Follow TV Tropes


Film / Bicentennial Man

Go To

A 1999 Science Fiction Film directed by Chris Columbus (with screenplay by Nicholas Kazan), adapting the serious elements of Isaac Asimov's "The Bicentennial Man" while adding comedy to develop Andrew's personality. The film also makes a number of references to The Positronic Man, by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg.

Bicentennial Man starts with NDR114-series robot number 583625 (nicknamed Andrew Martin and played by Robin Williams) being unboxed and introduced to the Martin household in 2005; "Sir" (Richard Martin, played by Sam Neill), "Ma'am" (Mrs Martin, played by Wendy Crewson), "Miss" (Grace Martin), and "Little Miss" (Amanda Martin). Andrew will be their Robot Butler, taking care of the children and handling assorted housekeeping duties.

He spends decades at this job, watching as Little Miss grows up (and is now played by Embeth Davidtz) and growing up in his own way, with upgrades and experiences. After Sir dies, Andrew decides to go on a quest to discover his destiny, which leads him to another NDR114-series robot with modifications, Galatea (played by Kiersten Warren), and her owner, Rupert Burns (played by Oliver Platt). With Rupert's help, Andrew begins designing prosthetics that will give Andrew a human appearance.

He heads home to show Little Miss the result of his journey and meets her Identical Granddaughter, Portia Charney (also played by Embeth Davidtz), at which point the plot changes to focus on their quirky relationship and Andrew's fight to convince first her, then the world, that he is human enough to marry.

Bicentennial Man provides examples of:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future, Andrew first shows up in "the not too distant future..." (which the 1999 trailer and the climax identify as "2005"). However, the story still takes place over two hundred years and four generations of Martins, so it doesn't stay "Next Sunday" for very long.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • The humanoid head that Rupert shows Andrew when they meet is played by Adam Bryant, who usually plays as Robin Williams's body double.
    • After Rupert takes Andrew's face off to begin adding "skin", Andrew looks into the mirror and screams. When asked why, Andrew says "I've seen my inner me". This is a nod to "Come inside my mind" from Robin Williams's 1979 comedy album, Reality...What a Concept.
  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: The original story ends with Andrew's dying words taking place after the celebration of his bicentennial, but the film ends with Madame President giving her speech hours before Andrew's bicentennial, and he dies before she's finished. Portia dies soon after.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance: Andrew starts wearing clothes when Little Miss gets married, wearing the same tuxedo as Sir, instead of starting after Sir's death and asking permission from Little Sir.
  • Adaptational Job Change:
    • In the original story, Sir was a member of the Regional Legislature (think State Senate), but in the film, Sir builds clocks and other timepieces. He teaches his skills to Andrew, so he's more of a clockmaker than a carpenter.
    • The US Robots regional robopsychologist, Merton Mansky, is promoted to NorthAm CEO Dennis Mansky for the film.
  • Adaptation Deviation: Robin Williams loves his Bathos. Major points changed from Isaac Asimov's "The Bicentennial Man", in chronological order:
  • Adaptation Distillation: The court battles where much of the drama comes from in "The Bicentennial Man" are distilled to the very last legal battle; Andrew's campaign to be recognized a human. The courts don't show up until the last twelve minutes before the end of the film, in order to make room for the mandatory Rom Com.
  • Adaptation Expansion: From a 200-year search for the meaning of what it is to be human to a multigenerational love story.
  • Adaptation Name Change: The film makes a number of changes to character names from "The Bicentennial Man", especially to the robotics company that built Andrew. Instead of robots all being built by United States Robots and Mechanical Men (US Robots), Andrew was built by North American Robotics (NorthAm Robotics), with current CEO Dennis Mansky instead of robopsychologist Merton Mansky. The reason behind Andrew's In-Series Nickname also changes; Little Miss doesn't pronounce "aNDRoid" properly and says "Andrew" instead. Some of the Martins also change names; Sir changes from Gerald to Richard and Little Sir (Little Miss's son) changes from George Martin to Lloyd Chaney.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: The film expands the role of Sir compared to the original story. He begins mentoring Andrew, providing personal guidance and social instruction, In addition to changing his job, he also changes his reaction to Andrew's request for freedom, banishing him from the house instead of taking him to court to make sure Andrew is legally recognized as a free robot instead of a member of the Servant Race.
