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Automata

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Mark Suszko
Automata
on Dec 21, 2014 at 7:02:09 am

Trailer is here:







Pretty high-end casting here, in a movie that has many echoes of "Blade Runner" in it, only with more hispanic flavor than asian. After solar flares have damaged the Earth, humans maintain a tenuous and slowly failing existence in crowded cities, while sending out robots into the ever-encroaching desert wilderness to attempt to reclaim it. That fails, but now there are hordes of robots mixed into the human population, doing menial tasks as a slave class, governed and controlled by a variation on Asimov's 3 laws Of Robotics. Only in this case, our protagonist uncovers a case where robots have been altered to ignore the pre-programmed law that keeps them from evolving their intelligence dangerously beyond our own. The rest of the movie is the conspiracy unwinding while the corporate powers-that-be aim to keep it under wraps and control it, by any and all means.

Basically, it's "Witness" meets "Blade Runner", with a soupcon of Children of Man".

Banderas does a more than credible job here, and his character is the most well-developed. He's just an insurance investigator with a wife and a baby on the way, who wants desperately to get out of the crappy city and find some kind of better place to live, near the sea, an idea we're reminded of thru repeating dream sequences of his youth at some unspecified beach. He comes across a case that makes no sense, one that everybody urges him to solve or drop, so long as it goes away quietly, and his bosses' desire to close the case fast may be the leverage he needs to gain a beach retirement/escape. The first third of the movie moves well in establishing the world Banderas' character is in, the rules by which it works, and the steps of an investigation. But the mystery deepens as Banderas consults cops and scientists, of which his real-life wife is one. Melanie Griffith unfortunately has had too much plastic surgery done and I thought she was a CGI robot in her first scenes until I finally recognized her. She's only in the movie for maybe ten minutes, and is mainly there for expository background and to advance the plot one notch. The cast is rounded out with decent turns by Dylan McDermott and Robert Forster trying hard to "noir it up".

Well-shot and directed by co-writer Gabe Ibáñez, the film's art direction and photography remind me of Alejandro González Iñárritu's work. The CGI, mixed with practical effects, has a unique look and works pretty well considering it was probably shot on a smaller than average budget. The cinematography really got across the sense of a dry, dusty, dessicated world, slowly burning out... made me thirsty while watching it. I found the pacing just a little slow, but others may call it "lyrical". The plot has a couple of holes and no real surprises, but it's more interested in the ideas of machine awareness than gunplay, though there is plenty of gunplay. One thing that took me out of the moment a bit was the foley/sound design work on the shotguns, which look like normal shotguns but have added electrical charging whining added. This was a bummer after other audio decisions I liked: many of the robots talk with the same synthetic voice as the automated greeter at my Walgreen's drug store drive-up window.

Still, overall, an enjoyable film for a sci-fi audience. Not really a large-screen experience but a don't-miss-it on the rental/PPV circuit. I'd give it a solid B.


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