The Horror Honeys: SIGH, ROBOT


A Sci-Fi Honey Review by Katie

Autómata (2014)

Let’s face it: if we go by what the sci-fi genre tells us, the future of our planet is a bleak and hopeless place.  Changes in our atmosphere will render Earth uninhabitable for human life, whether it is an icy, snow-blanketed tundra like the one depicted in Snowpiercer or The Colony – or perhaps it will be an arid desert, like the scorched wasteland depicted in director Gabe Ibáñez’s new release, Autómata.  Either way, these movies use inhospitable environments to force characters into desperate situations, involving survivalist warfare and class struggle, with perhaps an action hero – in this case, Antonio Banderas – to lead us to salvation.  Once corporations start building legions of robots to “help” us, as they do in Autómata, you should probably just accept that the apocalypse is nigh and retreat to your bunker.

Seriously, you don't want to go through this.

The film’s extensive backstory begins with the change in our environment to a perpetual desert-like state, the air and land heavy with radioactivity caused by solar flares.  The millions of robots, or Autómata, were invented as a means to rebuild society in areas that radiation-sensitive humans could not venture; over time, however, they came to live with families as indentured domestic servants.  Rendered “safe” by the company that manufactured them, the Autómata are equipped with two protocols: the first, that they cannot harm another living creature, and the second, that they cannot fix themselves.  They are computer-chipped machines, however, and anything that can be programmed can be hacked.  One robot is seen repairing his injured leg; one is caught stealing; and one commits robot suicide by self-immolation.  Clearly something is amiss with our android friends, and the Robot Corporation sends their best insurance adjuster, Desperado himself, to investigate.

Antonio Banderas: Robot-Cop
The sci-fi genre is chock-full of stories about robot rebellion; they were created by man with the intention of serving man, but once they achieve a modicum of self-awareness, they turn on their masters in often-deadly ways.  Audiences see these films primarily for two reasons: one, we want to see cool robots, and two: we know we are seeing the same old story, but we want it depicted in a fresh and exciting way. 

Does Autómata accomplish this?  Let’s start with the first aspect of the robot subgenre, the robots themselves.  They are actually very well done in this film – nothing new in terms of their design, but they have a naturalistic way of moving and speaking, and interact with our human characters in believable ways.  The one creep factor for me was a prostitute robot named Cleo, who was designed to be – shapelier, let’s say – than the other robots.  Voiced by Melanie Griffith, Cleo engages in some questionable flirtatious moments with Banderas, which led me to imagine all the things this robot prostitute might’ve been used for.  Look, I know there’s probably already a whole section of the Internet devoted to this type of thing, but it doesn’t mean I want it in my mainstream sci-fi movies.  Got it, robo-porn enthusiasts?!

One of these is an actor, and the other is Melanie Griffith.
Unfortunately, while the robots are a positive aspect of what this movie has going for it, and even an intriguing premise, it fails on just about every other level.  The story plods along at such a sluggish pace, the few moments of action that perk up the film aren’t enough to keep it afloat.  The acting from Banderas, Griffith, and even Dylan McDermott as a harried cop is uneven and uninspired.  It’s never a good sign when the robots and their environs are the most interesting part of a film that’s supposed to make us care about its human characters; and with dialogue laden with nonsensical philosophizing, the actors come off as more robotic than their hardware-powered co-stars.  I’d gladly see another film from Ibáñez, his production designers, and his effects team, as long as the story and actors involved are not cruising on Autómata’s mind-numbing autopilot.

Sci-Fi Honey Rating:  Two robot prostitutes out of five.  Let’s hope this is not our future.