Saturday, April 11, 2015

Autómata review

Autómata (2014) Review
by Joseph Picard
April, 2015

Hey, did you like the movie 'I Robot'? Shame on you. Go read the book. #authorsnob Oh, I kid, the movie was a fun, high action romp and all, but can they jam some more product placements in there? The movie left you with no deeper thoughts than a now-tired 'what if robots decided they were alive?'

So, Autómata. Take I Robot, strip off the excess commercialism, and add a dump truck of grit. It would be so easy to drop a few spoilers accidentally, to explain what makes Autómata different from I Robot at it's core. But I'll tell you what I can, safely..
In I Robot, we are told of the three rules of robotics... ahem...

“A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.”
-Isaac Asimov

So, be nice to humans, obey humans, and lastly, and least of all, protect yourself. Asimov's rules have become nearly gospel in robotics, at least fictional robotics.

Autómata changes things slightly, with two rules, not three.
1- Do not harm ANY form of life,
2- Do not modify or repair any robot, including yourself.

Things start to hit the fan when a police officer runs into one in a slum, doing repairs to itself. The officer is creeped out and shoots it with his handy dandy shotgun before calling it in.

Did I mention this is an unpleasant future? World population is down to 10% of what it was. Solar flares have shredded much of the upper atmosphere and continue to make a lot of technology... well, if not broken, less effective or impractical. Most of the Earth is desert. Air travel is a thing of the past. Acid rain is the norm, (f you can get any rain) but at least in the city, metal clouds regulate weather. But not the acidity. Raincoats are important in the city. It lends itself to a little bit of a Bladerunner feel at times.

I was hesitant to call this an action movie. There's gunfights, a car chase, an explosion or two... so why am I hesitant to call it an action movie? What's an action movie these days... endless nonsensical explosions, with pointless nonsensical plot. Autómata lacks those aspects. I found the action scenes interesting mainly because they could change the flow of the story. People die that really could have contributed to the heroic cause further, (the cause doesn't start so heroic, the main character is an insurance investigator, who's assigned to pin damages blame to someone so the company doesn't have to pay out on a claim,) but heroics ensue... reluctantly.

Oh, our hero, by the way, played by Antonio Banderas. He did an amazing job. The role mostly called for 'grit', and I suppose didn't call for a wide range of sparkling emotions, but he was convincing. The accent was a little distracting a times, but not much.

The movie drops clues in your lap about what's going on and why, and not all of them are acted upon by the characters for various reasons, leaving you with a bit of brain candy. If you chew that brain candy, you might find an opening for a sequel. Ooh, I think it'd be a doozy, but I'm not holding my breath. It stands alone pretty well, and given it didn't exactly bust any box-office numbers, I'd guess a sequel is unlikely.

For gritty, realistic play on the “A.I. Is coming alive!” trope, set after an enormous global disaster, drizzled with Bladerunner, and a plot that doesn't treat you like an idiot, give Autómata a go.

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