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Harry flips for Gabe Ibanez's AUTOMATA at Fantastic Fest 2014!!!



I love this film.  This is the kind of science fiction that I will never ever get enough of. Gabe Ibanez has created a film that falls between the two time periods of Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg’s A.I.  But this film begins by informing us that due to catastrophic solar radiation, 99.7% of us are gone.   There are apparently a few last bastions of humanity upon the Earth with mechanical clouds, towering holographic skyline entertainment…  And the robots built the wall that protects the city from the radiation of the desert and to help form a bit of life on a planet that won’t be hospitable for us in like… a million years.


This is a form of the apocalypse, but here… bureaucracy exists, corporations, the employed masses…  and Robots abound.  Antonio Banderas is playing a burnt out Insurance Agent tasked with finding ways to indemnify his employers from having to pay out for the robot damages claims.  From the cases we see him investigate, we’re mainly seeing paranoid humans blaming robots from doing things that they in fact are not capable of doing.


Yup, we have some Asimov laws that have been adapted to keep the robots from evolving.  It is a program with a doorstop upon progression.  The film plays with not only the realm of texts like Asimov’s I, ROBOT, but also something like Eando Binder’s wondrous ADAM LINK.   But, the story is its own. 


The opening half of the film is set in this walled city and the ghetto beyond its walls.   This realm is very much the realm of Sci Fi we love from folks like Ridley Scott and Terry Gilliam.   It’s a grand vision.  And you can imagine the life being continually depressing and dire as resources are most likely doomed – though we don’t see or hear about that, but it would have to end up becoming a Logan’s Run style society eventually… but at this point it’s a bit of a Mega-City. 


Now the great news is that the robots are full size marionetted by invisible green screen puppeteers and it has a grace and a pathos to the movements that are outstanding.   Gabe also frames shots like Robert Wise’s THE HAUNTING, where you always have a settling or a glimpse of a robot in the shots as people say things and you can’t get away from the fact that we as viewers tend to bestow life upon the lifeless quite easy, but just like those statuary faces of old… there’s a creep factor to it.  


I don’t think Antonio Banderas’ Jacq Vaucan hates robots…  in fact I’m pretty sure he admires the robots.  His faith in their perfection just makes the job tiresome as people make outlandish claim after outlandish claim and sees the robot as faultless.  When a police officer claims a robot was self repairing when he decided to SHOOT IT IN THE HEAD…  that simply just can not happen.  Jacq knows, a robot can not repair itself, nor make modifications.  That’s a human thing.  Jacq also believes that Dylan McDermott’s wonderful asshole future cop, Wallace, could be delusional.  


However, when the autopsy and interrogation of the robot reveals strange things afoot – we suddenly have a mystery for Antonio’s Jacq to solve.   Jacq has a beautiful wife with a child on the way, and he hates this town.  When his boss, played by ROBERT FORSTER!!!!!, gives him hope for a transfer to possibly the coast… Banderas becomes a man possessed with finding the truth.


Everybody loves a good mystery – but the mystery is only part of the film.   There’s another part.  The part I absolutely love.  


It is where a man who has no reason to live, can no longer stand in the way of another to live.  We end up with questions about human thought processes, that these A.I. simply wouldn’t find logic in… like suspicion and violence…     I love that the robots are called PILGRIMS – I yearned for a “Saddle Up Pilgrims” moment… but it was never to be.  


It’s on this robotic Walkabout, that we begin to understand the logic of these thinking machines.  The frustration of the monkey and its babysitters.   But the robots find life precious… it is all they want… like JOHNNY FIVE!!!  But not at all. 


I love the question that we face in these days we live in.   Do we limit intelligence?  Consciousness?  Do we oppress it from our inferior irrational fear based chemical reactor between our ears?   Or do we become WALLE folks?   Are we already?   Then there’s what happens when robots create their own lifeform – and we see the beginning of an evolution from the really impractical and limiting realities of the humanoid form.  Or the incredibly limiting verbal communication.   When in mere seconds great enormous chunks of knowledge and communication will occur and we have LUCY or HER or TRANSCENDENCE.    And here, the Robots are asking to be allowed to exist where we can not.   And I love that.   We have great minds that say, the robots will inherit the earth and it need not be in violence.  It could be the lasting thing beyond our mortal shells.


I love this movie because it should allow you to ask questions and mull around your thoughts upon the answers, your hopes, fears…  I love that the robots creation is something absolutely not human, but the robots – are evolving.  As all life in the universe does. 


Also in that end is a human story.  And the beginning of a new story. 


I love Javier Bardem’s Blue Robot voice, I love how weird Melanie Griffith is as Dra Dupre, she modifies robots into sexbots and tries to enhance some of their abilities.  But she’s just helping upon the investigation.  She’s also the voice of CLEO, the female-bot that we get to follow and possibly...  Just see the film man!  


This is an incredibly detailed vision here.  For me, this is exactly the feeling I want to think about as I’m coming out of the film.   I want to talk these subjects and read articles that scare the shit out of me.  I mean… it’s only in fiction that authors would dare to dream of a pacified automaton race to serve us… in reality, we’re building masses of robots that can kill without supervision.  Because supervision is too slow when ya got killing ta do. 


BLADE RUNNER comes to mind with this film, but imagine if Ford’s Deckard had joined say Rachael and Roy Batty on the path to freedom and the dream of creating a society of your own… outside of the limiting influence of humanity.  I love this stuff so much!


Oh – and this movie is less than half the budget of BLADE RUNNER.  I’m not saying I rank this over that or that one over that one, but there’s also a bit of PLANET OF THE APES to the film…  and I love that too.  I mean, even Dr. Zaius let Taylor and Nova go into the wilderness.  


Smart cinematic science fiction concerning robots can’t come often enough – and this one is quite a jewel for those of us that love watching a great speculative moment in history.  Things would change after this film and who knows would would come.  We saw Kubrick/Spielberg’s vision, I’d love to see where Gabe Ibanez would take this.   However, I get the idea that we’re going to see quite a bit more of Gabe in the future… which is where we all want him!   He’s one to watch!

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