Bicentennial Man

Bicentennial Man is a 1999 American science fiction film starring Robin Williams that explores the complexities of humanity, slavery, and prejudice in a comedic-drama tone. The movie itself could not really find the identity that it wanted to achieve; with obvious contrasting themes and a cliché script that falls flat despite being based on a unique concept. However, the movie’s introduction displays a plethora of design elements that are worth highlighting and deciphering. The entirety of the title sequence is a slow panning, close up, and often out of focus cross section of a robot man being pieced together by an assortment of assembly line machinery. This imagery is accompanied by a proud and almost hopeful score that invokes a sense of wonder and futuristic optimism. Overall, there is an air of optimism and curiosity that is quite fitting for a science fiction drama.

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With that being said, let’s dive into the design elements being utilized with a bit more of an in-depth analysis. The first thing that will catch a viewer’s eye is the imagery that the film displays throughout the course of the title sequence. As I previously mentioned, it showcases a robotic man being put together piece by piece, machine by machine. However, the thing being created may not be obvious to the viewer at first, so they are encouraged to keep their eyes locked on the screen in order to figure out what it is. You can clearly see nuts and bolts and wiring being connected to one another, but it is often blurry or out of focus to create a sense of a busy factory setting. There are a couple instances of bright flashes of light or welding, and machines cross over one another and often obscure the camera as well. The imagery wraps up at the end of the introduction with the general figure of a robotic man beginning to take shape. All of these aspects of imagery work together to create a sense of futuristic wonderment and an impressive feeling of urgency or possibly a frantic mood. The viewer is both impressed and overwhelmed with the amount of moving parts and pieces on the screen.

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Another major element of design that contributes to this title sequence is the typography. The typography being used throughout the Bicentennial Man title sequence is in Ballmer font and it is animated. The font has no capital letters and moves in a similar manner to the machines behind it. The font creates words that twist and interlock, as well as slide past each other in a manner that mimics the machinery at work in the background. The “O’s” in words often twist and crank around like nuts and bolts, while other letters slide past one another. It adds to the futuristic themes being showcased and fits perfectly in with the curious music and blue lighting of the imagery. Using this font sells the futuristic theme and helps grasp the audience’s attention even further by giving them something not-so-typical. The font is also placed in the foreground, on top of the images in the background. Despite this, it is shifted around the screen and placed at different angles whilst it moves to create a more dynamic and enticing vibe.

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The third and final design element that stood out to me was the use of movement. As I previously mentioned; the text is animated to look like machinery and the imagery behind the text is indeed, moving machinery. These two aspects of the film’s introduction work together perfectly to create a sense of movement and jerky fluidity-of-sorts. This aids in creating an effective movie introduction that encourages viewers that the movie they paid for is going to be good, or at least thematically relevant. The text that introduces the cast and production team is animated to mimic machinery and it does so well. It twists, expands, contrasts, or interlocks in the same manner that the imagery of machines does in the background. This creates a feeling of togetherness and theme-legitimacy that can only help the film. The imagery in the background behind the text produces a similar feeling on the audience. A robotic man (presumably Robin Williams) is being constructed in a factory, piece by piece throughout the 3-minute-long title sequence. Bolts are being driven into joints, wires are being connected to appendages, and robotic features are being placed in their rightful locations. The movements are often jerky but sometimes fluid, and they jump around from robotic leg to robotic arm. The camera never really stays in one place for more than a few seconds and it is constantly changing focus and making jump cuts. This sort of editing and use of movement are entirely deliberate, and they aid in creating a successful and enticing introductory sequence.


Overall, the Bicentennial Man title sequence doesn’t use a whole lot of original ideas when it comes to science fiction movies, but the design elements at play create an enticing introduction that ultimately gets the job done for the viewer.