  • Adapted Out: The original story had a number of characters from the US Robots corporation, as well as several generations of the Feingold and Chaney law firm. In the film, however, the corporation members are replaced by employees (and ex-employees) from NorthAm while only Bill Feingold and Lloyd Charney appear from the firm. The robot surgeon from chapter one (and reprise) is also removed entirely, his role being replaced by Rupert Burns, the son of an ex-employee of NorthAm Robotics.
  • Age Cut: While Little Miss is teaching Andrew how to play a duet on the piano, we jump from her being a child to being an adult. She gives him a kiss on the cheek before leaving.
  • all lowercase letters: The opening and closing credits, as well as the Title In lines and trailer credits, are all in lowercase, which contrasts with the way Andrew's Robo Cam is almost always in all-caps.
  • Arbitrarily Large Bank Account: Andrew's affluence is again used to avoid creating specific prices for anything, with him too rich to worry about the cost. In this film, it is especially used when the NorthAm CEO is trying to rivet (correction; screw) Andrew over the price. He calculates a cost more than he makes in a year, which Andrew shrugs off as merely one month's income.
  • Arc Words:
    • During the first half of the film, Andrew's line "One is glad to be of service" indicates that he is enjoying his work. In the second half, however, after he's stopped using "one" as a personal pronoun, it's a sign that he is seeing himself as a robot and not happy. At the very end, Galatea quotes him to express her gratitude in helping.
    • "That will not do." The first time he says these words, right after Little Miss passes away, Andrew memorizes every medical textbook available in the world to begin designing artificial organs and DNA elixirs that mix the technological with the biological, making a profound leap in medical technology. When he says those words again after Portia tells him their marriage will never be accepted, he goes on a campaign to earn full rights as a human being.
  • Award-Bait Song: "Then You Look at Me", preformed by Céline Dion, a popular singer in America during The '90s. It doesn't describe any specific moment in the story, but is used as the love song between Andrew and Portia (with Little Miss substituting for her childhood years). The official music video takes clips from the relationship and displays them in a monitor in the background.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: At the end of the film, Galatea quotes from Andrew.
    Galatea: As the great Andrew Martin used to say, "One is glad to be of service."
  • Brick Joke: Miss orders Andrew to jump out the second-floor window. In his damaged state afterward, his right eye keeps twitching. Later, her father asks Andrew to come and see the view out of a thirty-seventh floor window. Andrew's right eye twitches the same way and he declines to come closer.
  • Canon Foreigner: When expanding the original story into a Film, director Chris Columbus added several new characters, as well as replacing a few existing characters.
    • Frank Charney, Little Miss's husband, is implied to exist in the original, but never appears on-screen. Here, he is the cause of Andrew becoming the Romantic Runnerup for the Little Miss and Andrew relationship. Frank and Amanda divorce.
    • Portia, Little Miss's granddaughter, doesn't exist in the original novelette or the novel. The Martin family ends with the death of Little Sir (named George in the original and Lloyd in the film).
    • Rupert Burns, Andrew's partner in developing prosthetics, was added to the film in order to have someone that Andrew can work with and explain his actions to the audience. His role is more expanded even compared to Alvin Magdescu's role in the novelization, as Rupert is an equal partner in the creation of prosthetics, suggesting as many modifications as Andrew does.
    • Galatea, a Fembot version of the NDR114 series, is added to the film to create a Foil for Andrew. She's a robot that didn't develop a personality like Andrew, she only had one programmed in.
  • Central Theme: Time and mortality. It's not an accident that Andrew becomes wealthy making clocks.
  • Chicken Joke: When Sir attempts to teach Andrew about humour, a "chicken cross the road"-style punchline is the third joke he tries (Andrew's Literal Mindedness causes trouble).
    Sir: Why did the chicken cross the road?
    Andrew: One does not know, Sir. Possibly a predator was behind the chicken. Or, possibly, there was a female chicken on the other side of the road if it was a male chicken, or possibly a food source, or, depending on the season, it might be migrating. One hopes there's no traffic.
    Sir: To get to the other side.
    Andrew: "To get to the other side." Aaaaah
  • The Comically Serious: Robin Williams takes the concept of a robot who doesn't understand humour to exercise other types of comedy. Andrew's Rapid-Fire Comedy delivery after first learning how to tell a joke is a great example since he still doesn't understand humour. He is also Literal-Minded, which combines well with his "serious" comedy. Sir tells Andrew that he will have to learn timing, and Andrew announces that "It's 10:15, Sir."
