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Film / Bicentennial Man

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Bicentennial Man, or Andrew—NDR114 in Japan, is a 1999 film starring Robin Williams based on the well-known novella of the same name by Isaac Asimov (previously expanded into the full-length novel The Positronic Man by Robert Silverberg).

The film follows the evolution of the NDR series robot Andrew Martin (Williams) from his introduction into the Martin family and interaction with them through three generations: discovery of his emotional and creative abilities, development into an artist and inventor, evolution into an android, his fight to win legal recognition for his humanity, and ultimate destiny.

It also stars Sam Neill as "Sir" Richard Martin, Embeth Davidtz as "Little Miss" Amanda Martin and Portia Charney, and Oliver Platt as Rupert Burns.


The original story provides examples of:

  • Continuity Nod: The Three Laws of Robotics, established in Asimov's previous story I, Robot, are referenced at the very beginning of the story and play a central role in its plot.
  • Covers Always Lie: The Panther Science Fiction paperback depicts a giant robot attacking a spaceship, which is nowhere to be found in the story.
  • Short Story: Its only a few dozen pages long, and is included in anthologies with other Asimov stories.


The film provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The movie is far more sentimental than either Asimov's story or Silverberg's expansion.
  • Adaptation Expansion: From a 200-year search for the meaning of what it is to be human to a multigenerational love story.
  • Anticlimax: Andrew dies shortly before being legally recognized as human, and never gets to hear it, nor have his marriage officially recognized either. The smile on his face indicates he really didn't care - he died, making him human in his own eyes.
  • Arc Words: "That will not do." With those four words, first spoken when Little Miss passes away, Andrew memorizes every medical textbook available in the world and makes artificial organs and DNA elixirs that take a profound leap from the technological to the biological (and allow humans to essentially live forever). When he says those words again after Portia tells him they'd never be accepted, he goes on a campaign to earn full rights as a human being.
    • And to a much higher extent: "One is glad to be of service."
  • Artificial Human:
    • Andrew starts out as a robot, but modifies himself with biological parts to this.
    • As does Galatea by the end.
  • Award-Bait Song: Then You Look At Me, by Celine Dion.
  • Become a Real Boy: Unlike most examples of this, Andrew's process of humanization takes decades. Implied with Galatea as well.
  • Big Fancy House: The Martin family's large residence is shown to be this. This could justify why Mr. Martin was able to afford and maintain a then-new robot in the first place.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase:
    Galatea: As the great Andrew Martin used to say, "One is glad to be of service".
  • Brick Joke: Grace makes Andrew jump out the window in a cruel attempt to break him. In his damaged state afterward, his eye keeps twitching. Later, her father asks Andrew to come and see the view out of a thirty-seventh floor window. Andrew's eye twitches, and he declines to come closer.
  • Central Theme: Time and mortality. It's not an accident Andrew becomes wealthy making clocks.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Andrew's insistence of setting up a bank account early in the movie raises eyebrows even among the Martins. Fast forward several decades however and it's implied that the money he put in there is more than enough to fund research into biotech transplants, which soon extend to the rest of humanity.
  • The Comically Serious: Andrew is like this for most of the film.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Late in the film, Andrew imagines Sir consulting him on what it means to be human.
    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.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Andrew.
    Andrew: (on Little Miss' bratty son) One understands why some animals eat their young.
  • Determinator: Andrew. For a passive-aggressive robot, when Andrew sets his mind on something, he does it.
  • 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. Decades later as he has become more human, he meets and falls in love with her identical granddaughter.
  • Dramatic Shattering: Andrew's accidental breaking of young Little Miss' favorite glass horse figurine leads to his first demonstration of creativity, as he carves her a new one out of wood.
  • Face Death with Dignity: A Trope Codifier.
    Andrew: I've always tried to make sense of things. There must be some reason I am as I am. As you can see, Madame Chairman, I am no longer immortal.
    Bota: You have arranged to die?
    Andrew: In a sense I have. 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.
    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.
  • Famed in Story: It's only ever hinted at, but Andrew has become famous enough that Rupert recognizes him. And that's before Andrew effectively doubles the human lifespan, if not grants immortality.
