AUTÓMATA (film, 2014)

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AUTÓMATA (2014). Gabe Ibáñez, dir., co-script, with Igor Legarreta and Javier Sánchez Donate. Antonio Banderas, Dylan McDermott, Melanie Griffith (voice), Brigitte Hjort Sørensen, featured players. Spain/Bulgaria: Green Moon, Nu Boyana Viburno (prod.) / Millennium Entertainment (US theatrical dist.), 2014/2015.

IMDb storyline: "Jacq Vaucan is an insurance agent of ROC robotics corporation who investigates cases of robots violating their primary protocols against altering themselves. What he discovers will have profound consequences for the future of humanity" in a fairly near, dystopic future (post-2044) following solar flares rendering the Earth's surface radioactive and increasingly desert.[1] See and listen to for a variation on the theme of Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics (two protocols here), robot servitude and possible rebellion, robot agency — and the word "clockmaster" (IMDb synopsis) or "clocksmith" (Wikipedia entry) for someone who "illegally modifies robots" to avoid the second protocol, against self-repair, though the first protocol — against harming humans — seems to hold.[2] Note also a nuclear battery as a plot element and the building of the ultimate successor robot that the Wikipedia summary calls "insect-liket" — cockroach to be more specific —"that moves with the intelligent grace of a living being," who turns out quite positive, reversing the more common negative image in fiction and film of insectoid robots, and robot-like "Bugs."

Rich Erlich, one of the initial compilers, notes that the word is "clocksmith" in the DVD of AUTÓMATA he saw and listened to. He would classify the film as a relatively low-budget SF, post-disaster, film-noir art film, of interest for its handling in that hybrid mode of traditional themes of robotic "life" and volition. The film delicately invokes our sympathy for the robots, especially the "clunkers" and Cleo (the female-gendered sex-'bot) balanced against the threat and promise of the "Pilgrim" robots as, like children — and there is much in the film about children — our successors.[3] Mostly, the robots are worthy successors: ethically superior, and, with their "Biokernels" freed, our intellectual superiors. Cf. and contrast A.I. (film) and the works cross-listed there. Note the Cleo variety for gender issues: most of the robots, including an important unBoss one — "boss" is a human construct — are gendered male, but with "her" we first see the breakthrough in robotic AI, consciousness, evolution, and possibly art (at least of the dance), and compassion. Cleo does not, however, suffer a "Pinocchio complex," nor is she "Spam" ("Metal on the outside, but meat within"): a robot who wants to be human. A climactic image of the film, before a human-centered Coda, has "her" removing "her" mask of a human face and going off into a new world with the robotic cockroach, the two surviving robots and the new crown of Terran consciousness and, in a sense, life.

Trivia point: In what would be the position of the "third eye," if the Terminator-appearing robot had eyes, the unBoss robot has a variation-on-a-hexagon indentation, like a hex nut; from E. M. Foster's "The Machine Stops" through CLOUDY, WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2 (2013), hexagons have been common in works dealing with the human/machine interface.

(RDE, 26/XII/14, 9Jan15)