  • Composite Character: Male President of the World Congress is the first judge that Andrew meets while seeking his freedom in the film. However, his speech is taken from Andrew's part of the story where Andrew talks with Chairman Chee Li-hsing and he has the role of denouncing Andrew as a robot the same way Magdescu (who doesn't appear at all) does during his "Sesquicentennial Robot" toast.
  • Covered in Kisses: When Little Miss and Andrew finish their piano duet, she gives him a kiss on the cheek, which marks him with her lipstick.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Late in the film, Andrew imagines Sir consulting him on what it means to be human, remembering one of the conversations they had together.
    Sir: Andrew, people grow through time, but then, of course, for you time is a completely different proposition. For you, time is endless.
    Andrew: [to self, determined] There's only one thing to do.
  • Deathbed Confession: Many years after banishing Andrew, Sir is dying and asks Little Miss to bring him over. Sir apologizes for sending Andrew away when he asked for his freedom, saying that it was wrong of him.
  • Doppelgänger Replacement Love Interest: As Andrew watches his family grow, Little Miss subtly reveals she has a crush on Andrew, though he is oblivious to what she is implying. After Andrew spends a couple of decades traveling and turning himself into a Deceptively Human Robot, he returns home, where he meets and falls in love with Little Miss's Identical Granddaughter, Portia.
  • Double Vision: When Andrew meets Portia (played by Embeth Davidtz), he mistakes her for Little Miss, who shows up in the same scene (also played by Embeth Davidtz, but with aging prosthetics). As Andrew is looking back and forth between the two women, Little Miss explains that Portia is her granddaughter. Once Andrew realizes that she's Lloyd's daughter, it explains the rudeness for him.
  • Dramatic Shattering: Andrew's accidental breaking of young Little Miss's favorite glass horse figurine leads to his first demonstration of creativity as he carves her a new one out of wood. This replaces the scene where he creates a wooden necklace in the book.
  • Emergent Human: More so than the original, this story shows the Martin family Robot Butler, Andrew, spending decades to learn what it means to be human/alive. He is initially mentored by Sir, becoming progressively more human, first in mind then in body, up to and including self-imposed mortality.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Andrew's reasoning for why he needs to be confirmed as a human started with Portia complaining that their relationship won't be recognized, but takes on a life of its own as Andrew chooses death over immortality.
    Andrew: I am growing old, my body is deteriorating, and like all of you, will eventually cease to function. As a robot, I could have lived forever. But I tell you all today, I would rather die a man, than live for all eternity a machine.
    President Bota: Why do you want this?
    Andrew: To be acknowledged for who and what I am, no more, no less. Not for acclaim, not for approval, but, the simple truth of that recognition. This has been the elemental drive of my existence, and it must be achieved, if I am to live or die with dignity.
  • Fantastic Racism: Somewhat downplayed as many who meet Andrew treat him respectfully, but he does encounter some hostility from a few humans who snidely refer to him as "it", a "mere household appliance" or "the robot", and even the World Congress, while not necessarily vicious, still refuse to recognize Andrew as human at least until the end. Not all that uncommon in stories about sentient A.I..
  • Fembot: Galatea is a standard NDR114 robot that has been physically modified into a female appearance by Rupert Burns.
  • The Film of the Book: This movie is based on Isaac Asimov's "The Bicentennial Man". The opening credits also reference the novelization co-authored with Robert Silverberg, The Positronic Man.
  • First Kiss: Andrew, once he has a central nervous system put in, practically begs Portia to poke him in the eye so that he can feel the joy of pain. He follows it up by giving her a kiss for the first time.
  • First Law of Tragicomedies: The film starts with the comedic antics of a (Literal-Minded) Robot Butler and explores the potential character depth available to said robot. However, a Halfway Plot Switch to Romantic Comedy turns the primary conflict into making Portia happy. Because the World Congress determines if Andrew is human enough to marry Portia, whenever they appear on-screen the comedic elements disappear entirely.
  • Forbidden Love: Portia resists marrying Andrew because she's human and he's a robot, something that society won't recognize. Andrew starts working with the World Congress to get their marriage recognized, finally succeeding on his 200th birthday.
  • The Freelance Shame Squad: During the trailer, when Andrew's face is removed, Galatea points and laughs at him. This isn't in the film, where she is hiding her face instead.
  • Generational Saga: As the title indicates, Andrew's quest to fully realize his humanity takes 200 years seeing multiple generations of family and friends at various stages within their individual lifespans.
