Dir. Gabe Ibáñez
Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield
In 2044 the Earth has evolved into a hazardous land, cities are distanced behind barricading walls to protect its inhabitants from the radioactive barrens that surround them. Sent to rebuild civilisation were machines but when all hope was lost in reclaiming the planet as it was, the machines were left abandoned and remained only as slaves to the men and women who purchased them. Able to function with two directives, protect humans, and not to enhance itself, the machines live alongside humans aiding their way of life.
When insurance investigator Jacq Vaucan (Antonio Banderas) sees a machine commit suicide, alarm bells trigger that these sentinels of AI are much more evolved than first thought showing disobeyment to protocol 2, and when a modified robot saves him from a shooting, he finds himself on a journey to the end of the earth learning that the end of the earth for humans may not be the end of life at all. This is man versus machine but not as we know it.
This is essentially a vehicle for Banderas to carry alone, despite a plotline of huge implications, Banderas is just a guy in the wrong place at the wrong time, not so much speeding up events, rather standing as an eye witness.
Despite it’s distinction between what is right and wrong the motive to protect mankind against the evolution of machines is much more relatable than the belief that one day there will be an Earth populated by the evolution of machines. This is conflicting between the emotion on screen as the relationship between human and robot begins to blur as the AI of Chloe slowly wins over Jacq and his humanist beliefs.
The biggest problem here is that the whole film is based on theories outlined in other films over the past decade. I, ROBOT, A.I. and THE MACHINE to name a few and while AUTOMATA explores a more evolved creature, it’s mind is still the same. Yet despite it’s huge ramifications on human extinction and successor, Ibanez does well to do this on a relatively small budget and confined scope. Amidst a city much akin to BLADE RUNNER, most of the action takes place in a deserted wasteland and an old derelict outpost.
While the humanists track down Jacq and the rogue bots, their extremes to save mankind go a little overboard but unjustly, Jacq’s rationale to protect the machines becomes evermore baffling.
Visually stunning to watch, yet lacking the finesse to be a truly great piece of science fiction that it wants to be, even a powerful performance from Banderas cannot bring this any higher than average in a market of “seen-it-all-before” science fiction. With little threat of danger outside that caused by Jacq and his pursuit to protect the machines, until the very end even he does not understand what is at stake. AUTOMATA tries hard to be its best and is certainly one to watch for a late night popcorn flick, even if that perhaps was not the intention.