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In plot opening, the setting of Bicentennial Man is remarkably similar to that of Blade Runner. With the development of the positronic brain (a recurring term coined by Isaac Asimov to highlight AI), robot laborers are developed and are employed in menial labor toaid the progress of the human race. However, the one major plot difference is that the robots live in harmony with the humans, much unlike Blade Runner’s autocratic form of jurisdiction. The robotic protagonist, NDR-113 Andrew, though initially inhuman and strange, wants to become more of a human being, and not just a mechanical servant. He receives the support of his family, and is accepted as a trusted friend and a confidante, unlike, David in AI, which surprisingly, has the same motive and innocent aim. Andrew as a robot does not display exceeding lifelike features, look much like a human, or even acted like a human in the first place. In truth he was not sociable at the start, and took quite a bit of time to warm up to his family, though they initially loved towards him. This is in direct contrast to the mechas and the androids in AI and Blade Runner, where the androids look like impeccable human beings, but are shunned and not accepted in the open. This shows that the more unlike human beings the androids are, the more easily they are accepted among humans, as they do not classify themselves outright as one.
The story of Andrew depicts one of success and mutual harmony between him and his family. Andrew, after displaying sapient characteristics inherited from his stay and acceptance by his family, become more humanlike and develops a creative, thinking personality. He is allowed to relinquish his menial duties and makes a fortune in creative art, selling his art pieces, fully backed by his loving family. In the end he decides to become a human being, by gradually replacing his robotic components with human ones. This transformation is backed by generation after generation of his loving family, which assists him along his transformation. Finally, after two hundred years, he succeeds in replacing his positronic brain with a real, human one, relinquishing his immortality as a robot, and ultimately becoming a new human being. This is in direct reference to the creation of the Frankenstein monster, in which organs are viewed as body parts – mechanical components, and can be pieced together at will. Normally such activities would be considered blasphemy of the human body in all cultures, but Andrew’s family is supportive all the way – in short, the perfect family.
There is a contrast between this film and that of Blade Runner and AI. In this case, the robot is imperfect and is accepted by a perfect family, but in the case of the other two movies, the robot is perfect and is rejected by imperfect families who do not see eye to eye with their creations. Could it be that human beings cannot bear the existence of a more efficient, perfect being to us? In the novel, I.Robot by Isaac Asimov, the robot raises the point (to humans), “you could not have created us, only a more powerful being could have created us.” Do we only accept and aid what we deem as inferior to us, and is this done out of kindness, or disguised charity? Nonetheless, Bicentennial Man depicts a great leap forward in harmonious equality between the robots and humans, and is a utopian look at a human’s responsibility towards bio-ethics.Back to top
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