Brief Review: Automata (2014)

A collection of borrowed ideas makes Automata a visually interesting tale, but not a very memorable one.

A text-heavy opening sets the scene: solar flares irradiate the Earth and almost wipe out the human race.  Less than one per cent remain in cities that are surrounded by wasteland.  Primitive robots, called Pilgrims, are created to perform necessary maintenance work in the harsh environments.

In order to safeguard human life, these robots adhere to two unchangeable protocols; they cannot harm any form of life and they are banned from repairing or otherwise altering their own kind.

Jacq Vaucan (Antonio Banderas), a downtrodden insurance agent for a robotics corporation, is sent out to investigate reports of Pilgrims breaking protocol. Vaucan eventually finds evidence to suggest that someone is illegally tampering with Pilgrims and has found a way to bypass their protocols, which could have dire consequences for mankind.

Automata wears its influences proudly.  The rain-soaked dystopian city setting is reminiscent of Blade Runner, the wasteland has a distinct Mad Max flavour to it and the robot protocols idea borrows heavily from Asimov’s Laws.

The idea behind Automata is great.  The intrigue of Pilgrims going against their programming, the fascinating combination of retro and futuristic technology and Antonio Banderas holding it all together should equate to an entertaining yarn. Unfortunately, once the story escapes the confines of the city and continues out into the wasteland, everything starts to unravel.

The mystery that was so delicately set up gives way to a convoluted plot that doesn’t really make sense.  A sub-plot involving a corrupt cop (Dylan McDermott) with marital issues is hinted at but completely forgotten about.  Vaucan’s pregnant wife exists purely as motivation for him to try to get back to the city.  It’s problems like these that really detract from the experience.

Banderas admirably soldiers on with a strong performance but even he can’t stop Automata’s alarming decline into cliché territory.  It eventually descends into a jumbled mess of unfinished character arcs and unnecessary genre tropes.

Based on the first half of Automata I was going to award it four stars.  It was a promising start that ticked a lot of my boxes for good sci-fi.  However, the remainder of the film was so disappointing that it undermined everything good that came before it.




9 thoughts on “Brief Review: Automata (2014)

  1. I reviewed this film a couple of weeks back on my own blog, and came pretty much to the same conclusion. This film really had some potential, the story was interesting enough. But it eventually fell flat. Too bad really, had some high hopes for this movie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t agree with you, guys! Greg, you even said that based on the first half of the film you’d rate it 4/5…

      I think if you watch it as a standalone movie it has amazing ideas and is beautiful visually. But I did watch it on a big screen and that may have been important, obviously…

      I just don’t think we should be too harsh with a film like this, because… I cannot rewatch just Blade Runner all the time haha. But seriously, “Automata” some incredible ideas and scenes, mostly with the robots, of course. It’s a low-budget film, and there aren’t many like that. It’s also a Spanish sci-fi film which is a rarity.

      If you watch AI flicks like “Uncanny”, they are so horrible that you hate every minute of it… boring mess shot in few rooms with horrible actors… I cringed…rated it 1/4. Or “Natural City”, that copies entire scenes from “Blade Runner”. “Automata” is by no means a masterpiece, but I think it deserves some credit. It tries to invent something too, even if it doesn’t always succeed. I rated it 3/4.

      The second part was clumsy, yes, but the final with the robots making their choices and fighting for their future was interesting.

      I liked Dylan McDermott (who did an awesome role in Hardware, an awesome cult movie), although his character wasn’s written as well as Banderas’.

      Otherwise one day we’d finish just having big budget movies like “I, Robot”…

      Liked by 2 people

      • I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of Automata, but the second half was such a huge let down that it tainted the whole experience for me.

        There are some excellent ideas here, but they never felt as if they were explored deeply enough for my liking. I really wanted to like it because it contains a lot of sci-fi elements that I love, but I just thought that the negatives outweighed the positives.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Haha, well that is one of the reasons I love movies, everyone experiences them differently, and can have a different opinion for them. This movie just didn’t work for me as much as some other low budget movies. It certainly had some interesting ideas. From a visual point of view it also looked amazing, but I just could not get into it. I really had wanted to like it, and it could really have been a great movie, but it was just not one that I enjoyed enough. Sorry about that. I’m glad you enjoyed the movie though 😀

        Liked by 2 people

      • Ok… I will bite the bullet and still you a like fir this comment 😃 But it’s true, I’ve heard many people had issues with Automata when busking for reviews, although it stiill holds a decent rating on IMDb. That’s weird.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Yeah, it is at times strange what can make a person like a movie. Sometimes it really can’t be explained why some movies seem to be liked better than others 😊 But on the other hand if everyone would like the sane things, life would become pretty boring in the end lol 😂

        Liked by 2 people

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