  • Genki Girl: Galatea shows up halfway through the film. Her perky and pop-culture riddled personality initially suggests that she's like Andrew, but then she reveals that it comes from her "Personality Chip", a program for human-like behaviour. After Andrew meddles with it, she turns into a surly grump that yells at Rupert for treating her like a robot slave. Her personality at the climax of the film is much more subdued, suggesting that the chip has been removed entirely.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Andrew and Rupert are sneaking around an engagement party for Portia and Charles. Andrew makes nasty comments about Charles's chin, when Rupert points out that he must be jealous over the possibility of losing Portia.
  • Grow Old with Me: Though he doesn't physically age, once Andrew convinces Portia that she's in love with him, he stays with her forever. Eventually he even forces himself to grow old in appearance and become mortal so that he can appear to die of old age alongside her.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: The film starts as a fairly straight adaptation of the Science Fiction Drama "The Bicentennial Man", but around the start of Andrew's second century, he meets Canon Foreigner Portia Charney, and falls in love. This changes to a Romantic Comedy as he tries to make her happy, which reframes his drive to become human as a demonstration of his love for her. Despite the change in plot, there is no Tone Shift, as Robin Williams does a good job creating levity whether he's acting as a Robot Butler, in search for a soul, or when romancing a human.
  • Handshake Refusal: The first indication that NorthAm CEO sees Andrew as Just a Machine is that he refuses to shake Andrew's hand when offered. This contrasts with Andrew's meeting with Bill Feingold later on, who offers his hand to Andrew before Andrew can even offer his own.
  • Hologram Projection Imperfection: Andrew's robot head has the ability to project holographic recordings. The first time we see it is when he explains the Three Laws of Robotics, and the second time is showing the father-daughter dance after Little Miss is married. Both times there's slight wobbling and lines in the video, and the second video is sepia-toned as well as translucent.
  • Humble Pie: When Andrew asks for facial upgrades to help show emotions, the NorthAm CEO hands him an exorbitant price tag, which Andrew dismisses as merely a month's pay. The CEO admits that the price is more than his annual salary. Sir gleefully rubs the disparity of wealth in the CEO's face.
    Andrew: That is roughly one's monthly salary.
    CEO: ...It's more than I make in a year.
    Sir: Not bad for... what did you call him last time we were here?
    Andrew: "Household appliance".
    Sir: Household appliance.
    CEO: [thoroughly humiliated] Household appliance, yes.
  • Identical Grandson: The adult Amanda Martin (Little Miss) and her granddaughter, Portia Charney, were both played by Embeth Davidtz. In her introduction, Andrew starts talking to Portia as if she were Little Miss, and doesn't understand why she doesn't recognize him until the real Little Miss arrives to explain the situation. Andrew is perturbed at this at first, but eventually warms up to it by falling in love with Portia.
  • I Have This Friend: Little Miss tries asking if Andrew about what to do about her feelings for him, by telling him about this "friend" she has who makes her much happier than her fiancé does. Andrew, oblivious because she has disguised the question so well, bluntly tells her that she should marry her friend instead of her fiancé. The fact that she framed her question like this leaves out that the reason she's hesitant is because he's a robot.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Played with. A robot with superior capabilities (like downloading entire textbooks into his CPU) that was built to serve the ordinary humans around him wants to become one of them capable of error as well as emotional and physical distress and so on. He considers this a great transcendence from being Just a Machine.
  • invokedIn Memoriam: The film dedicates itself to the memory of Robin Eickman and Jeffrey Burks.
  • Innocently Insensitive: During the trailer, when Rupert talks about how imperfection is the key to making a realistic face, Andrew makes a comment about how imperfect Rupert's head is. During the film, Rupert only does minor double takes and chalks it up to Andrew's honesty. As robots can rarely lie, Andrew makes a number of similar remarks throughout, such as pointing out the contempt the NorthAm CEO has for him, and insulting Portia's work.
  • Ironic Echo: Dennis Mansky, the CEO of NorthAm, dismisses any sign of self-awareness in Andrew and calls him a "household appliance." Years later, when Andrew is making more in one month than Dennis does in a year, Richard is sure to bring up this conversation again.
    Sir: Not bad for a...what was it he called you?
    Andrew: "Household appliance".
    Sir: Household appliance.
    CEO: [thoroughly humiliated] Household appliance, yes.
