Automata Blu-ray review
It’s 2044 and, according to the opening text, “increased solar storms have turned the Earth’s surface into a radioactive desert and reduced the human population by 99.7% to 21 million people.” But wait, there’s more: “Atmospheric disturbances have disabled most terrestrial communication systems, pushing civilization to a process of technological regression.”
Because of this, a business called corporation has created something called The Automata Pilgrim 7000, “primitive robots designed to build the walls and mechanical clouds that protect the humans who inhabit the last remaining cities.” Said robots are programmed to maintain humanity and without the ability to alter themselves.
Word comes through that an automata was “self-repairing” and a police officer had to shoot it. Jacq Vaucan (Antonio Banderas, THE EXPENDABLES 3), an insurance man for the corporation, is called in. He’s been thinking of transferring with his pregnant girlfriend, Bridget (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, who portrayed painter Marie Krøyer in Bille August’s THE PASSION OF MARIE), and is offered the chance if he finds someone to hold accountable by his boss (Robert Forster, Antoine Fuqua’s OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN). In his investigation, he quickly discovers that perhaps humans should be more alert of self-aware machines (via a robot with a secret that participates in self-immolation).
The general premise of robots becoming sentient and posing a threat to humanity has been done in the science-fiction genre repeatedly and so AUTOMATA had to somehow make itself stand out. It does at times by bringing in corporate conspiracies and cover-ups and by offering some commentary on corporate fear of being made obsolete, but it really doesn’t seem like screenwriters Gabe Ibáñez, Igor Legaretta Gomez and Javier Sanchez Donate want to run with it. Since the trio doesn’t take it far enough, viewers have no reason to contemplate the ideas any further. A level of dimension is also added to Jacq by having repetitive flashbacks of a younger version by the ocean, which has since vanished from the planet, but even they fall short of contributing much.
With that, AUTOMATA never quite elevates itself to be anything but expected and standard. While Banderas looks comfortable playing his character and in an unfamiliar genre and director Gabe Ibáñez (2009’s HIERRO, which earned its director a Golden Camera nomination at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival) has a clear vision, neither does more than merely get by—Banderas has to do more than throw on a dusty suit to show how much he is suffering and Ibáñez has to do more than feature sleek interiors and abandoned vehicles to show a futuristic dystopia.
So much probably seemed so right and inventive on paper, but when translated to the screen, it seems like such little effort was put in—the performances are basic, the robots resemble background clutter in either TERMINATOR: SALVATION or I, ROBOT and the look (with credit going to production designer Patrick Salvador) are uninspired.
The supporting cast includes Dylan McDermott and Melanie Griffith, who plays a scientist and also voices an insufferable prostitute robot.
Video: 2.35:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. While the dystopian look is intentional and maintained, the colors are still awfully weak and the overall image lacks life. Despite the noticeable flaws, details in skin and clothing are fairly strong throughout.
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD. Subtitles in English and Spanish. The action sequences stand out and put surround sound speakers to use with whizzing bullets and powerful explosions.
“Making Of” Featurette (4:50): This featurette briefly covers the plot, characters and themes of AUTOMATA.