Autómata (2014)

(On Cable TV, February 2016) There are a few things I really like in Automata: As a Spanish production, it has a sensitivity and flavour of its own; the practical special effects are impressive; it’s good to see Antonio Banderas in a lead role again; and it is deeply steeped into the 2014–2015 wave of movies pondering the coming AI revolution. On the other hand, I’m not so enthusiastic about much of the rest. The world building is absurd; the pacing is off; the plot threads lead nowhere interesting; and the film fails to do much with its own invented rules. “Life finds a way” is a dull foundation on which to base an artificial-intelligence thriller these days, and Automata, at times, seems to be boldly rediscovering Science-Fiction notions that were old-hat in 1980s SF movies or 1960s written SF. The ending is a let-down, some of the plot development are gibberish and Banderas doesn’t even get a capable foil to play against. While I started watching Automata with the best intentions, the film itself gradually ate away at my reserves of goodwill until the best I could say was a variation on “well, it’s a good effort”. On the other hand—a robot science-fiction movie from Spain? How rare is that? Shouldn’t we be happy that it even exists?

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