  • Generational Saga: The film track's Andrew's growth as he interacts with multiple generations of the Martin family.
  • Generation Xerox: Portia is the spitting image of Little Miss, to Andrew's confusion. Little Miss explains that genetic resemblance sometimes skips a generation.
  • Genki Girl: Rupert's favorite personality program for Galatea.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: 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).
  • Grow Old with Me: Though he doesn't physically age, Andrew does this with Portia. Eventually he even forces himself to grow old in appearance and become mortal so that he can die of old age along side her.
  • Girly Girl: Galatea's personality chip.
  • Handshake Refusal: The first indication that Andrew's manufacturer sees him as a machine and nothing more is that he refuses to shake Andrew's hand when offered.
    • Averted with Sir's lawyer, who offers his hand to Andrew before Andrew can even offer his own.
  • Humble Pie: When Andrew asks for facial upgrades to help show emotions, the NorthAm CEO hands him an exorbitant price tag.
    Andrew: That is roughly one's monthly salary.
    CEO: ...It's more than I make in a year.
  • Identical Granddaughter: The adult Amanda Martin (Little Miss) and her granddaughter, Portia Charney were both played by Embeth Davitz. Andrew is perturbed at this at first.
  • I Have This Friend...: How Amanda tries asking Andrew about her feelings about him. It gets them nowhere because she's disguised the question too well and he can't tell she's talking about him.
  • Immortality Immorality: As Andrew first petitions the World Congress to recognize him as a human, the President of the Congress cites this as the reason why it will not validate Andrew's request; since he still possesses an artificial brain despite having become a cyborg, he is effectively immortal. The President states that society can accept an immortal machine, but that it can never accept an immortal human, which would arouse too much jealousy and anger.
  • Innocently Insensitive: When Rupert talks about how imperfection is the key to making a realistic face, Andrew makes numerous comments about how imperfect Rupert's head and face are. To his credit, Rupert only does minor double takes and chalks it up to Andrew's honesty.
  • Interspecies Romance: Andrew and Portia.
  • 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 a month than Dennis does in a year, Richard is sure to bring up this conversation again.
    Richard: Not bad for a...what was it he called you?
    Andrew: "Household appliance."
    Richard: Ah, household appliance.
    Dennis: [thoroughly humiliated] Household appliance, yes.
  • It Has Been an Honor: Galatea's farewell to Portia and Andrew on their deathbed.
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: Andrew's manufacturer insists on referring to Andrew as "it" despite the fact that he shows things such as sentience, emotions, and creativity, and gets annoyed when Mr. Martin uses "he" instead, saying that is a common mistake to make since Andrew is built to resemble a human.
    "...replace the positronic brain, then...put it...him back together and return him to you, good as new."
    • Grace and Lloyd also do this. A lot.
  • Jerkass: Three that stand out are: Dennis Mansky, the CEO of NorthAm; Grace Martin, Amanda's older sister; and Lloyd Charney, Amanda's son.
  • Just a Machine: What many claim Andrew is. When arguing about Galatea, Rupert slips out that she's just a machine, much to Andrew's offense.
  • Love Father, Love Son: A gender-flipped version. The Android butler, Andrew, comes back after making himself more human and falls in love with the granddaughter of the woman he loved in the past, who looks exactly the same to the point that they are played by the same actress.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: One of the major plot points on Andrew's journey to humanity.
  • Meaningful Name: Galatea. Almost certainly deliberate on Rupert's part. It's hinted at the end of the film, Galatea became self-aware as well.
  • Mechanical Evolution: The process by which Andrew becomes more human.
  • My Sensors Indicate You Want to Tap That: Andrew reads Portia's heart rate, body heat, and pheromones to detect that she is attracted to him, which she says is completely unfair of him to scan her like that.
    • Andrew replies with the standard "All's fair in love and war" retort.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Per usual in the case of this film's main star. This is not a goofy Robin Williams comedy about a family and their robot. The ads for the movie when it came out only showed clips of the first twenty minutes, along with the wacky dance sequence of Galatea when we first see her, trying to make us believe the movie was just a wacky situational comedy about a family with a pet robot. It doesn't help it is directed by Chris Columbus, noted for his family friendly trifles like Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire (which also starred Williams), and Adventures in Babysitting. 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.