  • It Has Been an Honor: Galatea's farewell to Portia and Andrew on their deathbed includes a quoting Andrew; "One is glad to be of service."
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: Usually, you can tell who believes Androids Are People, Too or if Andrew is Just a Machine by the way they say "him" or "it". Dennis Mansky, CEO of NorthAm Robotics, Miss (Grace Martin), Ma'am (Mrs Martin), and Lloyd Charney all call Andrew an "it", treating him disrespectfully and wanting him scrapped/gone. In contrast, Sir (Richard Martin) and Miss (Amanda Martin-Charney) call Andrew a "him", but still don't quite believe him to be "alive".
  • Just a Machine:
    • A recurring line divides Andrew from the rest of the Martin family; "Don't invest your emotions in a machine". Despite calling Andrew by male pronouns and advocating on his behalf, Sir and Little Miss consider him to be a machine, even if he's a highly-advanced machine. Portia says this at first, and Andrew has to work hard to convince her that he's something more and she can fall in love with him.
    • Not long after Andrew gets rejected by Portia, he and Rupert are arguing about Galatea's Personality Chip and Rupert slips out that she's just a machine. Naturally, Andrew takes offense to this because he's just gotten the same treatment from Portia.
  • "Knock Knock" Joke: Sir attempts to teach Andrew humour, and the knock-knock format is the second type he tries (Andrew's Literal Mindedness causes trouble).
    Sir: Knock-knock.
    Andrew: Knock-knock.
    Sir: No, no, knock-knock, someone's at the door.
    Andrew: Shall one get it, Sir?
    Sir: No, no, no, you say, "Who's there?", Andrew.
    Andrew: Who's there, Andrew.
    Sir: No, just "Who's there?"
    Andrew: One does not know, Sir.
    Sir: Let's start with something a little simpler.
  • Literal-Minded: Andrew doesn't quite understand certain behaviours. Mix that in with occasionally getting words wrong and you have a person who objects "chickens don't have lips" when they're told that their dinner sucks. It causes him trouble when learning humour, especially with knock-knock jokes, leading to deadpan delivery.
  • Love Father, Love Son: The Martin household's Robot Butler, Andrew, helped raise Little Miss from a young girl and clearly loves her. She considers marrying him, but chooses another human instead. After her son has grown up to be a lawyer, Andrew leaves on a quest to find other robots like himself. When he returns, he meets her granddaughter, who looks exactly the same to the point that they are played by the same actress, and Andrew convinces her to marry him.
  • Malaproper: One way Andrew is humanized is by having him get words wrong. He mistakes Swan Lake for Swine Lake and is confused by "throwing pearls before swans". Combined with his robotic Literal Mindedness, it's very comedic and keeps certain scenes from becoming too dramatic.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: Andrew, or NDR114 model robot, serial number 583625, has an indefinite lifespan due to his positronic brain. After his first century, he meets and falls in love with Portia Charney, who is a normal human woman. Andrew takes steps to adjust his construction so that he can grow old with her.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • The NDR series are called that because they are aNDRoid model robots. This is not present in the original Isaac Asimov story because he saw all of his robots as "man-like", with a few exceptions.
    • Galatea, the Fembot, is named after a story in Classical Mythology; Pygmalion was a sculptor who carved Galatea from stone and fell in love with her. Aphrodite brought the statue to life so that they could be together. At the ends of the film, it's hinted that Galatea has become self-aware as well.
  • Meat-Sack Robot: Andrew starts as an ordinary housekeeping android who develops artificial intelligence. After finding the son of the roboticist who designed him, he starts to add organic components to his body. First it's just his skin, but then he replaces much of his inner circuitry with artificial organs. Eventually, he becomes so human that he even starts to age and decay, as a deliberate choice so he can die with his human wife, who becomes a cyborg herself thanks to Andrew's inventions.
  • Multi-Take Cut: During the scene where Andrew is invokedtelling jokes to the family, the camera starts off as if it is placed on the table looking up at him, but Jumps around so that we can get everyone's reactions as they dissolve into uncontrollable laughter.
  • My Sensors Indicate You Want to Tap That: Andrew points out that he can observe Portia's pulse and breathing rate have increased, and even that she's putting out pheromones, using this to conclude that she is in love with him. She says it is completely unfair of him to scan her like that, but he counters with "love isn't fair".
