Autómata: robots shall not rule the Earth
by Alfonso Rivera
- Gabe Ibáñez’s 100% science-fiction film provides the ideal excuse for the Sitges Festival to pay tribute to its lead actor and producer, film star Antonio Banderas
Ever since he settled in Hollywood, Malaga-born actor Antonio Banderas has not forgotten his fellow countrymen and has always shown a keen interest in the situation of the film industry in Spain. That is why he has never hesitated to return to his home country whenever the opportunity has presented itself: it was in his native Andalucía that he shot his first foray into directing, Summer Rain; he also produced the apocalyptic Before the Fall in 2008; became a crazy doctor, following Almodóvar’s orders, in The Skin I Live In [+see also:
interview: Pedro Almodóvar
film profile] (and worked with Pedro once again in I’m So Excited [+see also:
film profile]); funded the animated titles The Missing Lynx, The Lady and the Reaper – which ended up being considered as a finalist in the short-film category for the Oscars in 2009 – and Justin and the Knights of Valour [+see also:
film profile]; and a few years ago threw himself into creating Autómata [+see also:
film profile], a complicated project in an industry that, despite its sporadic pockets of success, is taking some heavy damage.
For this reason, the fact that a man as powerful as Banderas is supporting a Spanish-made movie is, at the very least, plausible, even though the result may not quite measure up to the expected standard. In fact, at the recent San Sebastián Film Festival, where it was competing in the Official Section, it had already left audiences somewhat indifferent, rather than enthused. Now it has landed at the Sitges Festival and serves as an excuse to bestow the Grand Honorary Award upon its maker. And a 100% fantasy film like this one can receive no warmer welcome than at this event. The screening of the movie at Sitges took place at the same time as its release in distant lands such as China, South Africa and the United States, which goes to show that its construction and appeal – its cast is rounded off by actors and actresses such as Melanie Griffith (in a dual role – one human, the other robotic), Robert Foster, Dylan McDermott and Javier Bardem, who voices one of the androids – have borne their commercial fruit.
The action unfolds in a barren future in which androids are there to serve humans, helping them to carry out all sorts of tasks. Jacq Vaucan (Banderas), an insurance agent who works for the company that manufactures the androids, monitors them to make sure they don’t overstep the bounds of their functions, thus becoming more intelligent than their masters. What we are therefore watching is a tale with an unmistakable hint of Asimov, thanks to a screenplay written by the director, Gabe Ibáñez, together with Igor Legarreta and Javier Sánchez Donate. With his feature debut, Hierro [+see also:
interview: Gabe Ibáñez
film profile], five years ago, Ibáñez proved that he was able to make good use of the scenery to create toxic atmospheres. Indeed, the formal element of Autómata, with its pallid cinematography and desert-like landscapes, is strongly influenced by the comics of Moebius and the film Mad Max, but the movie’s biggest downfall is a plot which barely moves forward at all, which instils little excitement and which relies too heavily on a conflict that will seem – too – familiar to audiences thanks to iconic films such as Blade Runner and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The fact is that a film like this should not make such an obvious effort to aspire to greatness, and had it taken itself a bit less seriously by injecting a little humour, perhaps the chords that the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra regale us with from its soundtrack would not have provided the sonic backdrop to our snoozing.
(Translated from Spanish)