds himself a home and lives alone. In 2048, Andrew sees Richard one last time on his deathbed, where he apologizes for banishing him.
Andrew goes on a quest to locate more NDR series robots to discover if others have also developed sentience. Meanwhile, he maintains contact with Amanda, who grew up, got married, had a son named Lloyd, got divorced, and now has a granddaughter named Portia. After nearly twenty years of failure, he finds Galatea, an NDR robot that has been given feminine attributes and personality. These, however, are simply aspects of her programming, and not something which she spontaneously developed. Galatea is owned by Rupert Burns, the original NDR robot designer's son. Burns works to create more human-looking robots, but is unable to attract funding. Andrew agrees to finance Rupert's research, and the two join forces to revolutionize robotics. After receiving human features, Andrew comes back home to see that Amanda has now aged, and that Portia looks the same as her grandmother in her younger years. He initially has some troubles reintegrating into the family, as only Amanda knows him now, but he manages to befriend Portia.
Some time later, Amanda passes away, leaving Andrew to realise that everyone he knows will die one day. Accepting this fact, Andrew decides to become human. With Rupert's help, he creates mechanical organs that can be used both by him to become more human and used by humans as prosthetic organs. He gains a nervous system and other organs that make him able to eat, to feel emotions and sensations, and also to have sexual intercourse. Eventually, Andrew is human enough to fall in love with Portia to which Portia ultimately falls in love with Andrew.
Over the course of the next century, Andrew petitions the World Congress to recognize him as human, which would allow him and Portia to be legally married but is rejected; the Speaker of the Congress explains that society can tolerate an everlasting machine, but argues that an immortal human would create too much jealousy and anger. Andrew's medical inventions help Portia live as long as possible but Portia decides after some decades she'll one day refuse his treatments. Andrew decides to make a now elderly Burns inject blood into his system, thereby allowing him to age and thus begins to grow old alongside Portia.
Several decades later, Andrew again attends the World Congress with Portia, both now old and frail (with Burns having passed already), and again petitions to be declared a human being simply so he may live and die with dignity; the current Speaker of Congress is hesitant and needs time to deliver an answer. A few years later, Andrew and Portia, on their death bed each with a life support machine and Galatea (now as a recognizably-human android) as their nurse, watch the World Congress court's decision on television: Andrew is officially recognized as a human being (the oldest one in history at 200 years of age aside from "Methuselah and other Biblical characters") and validates his marriage with Portia. Andrew dies while listening to the broadcast; Portia assures Galatea that Andrew didn't need to hear the answer. She orders her life support unplugged by Galatea, who remembers Andrew told her it's a pleasure to be of service to others. After she whispers "See you soon" to him, Portia dies hand-in-hand with Andrew.
- 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) as well as Portia Charney, the daughter of Lloyd and the granddaughter of Amanda.
- Hallie Kate Eisenberg as Amanda "Little Miss" Martin (age 7)
- 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 his androids look more human-like.
- Kiersten Warren as Galatea, the NDR android servant of Rupert. She later becomes a servant of the Martin family.
- Stephen Root as Dennis Mansky
- Angela Landis as Grace "Miss" Martin (adult)
- 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
- George D. Wallace as the first President/Speaker of the World Congress
- Lynne Thigpen as Marjorie Bota, the second President/Speaker of the World Congress
The film holds a 36% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 96 critical reviews, with an average rating of 4.8/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Bicentennial Man is ruined by a bad script and ends up being dull and mawkish." The review aggregator Metacritic gives it a score of 42.
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.||”|
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."
- Academy Awards — Best Makeup (lost to Topsy-Turvy)
- Blockbuster Entertainment Award — Favorite Actor — Comedy (Robin Williams) (lost to Adam Sandler in Big Daddy)
- Blockbuster Entertainment Award — Favorite Actress — Comedy (Embeth Davidtz) (lost to Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed)
- Hollywood Makeup Artist and Hair Stylist Guild Award — Best Character Makeup — Feature (lost to Sleepy Hollow)
- Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards — Favorite Movie Actor (Robin Williams) (lost to Adam Sandler in Big Daddy)
- Razzie Award — Worst Actor (Robin Williams) (lost to Adam Sandler in Big Daddy)
- YoungStar Award — Best Young Actress/Performance in a Motion Picture Comedy (Hallie Kate Eisenberg) (lost to Natalie Portman in Where the Heart Is)
- Broxton, Jonathan (December 17, 1999). "Bicentennial Man – James Horner". Movie Music UK. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
- Neil, Dave (23 December 1999). "Robin Williams reveals the mechanics of making 'Bicentennial Man'". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
- "Bicentennial Man (1999)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
- "Bicentennial Man". Metacritic. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
- Ebert, Roger (December 17, 1999). "Bicentennial Man". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
- "Blockbuster Entertainment Award winners". Variety. May 9, 2000. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
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