Bicentennial Man is a 1999 Touchstone Pictures science fiction drama film starring Robin Williams and Sam Neill. 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.
The NDR series robot "Andrew" (Robin Williams) 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 surly older daughter, 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 CEO of the company 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.
Years later, following an accident in which Andrew's thumb is accidentally cut off, Martin 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 altered to convey the emotions he feels but cannot fully express.
After the wedding of Little Miss he realizes there are no more orders for him to run. Andrew eventually asks for his freedom, much to Martin's dismay. He grants the request, but banishes Andrew so he can be "completely" free. As Andrew leaves, Martin comments that he has stopped referring to himself as "one". Andrew builds himself a home at the beach and lives alone. In 2048, Andrew sees Martin one last time on his deathbed. Martin apologizes for banishing him as he silently says his goodbye to Andrew who states it was an honor serving him.
Andrew goes on a quest to locate more NDR series robots to discover if others have also developed sentience. After years of failure 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 with Andrew. 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 artificial human face and hair. He maintains contact with Little Miss. Andrew eventually comes back to greet Little Miss but instead meets Portia, Little Miss's granddaughter, who looks exactly like a younger Little Miss. The now aged Little Miss explains to Andrew that it's a genetic likeness that skipped a generation.
When Andrew comes to the hospital to see Little Miss one last time, he notices the horse he carved for her when she was young. She silently passes away, and Andrew feels the pain of not being able to cry and realizes that every human being he cares for will eventually die.
Andrew begins to study medicine and designs mechanical equivalents of human organs, including a central nervous system, which eventually allows him to acquire tactile sensations. 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 romantic and sexual relationship. Upon realizing that his relationship with Portia would never be socially accepted, 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 for him to be with another human being and he is declared a machine from that day on.
When eventually Portia decides that she doesn't want to have her life forever prolonged by Andrew's medical inventions, Andrew realizes that when she dies, he wouldn't want to live on without her. He works with Rupert (now an old man) to introduce blood into his system and to cause his brain to decay, thereby allowing him to age; Rupert officially welcomes him to the human condition, as it then becomes unknown when exactly Andrew would die. Some time later, Andrew attends the World Congress again, now appearing old and frail, and again petitions to be declared a human being.
On his death bed, with Portia beside him, Andrew watches as the Speaker of the World Congress announces on television the court's decision: that Andrew Martin is officially recognized as human, and that aside from "Methuselah and other Biblical figures," is the oldest human being in history at the age of two hundred years. The Speaker also validates the marriage between Portia and Andrew. Andrew dies while listening to the broadcast, and Portia orders their nurse, a now human-looking Galatea (who also apparently developed self sentience due to the changes that Andrew made on her), to unplug her life support machine. The film ends with Portia about to die hand-in-hand with Andrew, as she whispers to him "See you soon."
- Robin Williams as Andrew Martin
- Embeth Davidtz as 'Little Miss' Amanda Martin/Portia Charney
- Hallie Kate Eisenberg as Amanda, age 7
- Sam Neill as 'Sir' Richard Martin
- Oliver Platt as Rupert Burns
- Kiersten Warren as Galatea
- Wendy Crewson as 'Ma´am' Rachel Martin
- Angela Landis as 'Miss' Grace Martin
- Lindze Letherman as Grace, age 9
- John Michael Higgins as Bill Feingold
- Bradley Whitford as Lloyd Charney
- Igor Hiller as Lloyd, age 10
- Joe Bellan as Robot Delivery Man
- Brett Wagner as Robot Delivery Man
- Stephen Root as Dennis Mansky, Head of Northam Robotics
- Lynne Thigpen as the second President/Speaker of the World Congress
Bicentennial Man received mixed reviews from critics; the film holds a 36% 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."
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