STARRING: ANTONIO BANDERAS; DYLAN MCDERMOTT; MELANIE GRIFFITH; ROBERT FORSTER
DIRECTED BY: GABE IBANEZ
AMOVIEGUY.COM’S RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
Automata will draw comparisons to a number of science fiction films. It will be lumped in with a list of movies; from Blade Runner, Oblivion, Elysium, District 9, and even a little bit of Mad Max. Director Gabe Ibanez’s film has a plot that is like a prequel to the classic Ridley Scott film. It stars Antonio Banderas as an insurance agent, searching into a case where one of the future’s robots has begun breaking protocol and becoming more human than machine. Even though this is much like past sci-fi films, it works here and has a respect for the genre it is in.
The film opens with a lengthy explanation as to why the earth is in this particular post-apocalyptic environment state. It is 2044; the sun is burning the planet, until a corporation known as ROC designs robots called the Automata Pilgrim 7000. They are invented to build cloud systems that protect the ozone and assist humans with everyday living. These robots always obey 2 security protocols: they cannot harm humans and they cannot alter their state or self repair.
Director Ibanez uses a small budget to create a diverse and crumbled future, with both falling high rises and desert wastelands. Wide shots of the broken city reveal hologram projections; woman dancing and people kissing, displayed on buildings. The city limits are ravaged by trash and destruction. We see the cloud constructions above what is left being put together by the robots, which look like a homage to the alien ships from Spielberg’s War of the Worlds. Ghetto’s look like the slums of District 9, and even the robots themselves look like combinations of C-3PO, or the skeletal of upgraded Terminators.
Antonio Banderas is at his all-time best. He is strong in his role as Jacq Vaucan, a tired man, who has a wife (Birgitte Hjort Sorensen) with a child on the way. He wants to leave this barren land and head to the coast. He asks his boss Robert Bold, played by the always excellent Robert Forster, for a transfer and gets the “just finish this last investigation, then you’ll get your transfer” routine. The investigation consists of a police officer by the name of Wallace (played by a slick haired-Dylan McDermott), who while patrolling the streets finds an Automata fixing itself, so he shot it. How could this be? None of these robots are programmed to act this way? Vaucan must look into what is making these robots almost human.
The script, co-written by Ibanez, Igor Legarreta, and Javier Sanchez Donate, lacks a mighty co-star, but allows Banderas to impress.
Vaucan finds a robot by the name of Cleo, who services in sexual favors. She leads him to her maker Dra. Dupre. She is played by Melanie Griffith whose small role is only uncomfortable and like the robots, lacks life. It is a brief appearance, that feels unworthy of a part in the film. Other than this, the film is strong.
Automata is a well done second feature for Ibanez. Although it may be cliché, it is what I like to call a genesis film; it is the nuts and bolts of sci-fi stories. It is our main character’s discovery of the robot’s human-like abilities that make for an interesting film. The path may look familiar, but the journey in this film is worth the results.
Rated R for violence, language, and some sexual content.
Written by: Leo Brady