Set in the near future, the planet has been wreaked by nuclear and environmental terrors, turning everything into a vast desert. The population has been decimated. The remaining population are hoarded into cities, surrounded by giant walls, and acid rain. An unhealthy caste system is in place, with greedy corporations in control.
Sometime before the waning catastrophe, robots were invited to protect man from impending doom, by building protective barriers, among other things. The robots failed, turning them into an easy escaped goat for the carnage that followed. Instead of being the savior of mankind they have become house cleaners, aid for the elderly, sex workers, etc…
I like every AI/Robot movie, Automata bowers heavily from Asimov’s “I, Robot”. Particularly his three laws of robotics:
1.A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.;
2.A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3.A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Automata, is a film that lives inside so many other sci-films. There are times, you swear you’re watching Blade Runner. The city landscape especially. Even some of the Blade Runner themes appear; what is human?, who is the creator? That is Automata’s biggest problem is that too many things seem to come from other films. The robots, are clearly inspired by the bot’s from I,Robot, and even though they act differently, and are less CGI ish, you can’t help but notice.
The greatest asset in Automata is it landscape, again it relies heavily on Blade Runner, but it looks fantastic. The CGI is used sparingly, and it’s effective. You can almost taste the dirt and grim here.
I’ve always enjoyed watching Antonio Banderas, who doesn’t love Desperado? This is a role, though, we haven’t seen him in before…he’s old, tired, wore out, nothing sexy, or flashy here. The ‘ole Spanish charm is put on ice. It’s a great turn for him, his Vaucan is man contemplating heavy things; he has new child on the way, is this a world to even have a child in, and his job as an insurance agent for the ROC robotics corporations has him tipping the moral scales all too often. He’s a troubled man. It’s this troubled man, who gets wrapped into investigating the suspicions of self modifying robot.
The supporting cast, outside of Dylan McDermott and Robert Forster don’t have a ton to do, but are very effective. Forster is always good, and McDermott’s over the top bad cop routine is fun. Melanie Griffith also appears as an underground scientist, as well as the voice of one of the robots. The lead robot, is voice by the devilish Javier Bardem.
Overall, Automata is a dusty splash of nuclear wreckage, and directed with subtle gusto by Ibáñez. The characters are strong, not as strong as the visual surroundings, but very complete. I like the take on the robots, very against the grain, they were slow, not flashy…like the robots from 60’s. The only disappoint here would be the themes and philosophy of the film, though, something as a nerd I enjoy, didn’t seem original enough for me. Not to say, that I didn’t enjoy this thinking man’s I, Robot, I did, I just would’ve like to have seen more. There are moments when I felt I was going to be seeing a Children of Men type film with Robots, but it just never deviled that deep.
Would I watch it again? Absolutely. It’s robots.
Director: Gabe Ibáñez
Writers: Gabe Ibáñez, Igor Legarreta, Javier Sánchez Donate
Stars: Antonio Banderas, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Dylan McDermott
Plot: Jacq Vaucan, an insurance agent of ROC robotics corporation, routinely investigates the case of manipulating a robot. What he discovers will have profound consequences for the future of humanity.
Currently available on VOD