    • The trailer also gives the impression Galatea will become a love interest for Andrew. That never happens. Though initially intrigued by her, Andrew ends up finding her somewhat annoying. Though she's not so annoying that it prevents him from hiring her as a hospice nurse later.
  • Next Sunday A.D.: The movie begins shortly in the future (2005 from a 1999 release date), and ends 200 years later.
  • No Antagonist: The story is about Andrew's 200 year journey towards becoming human and finding love. The closest people to any sort of antagonist in the story are Andrew's stubborn manufacturer, Amanda's obnoxious son Lloyd, and the contrarian first President of the World Congress, each of whom appear in 1 or 2 scenes each and are rather incidental to the plot.
  • No New Fashions in the Future: Averted. Fashion does noticably change over 200 years, though jeans, tuxedos and suits remain remarkably unaffected. It's only towards the latter half of the movie however that the changes become most evident, although Galatea's outfit in the last scene is reminiscent of a nurse from The '40s.
    • Truth in Television: The tuxedo and jeans have remained largely unchanged since their inception with only minor variations through the years, mens' suits tend to change very subtly and very slowly, and fashion is very cyclical (the early twenty-first century saw a resurgence in the popularity of bellbottoms and tie-dye).
  • Older Than They Look: Andrew, duh. 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.
  • Old Retainer: Andrew.
  • Personality Chip: Subverted here, for while Galatea had a simulated personality, it was only by virtue of a set of added mannerisms. Robots in this universe develop true personalities the old-fashioned way, by experience and interaction. In the end it's revealed that Galatea does eventually develop a personality of her own.
  • Pick Your Human Half: Andrew, although he looks (and acts) increasingly human as the story progresses. Depending on your point of view by the end of the film Andrew becomes a fully-fledged human..
  • Pinocchio Syndrome: Andrew's quest to be recognized as human, even going so far as to replace his entire body with his self-invented artificial organs and become mortal.
  • Playing Gertrude: Embeth Davidtz (born 1965) plays Amanda Charney (née Martin), the mother of Lloyd Charney, played by Bradley Whitford (born 1959). She's not wearing ageing prosphetics at this point.
  • Positive Discrimination: Subverted with the leader of the World Court that not only denies Andrew his humanity but rubs salt in the wound by saying he is "a machine, and nothing more" is a white man. His far more reasonable and kind replacement is a black woman. The leader of the World Court makes a reasonable point: humanity will never tolerate an immortal human being, fearing the societal anger that might ensue if the Court acknowledged it.
  • Product Placement: Averted in a weird way. US Robotics was the original company in Isaac Asimov's story, and a real-life company adopted the name. The film changes the company to North American Robotics.
  • Pygmalion Plot:
  • Rapid-Fire Comedy: The movie isn't one these, but it contains an in-film example. Andrew attempts Rapid-Fire Comedy to show that he has studied the concept of humor, but he doesn't understand anything about the importance of delivery and so he simply recites a bunch of jokes in sequence while speaking too fast to comprehend.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: Averted twice. First, Andrew decides to sell the many clocks and sculptures he makes, which by the time of his first upgrade makes wealthier than the CEO of the company that built him. Much later, a by-product of Andrew's attempt to become more human leads him to create artificial organs so perfect that they can be used in actual humans, which he then begins to sell to hospitals. Its implied by the end of the film that Andrew has become ridiculously wealthy from all his endeavors.
  • Ridiculously Human Robot: Andrew starts the movie as one, although it is a manufacturing glitch, and spends the rest of the movie becoming more and more human.
  • Robo Romance: Averted. 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.
    • Later in the film, he uses a pneumatic drill to shut her off. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Robosexual: Portia falls in love with Andrew and part of the reason he wants to be aknowledged as human was so he can have his marriage to her validated. 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.
  • Robo Speak: Andrew suffers from this in the beginning, but as he becomes more human, his speech becomes more natural.
    "One is glad to be of service."
  • Robot Girl: Galatea.
  • Robotic Assembly Lines: The opening credits.
  • Robotic Spouse: Andrew Martin marries Portia, who was the great-granddaughter of his first owner. As he wooed her the squick factor is minimal. Eventually subverted, when Andrew becomes fully human.
  • Sense Freak: Andrew, once he has a central nervous system put in.
