However, there was one thing that Asimov amid his many faults was not and that was a shabby sentimentalist. Bicentennial Man, which is loosely adapted from Asimovs Hugo-winning 1976 short story and the novel length expansion he co-wrote with Robert Silverberg in 1993, is appalling sentimental tripe. Asimov, even when writing at his worst, would never have churned out something as agonizingly maudlin as this. An Asimov story would always trace a path of logic when a robot became sentient, you would at least get Asimov engaging in a debate about what humanity meant or about what caused spontaneous development of artificial intelligence. Bicentennial Man the film, on the other hand, trades in a preposterous humanocentric romanticism. It swims in the same hearts and flowers sentiments that fill inspirational greeting cards. The scenes where Andrews various human companions die simper in an appalling mawkishness and the stabs at romance are so corny that they verge on the laughable. The film was directed by Chris Columbus, who previously made soggy-headed light comedies such as the Home Alone (1990), Mrs Doubtfire (1993), 9 Months (1995) and would go onto make Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone/Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone (2001) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002). As might be expected, Chris Columbuss hand with comedy and emotion flies with all the sparkle and elegance of a lead brick.
The scenes at the end with the robot arguing for the right to be legally regarded as human and to grow old and die are scenes that you could have imagined Asimov having made work through the logical sophistry that his robot stories worked on, but under Chris Columbuss hand, they come out with such a puerile soft-headedness that they dissolve into laughability. Instead of Asimovian insight, all that Bicentennial Man has is the maudlin assumption that it is good to be human and yet in the end, all it does is get sentimental about it and fails to offer a single argument as to why a robot might think so. This is a science-fiction film for people who dont like science-fiction. Bicentennial Man is to Isaac Asimov and any debate about AI what Forrest Gump (1994) was to Platoon (1986), what Jakob the Liar (1998) is to Schindlers List (1993) it is a science-fiction film for people who prefer feelgood greeting card sentimentalism over a film that actually has a single thing to say about anything.
Despite their popularity, Isaac Asimovs works had fared unevenly in the media. Several of his stories were adapted for the British science-fiction anthology tv series Out of the Unknown (1965-71); Asimov was hired by Harvey Weinstein to write the English-language script for the American release of the French animated film Gandahar/Light Years (1988); he came up with the premise of the excellent but short-lived tv series Probe (1988); his classic short story Nightfall (1941) was made it into two obscure B-budget films, Nightfall (1988) and Nightfall (2000); and he gave loose inspiration to the tv movie The Android Affair (1996). The only other full-fledged Asimov film to date was I, Robot (2004), which disappointingly only grafted the name of Asimovs story collection onto a standard robots amok screenplay.
Chris Columbus started his career writing screenplays for various Steven Spielberg productions Gremlins (1984), The Goonies (1985) and Young Sherlock Holmes (1985), before making his directorial debut with the teen comedy Adventures in Babysitting/A Night on the Town (1987). Columbus directed the first two Harry Potter films and acts as Executive Producer on the subsequent entry Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004). He followed this with Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010) about a teenager who discovers his heritage as a Greek demi-god and the comedy Pixels (2015) in which alien invaders recreate classic arcade videogames. Columbus also co-wrote the script for the animated Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1989). In the mid-1990s, Columbus planned a film version of Marvel Comics Fantastic Four, although only acts as producer on the finished film version, Fantastic Four (2005) and its sequel Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007). Columbus is also Executive Producer on Monkeybone (2001), Night at the Museum (2006) and its sequels Night at the Museum 2 (2009) and Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014), Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013), and The Witch: A New-England Folktale (2015). He heads the 1492 Productions production company the date being an obvious play on his more famous namesake.
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