There’s something about European science fiction movies that makes them intriguing. And Automata is Spanish and Bulgarian cooperation although all the characters speak English. Right off the bat, it’s clear that this movie is inspired by the works of Isaac Asimov. Hence all the similarities to 2004 hit I, Robot. Here, however, the atmosphere is much more somber. We will be following insurance agent Jacq Vaucan as he’s trying to figure out why the robots have begun acting strangely all of a sudden.
I know, I know, it’s the tale as old as time, robots behaving without reason or rhyme. And I should tell you upfront to not wait for “something to happen”. Automata is not that type of movie. Overly melodramatic at times and also heavy-handed in its attempts to send a certain message, it’s certainly no masterpiece. However, its setting, atmosphere, and themes explored warrant a viewing. Especially if you’re a science fiction fan. You can also use the slower pace to think about the story and our future.
It is the year of our Lord Satan 2044 and solar storms have ravaged the Earth. What was once fertile land is now a radioactive desert. To balance this offset, humanity creates robots or Automatas. Their purpose is to help humans rebuild our society and environment. However, this is not all that the robots are used for. They can be smuggled or used in other illegal activities. This is where Jacq Vaucan steps in. He’s an insurance agent in charge of dealing with such issues. And his latest case is pretty troubling…
I think they wanted to fuse together movies like District 9, Elysium and Blade Runner to make a visually impressive and thought-provoking movie. They’ve only partially succeeded but I still appreciate the effort. Same as in another indie Spanish production, the 2001 Stranded. Or a more recent one, Tides, also set in a grim post-apocalyptic world. I feel like you have to be in a certain mood for these movies. You have to feel them calling to you, suggesting that you watch something different and refreshing.
As soon as I saw Dylan McDermott, I thought of another great movie featuring robots, Hardware. And Melanie Griffith of Cherry 2000. I won’t bother you with the rest of the cast as they all did solid jobs. The special effects were surprisingly good for this type of production. I especially liked the way the robots move. They look realistic and looke a lot of effort went into their design. I would dare to say they are comparable to those in much bigger productions like Chappie or Real Steel. This brings us to the stellar cinematography further pulling you into this desolate world. A world that we’re getting closer and closer to.
Director: Gabe Ibáñez
Writer: Gabe Ibáñez, Igor Legarreta, Javier Sánchez Donate
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Dylan McDermott, Melanie Griffith, Javier Bardem, Robert Forster, Tim McInnerny
Fun Facts: The rendition of Daisy Bell is reminiscent of the song sung by HAL, as he was being shut down in Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey.