By Dave B.
In Automata (2014, currently on Netflix) the Earth’s surface has been ravaged by solar storms and the world’s population has been reduced to 21 million people living in a few scattered cities. Humans have supplemented their workforce with millions of robots who perform fairly mundane tasks. These robots are programmed with two rules: they can’t harm any lifeform and they can’t alter themselves or other robots. When a robot intentionally sets itself on fires, violating the second rule, humanity is faced with being supplanted by their own creations.
For some reason, Netflix has been recommending this movie to me for years, so I finally decided to check it out, mostly so that I wouldn’t have to keep seeing the preview for it. I expected the movie to be a second-rate Blade Runner. Instead, it’s a second-rate Blade Runner/I, Robot that has a surprisingly high production value, a moderately interesting story, some interesting themes, bad writing, and terrible pacing.
Fundamentally, Automata’s problem is that it doesn’t strike a good balance between its more philosophical moments and its more action-oriented ones. There are long stretches in the 109 minute movie that consist of nothing but walking and talking, and unfortunately, much of the talking is repetitive, whether the speaker is a human or a robot. Where the movie nearly shines is when it explores concepts such as human extinction and what humanity's legacy may be. If the movie had focused on those themes and spaced them out throughout the film, instead of basically cramming them nearly willy-nilly into the last half of the movie, I probably wouldn’t have almost nodded off a couple of times.
Overall, if Automata were 30 minutes shorter, better written, and more certain about whether it wants to be an action movie or a thought piece, it may have been in a solid movie. Instead, it meanders when it should hit hard and whispers when it could roar. I don’t recommend this movie. I didn’t hate it, but I’m glad that I won’t have to see the preview for it on Netflix ever again.
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.