  • Shoo the Dog: When Andrew expresses he wants freedom, Mr. Martin tells him to leave, giving him total independence rather than pseudo-freedom. The trope is played super-straight, as Mr. Martin looks like he's cutting off his own arm having Andrew leave for good. He asks for Andrew on his deathbed and apologizes for sending him away.
  • Smug Snake: The NorthAm CEO snidely remarks that he will get his hands on Andrew, because sooner or later he'll need repairs. When Andrew does need to be brought in for repairs for his severed thumb, Richard installs in an alarm that will alert the police if the NorthAm technicians try to access Andrew's positronic brain.
  • Space Clothes: Averted for the most part, although fashions do noticeably change over the 200-year timeframe.
  • Spoiler Title: Thanks to the title, we know that Andrew becomes a man and lives to be 200 years old.
  • Standard '50s Father: Sam Neill's character fits this trope despite the film being set 20 Minutes into the Future.
  • That's an Order!: This is also what an old Portia tells Galatea by the end of the movie so she can die with Andrew.
  • The Talk: Andrew is given one by his master, and expresses sorrow over the millions of deaths of unfertilized sperm.
  • Third-Person Person: At the beginning of the movie Andrew, like all robots, refers to himself as "this one". It is a sign of his self-awareness when he first refers to himself as "I".
    • However, Andrew will use it after he's self-aware to be passive-aggressive.
  • Three Laws-Compliant: Even through his entire 200-year journey to humanity, Andrew staying within the boundaries of Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, until he makes the decision to become mortal and die (technically breaking the Third Law).
    • The novel/short story has a short, simple and very sad speech on Andrew's part on whether he has broken the Third Law.
    "No. I have chosen between the death of my body and the death of my aspirations and desires. To have let my body live at the cost of the greater death is what would have violated the Third Law."
    • In the film, Andrew's Face Death with Dignity speech above strongly implies that he's a man, not a robot, and therefore the Three Laws no longer apply.
  • Time Abyss: Hinted at, especially later on. Given that Andrew's been around for quite some time, the past is bound to haunt him one way or another.
  • Time Passes Montage: Andrew's "search for another," eventually leading to essentially his own backyard with Rupert's shop in San Francisco.
  • Together in Death: The film ends with Portia shutting down her own life support so she can be reunited with Andrew, who passed away just moments before.
    "See you soon..."
  • Too Dumb to Live: Rupert deadpan snarks this 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.
  • Unable to Cry: Andrew is envious of Portia when she cries after Amanda ("Little Miss") passes away. She can express the depth of her sorrow, but he is unable to, even though he mourns her loss just the same.
    "It's cruel that you can cry and I cannot. There is a terrible pain I cannot express."
  • Uncanny Valley: Deconstructed in the film.invoked
  • We Want Our Jerk Back: Inverted. After Andrew reprograms Galatea to stand up for herself and stop simply being a perky servant, Rupert demands that he fix her because she is not getting any work done, as she's more of a Jerkass. Andrew relents.
    Galatea: Every day it’s "Yes, Rupert, sir", "No, Rupert, sir", "Can I get you another beverage, Rupert, sir?!" and it CHAPS MY ASS!!!
    (Galatea storms off.)
    Rupert: (puzzled) "Chaps my ass"?!
  • We Will Have Perfect Health in the Future: Largely thanks to Andrew's quest to become human. He and Rupert design more and more advanced human parts and organs for him. They eventually make ones organic enough to be compatible with humans as well, and Rupert founds a large corporation where he manufactures them for the medical industry.
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: Chronicling a robot's 200-year journey towards understanding what love means.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: The saddest part of Andrew's existence is that he's forced to see his loved ones grow older until they die of old age one by one, which he becomes increasingly reflective on. He extends Portia's life significantly to prevent this, but since she doesn't want to live forever, he eventually arranges a way make himself mortal as well.
  • Wife Husbandry: Downplayed. After Andrew the android helps to raise Amanda, she develops romantic feelings for him, but he's oblivious to her advances (not to mention that he doesn't even look human yet), so she marries someone else. Then he comes back after a century or so and falls in love with her identical granddaughter Portia.
  • Zeerust: Largely avoided, but "credit discs"?
    • Although the iPad like devices seen being used, the concept is modern but the design of them are pretty bulky and 90's looking, though they could be the equivalent of a very powerful iPad (we don't know, say, the processing power or storage capability on those things.)


How well does it match the trope?

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