  • Mythology Gag: Despite the opening credits pointing out that Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg co-authored the novelization The Positronic Man, very little of the novel's changes made it into The Film. Sir's Deathbed Confession is based on his confession in the novel, but George/Lloyd is the one to fetch Andrew, not Little Miss, and he wasn't banished from the house. Plot points and characterization are either from the original story or new to the movie.
  • Named by the Adaptation: While expanding from "The Bicentennial Man", more information about some of the character's names is added. In the original, Andrew was a model-serial number NDR-? robot, and is now identified as an NDR-114 model with serial number 583625. Miss's first name is revealed to be Grace, although Ma'am real first name is still unsaid.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailers suggest this will be another goofy Robin Williams comedy, this one about a household robot. Trailers emphasized the time Andrew spends living with the Martins, but he actually moves out before the film is halfway over and is a drama about Andrew's long-term transformation into a human being. It also emphasized that Chris Columbus was directing, after his success with Mrs. Doubtfire. Even now the movie is often put in the children's, family, and comedy sections, despite its profanity, sex, and being a romantic drama questioning the definitions of humanity.
  • Next Thing They Knew: Andrew tries to convince Portia that she's making a mistake in marrying Charles, and asks for a kiss to prove he's right. After a couple of intense kisses, we cut to both in a bed, expressing how much they enjoyed themselves.
  • Noisy Robots: All NDR-114 robots make whirring noises whenever their "gears" move, even small motions like tilting their head or raising their hand are accompanied by a faint buzzing sound. If they turn themselves into Deceptively Human Robots, replacing their machinery, the sounds go away.
  • Older Than They Look: Andrew naturally has the ability to appear at any age he wants (he and Rupert initially set it as forty-two). Portia as well; late in the film, she looks like she's in her late 40's, early 50's, despite being around 100, thanks to the artificial organs. Andrew strongly hints that she could be immortal, too, but Portia tells him she doesn't want to.
  • One World Order: The government works differently compared to the original story, although specifics aren't given. When Andrew is pleading his case, it is before an organization called the World Congress, but the "head judge" is World President. They have the power to pass bills. So it's all three branches in one, without any need for regional/state legislature?
  • Personality Chip: All NDR114 robots come with an optional "personality chip", with pre-programmed personality quirks. The first time we see one with the chip activated is Galatea, whose Genki Girl behaviour is the result of Rupert's choices. Andrew gives her an "upgrade", which makes her surly and uncooperative, but he lets Rupert change her back. Andrew's personality chip, however, was never activated, and his quirks are unique to him.
  • Product Placement: In the original story, US Robots was the company responsible for manufacturing Andrew Martin. A real-life company invokednamed themselves "US Robotics" in 1976, based on Dr Asimov's fictional company. Instead of keeping the name, the film changed it to "North American Robotics".
  • Promoted to Love Interest: In the original story, the closest Andrew gets to having a romantic relationship is whispering the name "Little Miss" while on his deathbed, a century after she's died. In the film, we're shown that she has a crush on him, but chooses to marry Frank Charney instead, leaving Andrew as the Romantic Runnerup. Although Andrew seemed oblivious to this, his Second Love appears in the form of Portia, Little Miss's granddaughter, added specifically for this role. Her desire for their marriage to be seen as valid spurs Andrew to fight for his humanity against the World Congress.
  • Pygmalion Plot:
  • Rapid-Fire Comedy: The movie isn't one of these, but it contains an in-universe example after Andrew has studied the concept of humour. His rapid delivery shows that he doesn't understand the importance of timing or delivery, simply reciting a bunch of jokes quickly. The actors in the scene didn't know what jokes would be told in advance, so Robin Williams's mixed repertoire was challenged as he has to deliver jokes without Andrew understanding why they were funny.
  • Ridiculously Human Robot: Andrew starts the movie with personality quirks and spends the rest of the movie becoming more and more human, even building a humanoid body for himself. At one point he tries searching out other NDR114 models to see if any ended up like him, but the closest he found was Galatea (who merely had an activated Personality Chip).
  • Robo Cam: Whenever we get a POV from Andrew, we see overlays indicating the additional information he gets from his nonhuman sensors, such as early in the video where we see his bootup instructions and later on, during his Travel Montage, to show his analysis of the other NDR114 robots.
  • Robo Romance: When Andrew first sees Galatea it appears as though he has found the Fembot of his dreams, only for him to quickly realize she is just a shallow personality program on a normal robot. In fact, within five minutes or so of having met her, he considers her too annoying to tolerate.
    Andrew: [to Rupert] Shut her off, or I will.
