If there's one thing that can be said about Automata based on its trailer, it's that the film isn't afraid to wear its influences on its sleeve. That's probably a good thing, because Spanish filmmaker Gabe Ibañez has stuffed his movie to the gunwales with nods to the science fiction masterpieces of yesteryear and modern classics alike; watching the clip, one might detect hints of District 9's DIY polish or a dash of Wall-E's environmental woes peppered among top notes of Blade Runner.
That's just to name a few movies among many, many others (I, Robot chief among them). More importantly, though, the myriad allusions and riffs on display in the preview might not necessarily matter. For one thing, it's just refreshing to see a director own their sources of inspiration; for another, Automata looks so slickly made, so exciting, so thoughtful, and so darn good that Ibañez's blatant homage might not even matter. Good artists borrow, great artists steal, as the old adage goes.
Of course, this just a teaser, but the amount of work that Ibañez appears to have sunk into his own take on the tried and true "robots achieving consciousness" trope is impressive regardless. (Plus, it's just plain nice to see Antonio Banderas continue his campaign on the comeback trail following this year's The Expendables 3.) Could be that he's pulled something wholly original out of his undisguised bricolage of reference points; that's arguably a remarkable feat on its own merits.
The film takes place fifty years in the future as Earth is buckling under the weight of ecological catastrophe at the height of its technological accomplishments. The planet is littered with robots, each beholden to the same set of laws that govern their behavior in just about every sci fi film ever made; concurrently, Banderas plays an accident investigator who inspects these machines to ensure their operating functions are up to snuff. When he takes on what seems to be a routine case of robot modification, he's whisked off on an adventure of discovery with a varied group of rogue androids.
This is what happens when robots gain consciousness; they take measure of their own mortality and force humans around them to consider what it means to be human. Taken in that regard, Automata feels even more like a genre retread, but Ibañez deserves the benefit of the doubt just for the design work showcased here alone. The antecedents are clear, but the execution is terrific at a glance. (And who can say no to Dylan McDermott bounty hunting Banderas and his newfound mechanical chums?)
Automata will arrive in theaters October 10th, 2014.
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