Starring: Antonio Banderas, Dylan McDermott, Melanie Griffith
Genre: Thriller/ Sci-Fi
By the year 2044, 99.7% of the world’s population has died and the ROC Corporation have designed highly sophisticated robots to assist the human race in their continued battle for survival. To maintain the status quo they are designed with two key security protocols; they can neither harm humans nor alter themselves. During a routine investigation, an ROC insurance agent (Banderas) makes a discovery that could have world changing consequences for the human race.
Science fiction is most certainly a notoriously hard genre to get right in cinema; it can certainly be divisive, but also if a film lacks the intelligence and storytelling grandeur to back up its high concept then it can simply feel like vacuous b-movie drivel. Well, the fact that Automata went straight to DVD in the UK is quite fitting, it has at its foundations a potentially interesting and pertinent concept, but it fails to capitalise on this in quite a staggeringly bad way.
Straight from the off Automata unashamedly copies Bladerunner with its set design and even the clothes some characters wear, and it seems to half-heartedly try to set some kind of mood or tone. Though the opening promises potential, the ensuing narrative completely destroys any potential the initial concept has, producing a real boring and overlong mess of a film that simply descends into lazy genre clichés. The ideas and themes of the story have certainly been done many times before, which in isolation is of course not a problem (Ex Machina took familiar themes and did exceptional work with them), but director Gabe Ibáñez doesn’t seem to even attempt to do anything interesting with them.
There is admittedly the occasional striking image, but as the narrative develops it rapidly descends into unbelievably lazy genre clichés, making for a truly laborious experience with little reward. The supposed human interest element of the story is also poorly put together, with Antonio Banderas’ protagonist being completely two dimensional and forgettable, with no compelling characteristics and a very predictable and lazily written character arc.
Banderas himself is horribly miscast; lacking any kind of screen presence, and though of course the abysmal dialogue and story would mean any actor would struggle to make the protagonist of Jacq Vaucan memorable or worth caring about, a bald headed Banderas sometimes makes truly cringe inducing viewing. To supposedly make us care about him he has a heavily pregnant wife, but this just proves to be an embarrassingly lazy and ultimately misguided attempt at character development and empathy. Meanwhile Mrs Banderas herself Melanie Griffith also turns up for a few scenes, but is truly abysmal in what is supposed to be a role crucial to the narrative (if the narrative were actually half decent).
As the narrative clunks along and clichés are ticked off, Automata becomes increasingly arduous viewing as it seems that even Ibáñez gives up and has no idea what to do with his story, producing an ending that is as predictable as it is anti-climactic. Automata has good ideas at its core, but fails to capitalise on them in quite a staggeringly bad way, and it deserves its place in the bargain priced DVD bin.
A hideous example of how to get a notoriously difficult genre horrendously wrong; Automata obviously wants to be the films it shamefully rips off, but its increasingly lazy descent into genre cliché makes an increasingly dull mess that deserves its straight to DVD status.