Articles/Movie Reviews/Other/Bicentennial Man (1999)
This film is based on a story written by Isaac Asimov, a well known science fiction writer. It was adapted into a screenplay by Nicholas Kazan and Chris Columbus decided to direct it. The film had a budget of $100 million, but only managed to gross just over half of that in the US box office and became a financial failure.
The story begins at some unknown point in our future, probably not too far ahead. At this time robot technology has advanced to the point where robots can work as servants and engage in fluid conversation. We meet the Martin family, headed by Richard Martin, who purchases a robot to work as a servant and nanny for his two young daughters.
The robot is manufactured by NorthAm Robotics and delivered shortly after. They decide to name him Andrew since, although he has no sexual functionality, he was designed to look and sound like a masculine human. Andrew begins cooking meals, cleaning the house, and watching over the girls, but the family soon discovers that he is unique. Unlike most robots, Andrew appears to have creativity and is able to carve art sculptures out of wood.
The revelation of Andrew's unique nature is reinforced by NorthAm's claim that such behavior is abnormal. They even attempt to get the robot back to examine it, but Richard Martin refuses and threatens legal action if they interfere with Andrew without his approval. Richard then begins to tutor Andrew in every subject, from woodworking to philosophy and comedy. In his free time, Andrew sets up a profitable woodworking business, where he carves clocks and sells them.
As the girls, Amanda and Grace, grow up, it becomes clear that Amanda has some sort of crush on Andrew. She appears to be in love with him, but afraid to start a relationship due to the social consequences. Instead, she marries a businessman and has a daughter and son. Around this time, Andrew decides to go on a pilgrimage to find other robots like himself to see whether they too possess creativity.
Along his journey, Andrew meets a man named Rupert Burns who is a robotics technician. He decides to help Andrew by giving him artificial skin and hair, which will make him look exactly like a human being. Andrew then decides to pursue a quest of making himself entirely human by devising synthetic versions of human organs, including genitalia. He also meets Amanda's daughter, whom he falls in love with and helps him in his quest to become human.
The main character, Andrew, is played by Robin Williams in one of his more dramatic film roles. Richard Martin is played by Sam Neill and his daughters are played by various actresses depending on their stage of growth. Other important characters include Galatea, who is played by Kiersten Warren, and Rupert, who is played by Oliver Platt.
One thing that they did very well in this movie was making Robin Williams look like a robot. The character of Andrew has facial features similar to Robin Williams', and later there is an interesting scene where his head appears to have been decapitated and is being carried around. There are other special effects in this movie, but that scene where Andrew is given skin is one of the best in that respect.
Some people criticized this movie for being too long, but at just over two hours, I did not feel that way. Sure, there are slow parts, but if you can't handle watching real life like this, you shouldn't be watching drama films. With that said, this is not an action film, it is a well-paced drama.
This film touches on one of the most interesting questions of technology and ethics today. At what point do we consider robots human and give them the same rights as humans? It is certainly a difficult question and the issue is even dealt with by people in the movie, who try to figure out how to deal with feelings of love for Andrew. I think it is a social issue that we will run into more and more frequently as robotics technology advances.
Overall, I enjoyed this film and thought it deserved much more recognition. I can see why some people wouldn't have liked it, but I found it easy to follow and even interesting due to a prior interest in robotics. The acting is superb throughout and this film certainly deserves a viewing if you have the chance to see it.