Cinematic Releases: Automata

The promising Automata hit limited screens and streaming services this weekend. Find out what we thought.

"My name is Antonio Banderas.
You killed my father.
Prepare to die."
As proven time and time again in movies and books, our future is a dark place where the environment is tainted, society has been fragmented, and robots exist to serve humankind while they ultimately become hyper intelligent and decide to become separatists. Sound familiar? 

Taking hard influences from Arthur C. Clarke and Philip K. Dick, Automata looked like it could be a strong entry in the lagging field of science fiction and a possible return for Antonio Banderas and his non-human looking wife, Melanie Griffith. Fans of the genre will be disappointed at this lackluster attempt and confused by a story that never takes shape. Automata lags from front to back, never taking shape while sitting at one boring pace the whole time. 

The trailers promised a smart science fiction tale with great special effects and themes ripped right from Blade Runner,  I, Robot or even the smaller budgeted Hardware. While it shares some thematic characteristics of those features and dozens of other movies just like it, Automata never capitalizes on its nice looking effects or robot design. It's substandard in its execution of plot and has nothing new or original to say. Scenes happen for no reason, the plot gets jumbled, the narrative feels contrived, and horrible supporting actors make Automata hard to watch from beginning to end. 

"Listen here, Robot.
I was Zorro. No more comments
about my career, ok?"
Banderas is in strong form here. His acting has definitely improved while he works his way through the script to the best of his ability. However, everyone around him sucks. The villains are wooden, the main bad guy is boring, and the short performance from Mrs. Griffith is eerie and sad. This once beautiful actress looks nothing like herself anymore, a victim of botched plastic surgery. The few times she's on screen, it's like she's reading from a prompter. Even Dylan McDermott can't scrape together two lines of believable dialogue. I'm not sure if it's poor direction or if everyone just realized how bad this script was. But no one in Automata cares enough to give any attention to detail and no one comes close to any kind of emotional connection with their specified character. 

Automata (in premise) could have been an enjoyable jaunt into the future. It shares familiar tones with many other more successful genre entries. But, it's story is hard to follow, the actors are uninspired, and overall it's rather boring for a movie that should be fantastical and somewhat driven by action. When it finally hits a stride, it's way too late, and nothing really adds up. Automata is just another science fiction film that can't live up to the expectations set by its engaging trailer. With more clarity of plot, focus on character development, and some better acting, Automata could have been a cool feature. Unfortunately, it never ramps up into a worthy effort.