Friday, October 22, 2010

Bicentennial Man (1999)

Stars : Robin Williams ,Sam Neill ,Embeth Davidtz ,Oliver Platt

Directed By:  Chris Columbus

Written By: Isaac Asimov, Robert Silverberg, Nicholas Kazan

Its been feared by a lot , written about by a lot and dramatized by a lot and is one of the most thought upon question "what if robots take over ?". Bicentennial Man is a movie which does not answers this but gives us a view or a perspective. Its not great nor its ugly but its something I was very much intrigued by. Its a Robots journey across two centuries and is very much a tale of real rather than mechanical emotions.

Andrew an android is brought home into the Martin family by Richard Martin to assist in housekeeping and other daily household works. Andrew astonishes everybody by his capabilities to feel and react to emotions. Not only the Martin family but even the creators are surprised by Andrew's reactions and emotions. Martin's a family of four, husband and wife Richard Martin and Rachel Martin, two daughters Grace 9 yrs and Little Miss Amanda , present to Andrew with a wide a range of emotions. Grace hates Andrew, Amanda loves him, Richard respects Andrew and Rachel sees him as machine. Andrew becomes not just a housekeeper but a part of family and very close to Amanda and Richard.

The beginning of Andrew's journey with the Martin's is what arises curiosity and sets the tone for a very interesting movie. Andrew's creativity and emotions were indeed very surreal and made me wonder what's next. Robin Williams, plays Andrew but is in a Robotic suit and looks convincing. The few moments of laughter are provided by Andrew's innocent attempts at knowing the human nature and behaviour.

As time goes on ,Andrew's capabilities grow and the love of Amanda for him grows as well. Andrew now feels love and almost every emotion , he is more like a man inside a Robotic suit. Amanda loves Andrew and even thinks about him before getting married but after all Andrew is a machine. Andrew's quest to improve himself and be able to emote allows him an upgrade where he was able to reflect his emotions through his face. Andrew still serves the Martin family with all due respect and care but begins to feel the need to expand. As Amanda's family grows , so her innocent and pure relationship with Andrew. After Amanda's divorce Andrew becomes her sole companion. Andrew has been with the family for almost 20-25 yrs and has grown as a man but still a robot. He seeks his freedom from Mr. Richard Martin but wants to continue working for him.Mr Richard grants  him  his wish but on the condition that he has to leave the home. Andrew leaves the home and makes a new home for himself in a nearby place.

The emotions in the movie grow stronger with the growth in Andrew. The wast  knowledge and experience Andrew gained through books and people makes him question, what he is and what's his destiny. Andrew becomes more human and the questions put forward through Andrew were indeed for every human. The movie slows down in pace with the movement of the story. Somethings still remain unanswered but I suppose the narration slacks because of the time length the movie had to show. It never really shows the family's real reactions but only the superficial emotions.

Its been sixteen years since Andrew left the Martin family. His relationship with Amanda still pure and innocent but in these past 16 yrs Andrew never saw Mr. Richard Martin. Andrew gets called by Mr. Martin during his last time, which raises another question for Andrew. Andrew leaves to seek his own kind and finds one in China with Mr. Rupert Burns, who was the creator of Android and a scientist at NDR, Andrew's birth place. Rupert Burn sets to help in making Andrew more human and research that will lead to Andrew's wish for love. After 20 yrs Andrew goes back to meet Amanda but with an upgrade. He has been able to get a skin , a human body from the outside. Amanda has grown into an old woman and has a grand daughter Portia , exactly like her. At Amanda's death Portia who disliked Andrew at first bonds well with him. The  occasional company grows into fondness for each other, which makes Andrew more desperate and wish full. He decides to be a complete human with neural cells and human body parts, which will grow old. The change in Andrew , allows Portia the comfort of accepting him as her lover. To make her love for Portia real Andrew sets for the last path which would have made him complete , the recognition by the society, which he is only able to get at the age of 200 and lying in bed ,old and fragile with love of his last life Portia.

The movie grows with time and instead of taking a step forward , it goes backwards. The love of Portia and Andrew was like full circle. the quest of Andrew to be human does not raises anticipation but towards the end kind of bums one out. The story becomes very repetitive and instead of exploring the emotions, turns more into a physical quest of Andrew. The movie does gives few beautiful moments in its last 40-45 minutes but other than that its dragged on. The movie could have ended on few occasions and I feel would have been apt for the movie but its stretched for too long. The death of Amanda and Andrew taking in a homeless dog was one such place where it could have ended.

Robin Williams, one of the most gifted artists of our times, proves his tag again. He is meticulous as Robotic Andrew, he keeps in the character. It must have been very hard for him to be in that suit but still he lands the authenticity. The only sad part was , when the movie was exploring the emotions and true feelings Robin was missing and when he appeared the emotions were missing. They became more plastic and screen required towards the end. Sam Neill as Richard Martin was spot on, he looks elegant and does fairly well in couple of emotional scenes with Andrew. The only performer who had the screen presence as human was Embeth Davidtz, first as Amanda and then as Portia the granddaughter. She plays her part well, is able to emote through her eyes and provides the presence needed to hold the screen in absence of any human star in presence of Robotic Robin Williams.

The movie is 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. Chris Columbus, the man behind later blockbuster Harry Potter series is the director and one does see his brilliance here but only a glimpse. The handling and expressing every human emotion in 2 hrs is not an easy task but Chris does a fine work. The make-up team does deserves applause for its superlative work. Andrew the Robot does looks 100% real. The best part of the movie is it does not shows robotic capabilities of Andrew and thank god does not goes shallow looking for some humor out of Andrew's journey. There are some very fine dialogues through out, which also add to the Andrew's quest.

The movie isn't bad but its not good enough either. It started very well but somehow lost it in middle. The movie though stands for more than what Chris was able to show. Its an OK watch and may cause you a bit trouble with its slow pace in the second part of its running.

Plus : A new perspective .

Rating : 6/10

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