Runtime: 109 Mins
What To Expect: Suprisingly good looking movie with a conclusion that lets it down
I would have to say that upon hearing about this movie, from Millenium and Nu Boyana, alarm bells started ringing, given the scope of the thing – post apocalyptic Blade Runner territory. That type of thing is usually reserved for two fields, one is a production with a gigantic budget and directed by the likes of Ridley Scott. The other appears on the SyFy Channel, where the main attraction is to find something hilarious to point at while shit-faced on the couch at 2am. Guess which territory this one looked like it was headed into? Turns out that it went into a different niche, along the lines of, say, Equilibrium (2002), a small but visually immersive dystopian feature. For this movie, surprisingly it’s not terrible. But unsurprisingly it’s not good either.
Kinda like i-Robot, starring Will Smith, this movie is about AI passing a threshold. Set in 2044 after solar storms have ravaged the earth and killed 99% of the population, the remainder of the living invent ‘PILGRIM’ robots to secure their cities with walls and force-fields from harmful radiation. Antonio Banderas is Jacq Vaucan, an insurance investigator for the company that runs the bots. The robots are preprogrammed to never hurt a human being or never alter themselves physically or electronically. Banderas is called out to investigate cases of units self-harming and deliberately destroying themselves, which leads to intrigue and a single source spurring the disruption. Vaucan must find out who is doing it and why.
Few people can come up with a premise as good as this. Fewer still can bring it to an equally satisfying and impressive conclusion. Writer and director Gabe Ibáñez can’t reconcile his intriguing pitch with a worthy ending, or even a worthy second half – Automata asks great questions and shrugs its own shoulders when it comes to answers. The movie’s quality, which is definitely there at the start especially for the budget, ends with Vaucan’s ‘desert trek’, which drags out 20 minutes which have no business being in the movie. After what I suspect must have been more than a couple of re-writes, the pseudo-philosophical ending leaves us clinging to the remote.
Aside from the obvious limitations of the production – look closely and you’ll spot that absurdly fake American street from The Expendables 2 – the movie at leasts looks somewhat competent. While you wait for it to get to a fucking point, it has some impressive visuals and robotic work. I’m still not sure if those robots are CGI or props, maybe a combination of both. Anyway, it’s a waste of time. It’s no Blade Runner or even i-Robot. Just a showcase for Banderas’ significant acting skills.