Automata is a stylish science fiction thriller set in 2044 when over 99% of the earth’s population has been wiped-out by the sun. Robots do the majority of the work on the scorched earth and they are set with 2 two important protocols: they cannot kill humans, or modify any existing robots. These rules are law. These rules are unbreakable.
Antonio Banderas is Jacq Vaucan, a futuristic insurance investigator for ROC the global organization which manufactures the worlds robots. A seemingly generic case leads Vaucan to believe that robots are being modified and he discovers a secret that could change the face of mankind forever.
Like a rebuilt android, Automata is a film made up from disparate parts of other sci-fi films: Blade Runner, I Robot and Minority Report are all tonal touchstones (the android protocols are particularly Asimovian). However, director Gabe Ibáñez weaves these futuristic pieces together in a way that feels organic. It might be derivative but it’s well crafted and exceptionally pleasing on the eye. In fact, Ibáñez has spent so much on creating an authentic and viable look for the film that he’s neglected to give the film the propelling narrative thrust that it needs – a few more twists and turns would have turned this into an essential cult classic. Automata is always engaging but never truly compelling.
A bald Antonio Banderas makes for an interesting lead, delivering a performance which is devoid of his trademark wit. He really sells the role of confused investigator, even though he spends most of the time acting opposite special effects. Ibáñez surrounds Banderas with an interesting supporting cast. He shares the screen with his ex-wife Melanie Griffith, (who pulls double-duty as the voice of an android), Robert Forster and Dylan McDermott. Meanwhile, an uncredited Javier Bardem has a‘voice cameo’ in the film’s latter half.
Automata is the type of science fiction movie they used to make back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, a time before over-the-top action was injected into genre. Gabe Ibáñez delivers a piece which is stylish and entertaining but much like the androids at its centre, Automata lacks real soul.
The Automata blu-ray looks great and it also comes with a short making-of and a detailed chat with the always interesting and charismatic Antonio Banderas.