Gabe Ibanez’ new sci-fi feature Automata is not a terrible movie by any means, but it is very, very familiar, to the point where little, if anything, comes across as original. If you were to break it down, you could damn near name the movie where each individual scene originates. You can’t help but notice direct lifts from Blade Runner, I, Robot, Dredd, Mad Max, District 9/Elysium, and countless others. Not to mention a variety literary allusions—Asimov and Philip K. Dick especially. This is like a hodgepodge of genre influences all thrown together, and all of this combined adds up to a movie that is wildly okay.
Automata desperately wants to be a movie about big themes and ideas, like what it means to truly be alive, to truly be human, and what happens when the technology we create eclipses our ability to control and even understand it. And then the film touches on environmental catastrophe, corporate control, home, family, dreams, and even conspiracy. Just as it is an aesthetic grab bag, so is it a thematic one, with everything you can think of tossed and jumbled together in for the hell of it. As a result, it never truly digs into any single thread; this is an idea movie without much of an idea.