Bicentennial Man

Apparently, some people don’t like Bicentennial Man. I’ve even heard Robin Williams reference it in a stand-up routine.

IMHO, this is just another example that people are idiots – Bicentennial man is goddamn awesome.

I was really excited when I heard about this movie – I had wanted to see an Asimov movie since I read the books. At the time, there had been talk of adapting I, Robot to the screen for a while – it was in development hell for a long time, and the less said about the outcome, the better.

But Bicentennial man beat I, Robot to the screen by about 5 years and became the first movie based on an Asimov book. Ironically, there wasn’t ever any competition with I, Robot, because it wasn’t “based on” an asimov book – they invented a new credit for I, Robot – “Inspired by”, which basically means “We couldn’t be bothered doing a proper adaptation, so we bastardised it so much that they wouldn’t let us use the ‘based on’ credit”.

And, so far, to my great disappointment, Bicentennial man remains the only movie based on an Asimov book.

And it’s so spot on that Isaac would have wept if he’d seen it.

One review I read mentioned that it’s “faithful to the ideals of golden-age sci-fi”, as if that was a bad thing and as if the story needed to be updated to be more contemporary – there are no explosions in Bicentennial Man – things don’t explode very often at all in Asimov’s books.

This is because Asimov wrote a different type of sci-fi from anything you’ve ever seen on screen – Asimov’s storys rarely have “bad guys”. And that’s what makes Asimov’s work so awesome.

It’s the very fact that this movie is faithful to the ideals of golden age sci-fi that makes it so goddamn awesome. That, and Robin Williams doing some actual acting.

This was also the movie that, for me, turned Robin Williams from “that guy who does all those stupid movies” into a serious actor. The scene where Robin Williams first appears sans robot costume, when he first sees himself after his “upgrade” and simply stares into the mirror and says “thank you” is a seriously brilliant and moving piece of cinema.

I’m also a fan of Sam Neill, and he’s also in Bicentennial man, so there’s that.

There are a couple of things which I thought were missing from the screen adaptation which I think would have made it a stronger film. For example, in the book, it’s not Andrew who starts the crusade for Robotic rights, it’s one of his human friends. This happens after Andrew is harassed by a couple of teenagers, who order him to strip off his clothes and threaten to take him apart – the three laws of robotics make Andrew helpless to protect himself against this assault, and I think it could have been a really powerful scene in the movie, if a little darker in tone and less kid-friendly than the rest of the film.

But on the whole, Bicentennial Man is a faithful adaptation of an excellent story by one of the masters of science fiction, and I’d give it at least 90%. It remains one of my favourite films to this day.

It holds on to the ideals of golden age sci-fi brilliantly, and that’s why asimov would have wept had he lived to see it – they would have been tears of joy at seeing his story adapted so faithfully and with such heart.

But, no explosions or tits, so a crappy rating. Humanity sucks.

Asimov’s Robots are better than us in every way. Maybe that’s part of the reason why this movie isn’t more popular – people don’t like to see their betters. Asimov’s robots, being more intelligent than man, are also more ethical – they help us because they want to. The epitome of this is Asimov’s “Robot Takeover” story – The Evitable Conflict. Go read it if you haven’t already – I’m not going to spoil it. It’s ironic that this story is turned into your usual everyday “evil robots take over” story in the film adaptation of I, Robot. But I’d rather not get started on that film, Maddox already did that.

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