Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"The audience should be warned that the film boasts a cliche level that could also be hazardous to health."

The director of Autómata Gabe Ibáñez is a visual effects specialist, unfortunately his talent in this area does not make up for a lack of storytelling skills in this derivative and disappointing take on dystopia. We've already been to this future - a hybrid of Blade Runner and Neill Blomkamp's District 9 - and what could initially be classed as homage, quickly slips into ho-humage.

As a police car crawls through the slick streets of a city drowning in the rain while giant adverts cavort among the skyscrapers, you fully expect Harrison Ford to emerge from its doors in crumpled style. Instead, our surrogate in this landscape is Antonio Banderas. He plays Jacq, an insurance claims investigator, who lives in a drab apartment with his heavily pregnant wife and dreams of moving to the seaside where he hopes the rain and life in general, will be less toxic. The audience, meanwhile, should be warned that the film boasts a cliche level that could also be hazardous to health.

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It may only be 2044, but things have not been going well, as a lengthy set of onscreen text informs us. In short, Earth has gone to hell in a radioactive handcart, the population has dwindled to 21 million and been forced to invent automata robots in a bid to protect themselves. Like most good sci fi film robots, these creations are supposed to follow a version of the Asimov code - no harming living creatures and definitely no changing their own systems. After one automata (they're sort of Terminator type skeletons with glowing red eyes) gets its head blown off by a drugged up cop who swears he saw it fixing itself and another apparently grooms a family pet to death, Jacq is sent by his boss Bob (Robert Forster) to find out whether their machines are going rogue.

It is at this point that the atmosphere is squandered, thanks to a complicated yet meandering plot that despite taking Jacq further and further from the city physically, never gets past page one in terms of development. The dependable Melanie Griffiths turns up as techno whizz Dr Dupre - who has created a sex-robot called Cleo, which seems to have managed to go beyond its programming (Griffiths also voices the robot). She delivers her plot exposition with panache but it makes so little sense, you begin to wonder if even the writers know where they wanted to take this story.

The plot becomes an intricate mess of cul-de-sacs and black holes, squandering great ideas such as technical regression, an early hint of political commentary about the robots as a sort of underclass and the impressive physicality of the automata in favour of having the robots try to create a 'baby' for reasons that remain frustratingly opaque. There are hints of Asimov here, a suggestion of Kafka there but confusion rules the day. Banderas makes the best of a bad job but with characters this thin, the future prospects for this film - just like our planet - are grim.

Reviewed on: 26 Sep 2014
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An insurance investigator finds himself on the trail of intelligent robots in a future dystopia.
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Director: Gabe Ibáñez

Writer: Gabe Ibáñez, Igor Legarreta, Javier Sánchez Donate

Starring: Antonio Banderas, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Melanie Griffith, Dylan McDermott, Robert Forster, Tim McInnerny, Andy Nyman, David Ryall, Andrew Tiernan, Christa Campbell, Christina Tam, Danny Kirrane, Philip Rosch, Javier Bardem, Harry Anichkin

Year: 2014

Runtime: 110 minutes

Country: Spain, US


SSFF 2014

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If you like this, try:

Blade Runner: The Final Cut
District 9