Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Automata (no spoilers)

 (I'll try and not drop any spoilers here, but will talk about some of the plot and such, so if that bothers you, you might want to read it after you've seen the movie.)

Automata is a SF noir film starring Antonio Banderas as Jacq,  Birgitte Hjort Sorensen, Dylan McDermott, Melanie Griffiths, Robert Forster, and others. It's set in a dystopian future where mankind has lost a large amount of its population, and basically ruined the environment of the  planet, which now, basically lays in a desert waste, except for a few populated areas.  A lot of people are going to compare this to Bladerunner or maybe even Mad Max in the second half or maybe even I, Robot, which may frustrate them even more. The thing about Automata is that it's a bit all over the place with its SF tropes, but that didn't bother me.

I can't say the movie didn't frustrate me a little bit, however I can still give it a thumbs up (maybe not both thumbs) if you enjoy SF and aren't too critical.  It was shot and acted well, and held my interest throughout, but in the end left me scratching my head a bit.  There were a lot of things in it that made me question the director's motivation on certain details like why would a robot have boobs?  I know it's a sexbot in the film and probably used to differentiate between the male and female robots, but just seemed odd--why would robots need a gender? But that's small details.

Automata is basically similar to Bladerunner somewhat in style though not done as well.  But also in that they are SF detective fiction, in that it follows Jacq, an insurance investigator, who is assigned to track a robot that murdered a dog.  These robots have the same protocols similar to the Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, but in this film, there's just two:  they cannot harm any form of life and they can neither repair themselves nor alter another robot in any fashion.

So Jacq (Banderas) starts tracking this robot that has killed a dog. The death of the dog suggest that the second protocol has been breached.  So like Bladerunner and the movie, Soylent Green, there appears more beneath the surface with office politics, lethal corporations cover-ups, and so forth. Jacq's trail leads him to a pleasure robot, Cleo, and Melanie Griffith's character.  It appears that Cleo is trying to break protocol and not taking orders, being a stubborn robot. 

Eventually Jacq is taken prisoner by the robots, and taken out in the desert wasteland.  This is all leading to uncovering the mystery or does it?  The premises hinges on A.I. and robots becoming self aware, and overcoming their protocols of robotics.  Was there an allegory here?  Probably, but I must admit I missed it.  I enjoyed the journey of the story, but left me scratching my head--what was this movie trying to say? A lot of SF uses allegories in their stories to address other problems, but I wasn't really sure what the movie was aiming at: fear of technology or science, ecological, freedom in general for the robots too?  Maybe a little bit of all of that.  I also didn't quite understand what the robots wanted to gain out in the desert.  Yes, there was one reveal there in the desert, but they seemed to have other motives that weren't addressed, something they seemed to want to build on a grander scale (or maybe I'm reading more into the film than what was there).

So I got up the next day and checked around on the web, and I guess I get it now, but it wasn't clearly brought out in the film ie. technology overcoming mankind, free will, etc.  At any rate, the ending was a little bit unsatisfying for me, while others may think the whole film is a waste of time.  Personally,  I enjoyed it for what it was: a SF noir unraveling a mystery that kept me thinking where it was going.  It wasn't a prefect film, but at least gave me something to think about, which is more than a lot of SF these days, and the effects were done pretty well.  


At 8:07 AM, Blogger Roman J. Martel said...

Wow, I never heard of this movie. It sounds like it has some potential. Thanks for the review.

At 6:57 AM, Blogger El Vox said...

You're welcome Roman. I enjoyed it for what it was. Some of the comparisons (Bladerunner) are going to turn off those who go into the film expecting that. It's not, though some of the style strives for some of that. I like SF that makes you think a bit, plus I like world building SF, and at least it did that, without dumbing down. It's pretty well done however, and worth a rental if you're in the mood.


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