  • Robosexual: Portia falls in love with Andrew and part of the reason he wants to be acknowledged as human is so he can legally marry her. It's also heavily implied that her grandmother, Little Miss, had feelings for Andrew, but at the time couldn't even dare to think about such a thing.
  • Robotic Assembly Lines: The opening credits start off with a black screen, with orchestral music and hammering, before featuring the automated assembly of NDR114 robots, with plenty of closeups on the wiring and gears as everything is assembled.
  • Robotic Spouse: Portia Charney, great-granddaughter of Sir, decides to marry the family robot. This is many decades after he has been granted his freedom and he spent a lot of time trying to convince her that a relationship was possible. The relationship is subverted at the climax, when Andrew is recognized as human.
  • Sense Freak: Andrew, once he has a central nervous system put in, practically begs Portia to poke him in the eye so that he can feel the joy of pain. He follows it up by slapping himself in the face and giving her a kiss.
  • Sensory Abuse: An In-Universe example early in the film is Andrew showing a holographic recording explaining the Three Laws of Robotics. The laws are a bright white, moving around in a 3d circle and accompanied by drums and trumpets so loud that he has to shout over them to read the laws. Immediately after the presentation, he's ordered to never do that again.
  • Sex Is Good: It's made pretty clear that Andrew and Portia are Happily Married, and are still having regular sex well into old age. Of course, Andrew's medical inventions have made both of them very healthy for their age (Portia is a centenarian; Andrew is a bicentenarian).
  • Shoo the Dog: When Andrew asks for freedom, Sir banishes him from the house, giving him total independence rather than pseudo-freedom. The trope is played super-straight, as Sir looks like he's cutting off his own arm having Andrew leave for good. When he's dying, he apologizes for sending Andrew away.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Home Alone is referenced (one of Chris Columbus's previous films) when Miss says that Kate McCalister's family has an NDR114 in their household.
    • When Andrew first repairs the record player, the disk he puts in plays "Mesicku na nebi hlubokóm" from Antonín Dvořák's opera Rusalka. The opera is concerned with the fairy-tale story of a water nymph who wants to become mortal for love.
    • The car that Ma'am drives in this film is the same car used in Demolition Man.
    • Galatea, the Fembot, is named after a story in Classical Mythology; Pygmalion was a sculptor who carved Galatea from stone and fell in love with her. Aphrodite brought the statue to life so that they could be together.
    • Galatea plays Aretha Franklin's "Respect" while walking home from the market. She plays "Since You've Been Gone", another Franklin song, while Andrew is talking to Rupert.
    • While Andrew and Rupert are designing their prosthetics, Galatea is singing "If I Only Had a Heart", from The Wizard of Oz (where a tin man wants a heart).
    • Andrew has misheard Swan Lake as Swine Lake.
  • Smug Snake: The NorthAm CEO snidely remarks that he will get his hands on Andrew, because sooner or later it'll need repairs. When Andrew does need to be brought in for repairs for his severed thumb, Sir explains that he's gotten an alarm installed that will alert the police if the NorthAm technicians try to access Andrew's positronic brain.
  • Source Music:
    • Andrew has an old record player which he restores and uses to play opera music.
    • Galatea has a music player inside her body, and in her introduction she is seen activating it by slapping her hip. She also sings, sometimes along with the music and sometimes acapella.
  • Special Thanks: The producers include a "wish to thank" section in the credits to express their appreciation for many of the sites they used to film the setting, such as Oracle Corporation and Eldorado National Forest, as well as to the family of Ken Jones.
  • Standard '50s Father: Sir, known to everyone else as Richard Martin, undergoes some minor changes, mostly expanding his lines and giving him the role of mentor to Andrew. He is very dependable, and does a good job of teaching his moral opinions to other family members. His clothing, naturally, reflects his affluent yet conservative style, with him choosing cardigans and ties in the relaxed setting of his home, even as fashions change around him.
  • Technology Porn: The assembly line in the opening credits, as well as when Andrew and Rupert have designed robotic versions of all the human organs.
  • That Wasn't a Request: After Andrew has been recognized as a human being, an old Portia asks Galatea to unplug the machines. When Galatea hesitates, Portia says, "That's an order" to make her comply. Andrew has just died, and she wants to join him.
  • The Talk:
    • The first time characters talk about sex, Sir is explaining about it to Andrew, who finds the idea messy and concerning, much like a child. Oddly, Andrew gets stuck on the idea that because only one sperm is able to fertilize the egg, the rest all die.
