Director: Gabe Ibánez Starring: Antonio Banderas, Dylan McDermott & Robert Forster Synopsis: Jacq Vaucan is an insurance agent of ROC robotics corporation who investigates cases of robots violating their primary protocols against altering themselves. What he discovers will have profound consequences for the future of humanity Rating: 15 Run time: 109 minutes Release date: 4 May (DVD)
For a film that is so heavily influenced by other works of science fiction, it is perhaps unsurprising that Automata is enjoyable at times, but fails to find its own identity. Everything from Blade Runner, to I, Robot and even the likes of the recent Ex Machina are referenced here, and while it has its moments, Automata never feels like the satisfying whole that it should.
Antonio Banderas plays Jacq Vaucan, an investigator for the ROC company who have mass produced robots called Pilgrims. These Pilgrims were manufactured in order to rebuild the parts of the earth that humans could not, after solar flares have made most of the planet uninhabitable.
These Pilgrims were built to serve mankind, and were done so with two prime directives. The first is that they cannot harm any form of life, while the second is that they cannot modify themselves or another Pilgrim. And it is their second directive that proves to be the main focus of the film.
Banderas’ Jacq wants out of ROC, and is forced into one last investigation before retirement. Informed by Wallace, a creepy Dylan McDermott, that a Pilgrim was caught modifying itself, Jacq is forced into the seedy underbelly of stolen parts, crooked police and robots that may or may not be evolving on their own.
Automata has many interesting parts, with some being deserving of further investigation. However, the film fails to focus on its, potentially, more interesting aspects and instead turns into linear science fiction during its second half. Which is all a bit unfortunate, as the film raises some good points and even threatens to be a really good film.
Director Gabe Ibánez has a good eye, and his smart use of Bulgarian locations is welcome, and adds a much needed sense of realism to the scorched earth look. The built up city’s and the derelict Pilgrim shanty towns are begging to be explored, but end up lost in various plot threads.
Perhaps the most striking part of Automata is that of the Pilgrims themselves. Built practically and not from cgi, the Pilgrims are distinct in their look and offer a sympathy not found in the human characters. Seeing a Pilgrim shot, beaten or murdered is more shocking than it has any right to be.
Unfortunately, Automata gets too bogged down in lost plot threads, strange character motivations and an overall feel that the film never really gets into gear. Despite its strong start, and some fascinating ideas, Automata falls far from its ambitions and feels dull and lifeless at worst and mildly interesting at best.
In summary: Automata fails to live up to its appealing concept, and is instead simply a film of many great ideas that never get examined to the fullest.