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THE BICENTENNIAL MAN (1999 film). Chris Columbus, dir. co-prod. USA: 1492 Pictures, Laurence Mark Productions, Radiant Productions (prod.) / Buena Vista Pictures (US dist.), Columbia Tristar Film (Germany, and in US screen credits, dist.), 1999. Isaac Asimov, story, "The Bicentennial Man" (1976); Asimov and Robert Silverberg, The Positronic Man (1992: expansion of "TBM," both of which see under Fiction). Embeth Davidtz, Sam Neill, Oliver Platt, Robin Williams (as Andrew), featured players.

The history of Andrew Martin from power-up to death, and the development of Andrew Martin, robot, into Andrew Martin, The Bicentennial Man. Martin's life includes a dual quest and a love story between Andrew and Little Miss and Little Miss's granddaughter Portia, leading to the legal recognition of Andrew's humanity, and his marriage to Portia. Just about nothing remains of the Asimov story's allegory of race and politics and slavery; film retains the idea that if "All men are mortal," Andrew must take on human mortality to be recognized as a man. See for what has been called "the Pinocchio complex" or, more negatively, "Spam" ("metal on the outside, meat on the inside" [by analogy with "Oreo" and "apple" for African- and Native Americans who want to assimilate]). Andrew must also take on human emotions; cf. the Tin Man in Wizard of Oz (specifically alluded to) and Mr. Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation (for an inevitable comparison). CAUTION: Removal of the problematic racial allegory leaves a sentimental appeal but not much else of interest.

(RDE, 19/12/99)