Bicentennial Man (1999)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Bicentennial Man</strong> (1999)

(On DVD, September 2016) Before telling you what I really think about Bicentennial Man, I’ll just take a moment to appreciate what I do like about the film, even if it boils down to intentions. I like the idea of a classic Isaac Asimov story being adapted on the big screen. I certainly appreciate how the film tries to cover a two-century period in two short hours, and I can recognize the attempt at conveying some of that future history through background details. It’s the kind of thing that makes written science fiction so interesting, and it’s rare to see it even attempted on the big screen. This being said, none of those good intentions are enough to rescue Bicentennial Man from some condemnation. The ham-fisted script never misses an occasion to be dumb, sappy, obvious or nonsensical. The vision of the future is all about changing surface and simplistic attitudes, never taking an opportunity to tackle social change in a meaningful way, or escaping funny-clothes laziness. Robin Williams is here in full-blown nice-guy persona, wasting comic energy in a role seemingly built to be as dull as possible. While the film has aged badly in seventeen years (now that we have direct experience with the introduction of technology, the way Bicentennial Man deals with its robots feels worse than off), let’s not kid ourselves: it was pretty bad even in 1999. Laced with cheap sentimentality, flatly directed by Chris Columbus and hobbled by dumb story choices manifested by even dumber character decisions, this (in many ways) showcases how badly Hollywood mishandles Science-Fiction as a genre.

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