Director: Gabe Ibáñez
Writers: Gabe Ibáñez, Igor Legarreta, Javier Sánchez Donate
Stars: Antonio Banderas, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Dylan McDermott
There’s no questioning the ambition of Automata – after all, this is a largely European production which is attempting to beat big budget US science fiction films at their own game – but unfortunately it isn’t quite able to live up to its intentions. Financed in Spain , shot in Bulgaria and featuring a curious range of international actors, it was made for an estimated $7 million, a fraction of the $178 million spent on Edge of Tomorrow or $120 million on Oblivion, and it does a pretty good job of matching both of them in terms of art direction and ideas, even if it lacks some of their spectacular, adrenaline-rush sequences.
Set in a future where much of mankind has been wiped out and a large proportion of the surface of the earth is uninhabitable, people manage to survive thanks to huge numbers of robots which act as servants, scouts, builders and explorers. These robots are programmed with two core laws: they are not able to harm a human being and they cannot re-programme or modify themselves in any way. This makes the report of a trigger happy cop (Dylan McDermott) – who claims to have seen one of these robots repairing itself – rather worrying, and insurance agent Jacq Vaucan (Antonio Banderas) is given the task of investigating. He discovers more than he expects…
Automata has a lot in common with other contemporary android films such as Ex Machina and The Machine in that its main concern is the boundary between artificial intelligence and, well, life. It frames this within a noir-style storyline modeled on Bladerunner with Banderas stepping into the Harrison Ford role, and its debts to that film are palpable. As such it’s not particularly original and the world it depicts seems to be a peculiarly old fashioned vision of the future but, despite this, it’s certainly enjoyable enough. Director Gabe Ibáñez made the superior Hierro (2009) and he keeps things visually interesting, while the supporting cast includes the likes of Robert Forster (Jackie Brown), Tim McInnerny (Blackadder) and Melanie Griffith.