    • The second time characters discuss sex, Rupert is telling Andrew that it would be possible to imitate the activity with some of the new upgrades he's designed. Andrew tells Rupert about what "they" say sex is like, as if Rupert hadn't ever heard it from his own father.
  • The "The" Title Confusion: Because the original story is named "The Bicentennial Man", it is odd that the title of the film chooses to remove the definite article. This also caused The Bicentennial Man and Other Stories to be republished with a cover from the film poster declaring the title to be Bicentennial Man.
  • Third-Person Person: At the beginning of the movie, Andrew refers to himself as "one". It is taken as a sign of self-awareness when he first refers to himself as "I". However, he occasionally slips back into saying "this one" when he wishes to emphasize his robotic nature.
  • Three Laws-Compliant: This film Subverts the laws, as NDR114 robots are explicitly built with the Three Laws of Robotics, but Andrew and Galatea demonstrate the ability to break them at critical moments. When Andrew is told to "come and have a look at this", a direct order, he refuses because of his earlier trauma with windows. At the climax, Portia orders Galatea to deactivate her life support, a violation of the First and Second Laws, which is obeyed.
  • Title In: On-screen captions appear in order to establish when the new scene takes place years/decades after the previous scene.
  • Time Skip: As the film takes place over the course of two centuries, there are a number of time skips throughout the film.
  • Together in Death: At the end of the film, Portia and Andrew are lying in bed awaiting the results of the World Congress. Andrew dies during their speech and Portia orders Galatea to unplug her machine so that she can die with him.
    "See you soon..."
  • Too Dumb to Live: Rupert snarks at Andrew's decision to become mortal.
    Rupert: Just goes to show you, Andrew - somebody becomes a human being, sooner or later, they do something monumentally stupid.
  • Travel Montage: Andrew's "search for another" shows him visiting baseball fields, deserts, and snow-covered mountains before leading to essentially his own backyard with Rupert's shop in San Francisco.
  • The Triple: When Andrew asks Sir to teach him how to tell a joke, he tries "two drinks walk into a bar", he tries a "Knock Knock" Joke, and then a Chicken Joke. He's only to say the punchline for the last one, but Andrew (being a Literal-Minded Robot Butler) still doesn't get it.
  • Unable to Cry: Andrew is envious of Portia when she cries after Little Miss dies. He comments that it isn't fair to be capable of feeling so much sadness and incapable of expressing it.
    Andrew: It's cruel that you can cry and I cannot. There is a terrible pain I cannot express.
  • Uncanny Valley: invoked The valley is Discussed by Rupert when he starts making Andrew's new face, describing how minor flaws in human appearance, such as an asymmetrically shaped nose, make people more realistic looking. It's about getting to the other side of the valley, where the sharp incline to human-like appears.
  • We Want Our Jerk Back!: After Andrew reprograms Galatea to stand up for herself and stop being a perky servant, Rupert begs Andrew to fix her because she isn't getting any work done now that she's become a Jerkass. Andrew relents, although future scenes with her indicate that they have compromised by removing the Personality Chip entirely.
    Galatea: Every day it's "Yes, Rupert, sir", "No, Rupert, sir", "Can I get you another beverage, Rupert, sir?!" and it CHAPS MY ASS!
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Andrew extends Portia's life significantly to prevent her death, but since she doesn't want to live forever, he eventually arranges a way to make himself mortal as well.
    Andrew: I've always tried to make sense of things. There must be some reason I am as I am. As you can see, Madam Chairman, I am no longer immortal.
    President Bota: You have arranged to die?
    Andrew: In a sense, I have. I am growing old, and my body is deteriorating, and like all of you, will eventually cease to function. As a robot, I could have lived forever. But I tell you all today, that I would rather die a man, than live for all eternity as a machine.
  • Wife Husbandry: The Martin household's Robot Butler, Andrew, loved helping Sir in raising Miss and Little Miss since they were young girls. When Little Miss was old enough, she asked him indirectly about marriage, but chickens out and married someone else. Andrew goes away for a few decades, but when he returns, he meets Portia, Little Miss's Identical Granddaughter, and pursues a relationship with her, eventually getting married, making this a Zig-Zagged example.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): The Bicentennial Man


Andrew Explains the Three Laws

Andrew's presentation of the Three Laws of Robotics

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / ThreeLawsCompliant

Media sources: