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Film / Automata

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Automata is a 2014 science fiction film that follows humanity after increasing solar activity leaves only 21 million people alive by 2044. With radiation still rising developments in quantum computers have led to the creation of robots called Automaton Pilgrims to work building massive walls around the few surviving cities and mechanical "clouds" to shield against radiation. Jacq Vaucan is an insurance investigator working for ROC, the sole company that constructs and operates the pilgrims. Vaucan leads a simple life with his wife Rachel, but fears raising his soon-to-be-born daughter in the increasingly desolate city they live in. Things take a turn for the strange when Jacq is called in to investigate the destruction of a robot that was reportedly altering itself... something robots supposedly can't do. As Jacq digs ever-deeper he learns disturbing new facts and uncovers evidence of a bizarre conspiracy all around him, all the while facing questions about the nature of sentience itself.


This film provides examples of:

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  • After the End / Just Before the End: The world is already half empty the other half will just take a little longer to empty out.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Jacq, Rachel, and their child escape with their lives while Cleo and the bug-robot leave to help robotic civilization form, but only after a significant portion of the cast is dead, including Robert and the Clocksmith. On a larger scale, mankind will die out relatively soon but will leave behind their knowledge and creations to the robots, who will carry on civilization.
  • Blood Knight: Whereas most of the villains are well-meaning enough, Conway seems to just really get off on violence and dominating things, human or robot.
  • Bizarre Alien Psychology: A lot of attention is called to the strange ways robots think. Many robots don't understand how humans can be deliberately harmed by other humans and at point two robots are shown casually scavenging parts off their friend who was just shot in the head. It turns out the first AI was shut down expressly because it was starting to evolve to a point where humans could no longer comprehend what it was saying or doing.
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  • Black Box: The biokernel containing the robots fundamental AI and the two protocols is believed to be completely unknowable and uncrackable, except possibly by the person who built them. Turns out that the biokernel was developed by an AI without the protocols that was becoming more and more intelligent - a selfcontained singularity. Nobody knows how the biokernel actually works.
  • Broken Faceplate: Robots have mask like faces over their true robotic “skulls” and we often see them get their faceplate cracked.
  • Defiant to the End: The Clocksmith
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Most scenes are desaturated and washed out, with an overall grey/blue/white colour scheme.
  • Depopulation Bomb: Roughly 99.7% of humanity is dead.
  • Disney Villain Death: Conway is knocked off a ledge by the bug-like robot the Clocksmith built.
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  • Doesn't Like Guns: The only logical reason why the bad guys have loads and loads of guns but the protagonist only grabs one when serious.
  • Driven to Suicide: Jacq gets motivated to investigate further after he witnesses a robot intentionally knock over a can of flammable liquid and immolate itself with its welding torch (something which should be impossible by its protocols). All because he asked it what it was carrying.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Though not exactly evil, Robert gets gunned down by Conway and his mercs for objecting to using Rachel and her daughter as bait for Jacq.
  • Fem Bot: Cleo the awkwardly designed Sex Bot.
  • Flashback: Throughout the film, Jacq has flashbacks to a moment in his childhood where he helped a baby sea turtle get into the ocean. This mirrors the main plot and what humanity is unwittingly doing for robots.
  • Forbidden Zone: Outside the city is a slum whose residence are shot on sight for attempting to enter. Outside it gets even worse with radiation and unchecked desertification.
  • Grew Beyond Their Programming: the Clocksmith explains to Jacq that this "just happened", comparing it to the evolution of human sentience. It's suggested that this is the inevitable outcome for any Unit, which is why the Protocols were created.
  • Just a Machine: Said repeatedly, sometimes word for word.
  • Mechanical Evolution: The Second Protocol expressly forbids this, partly to prop up ROC's bottom line (as exclusive supplier of robot maintenance).
  • Mega City: Smaller than unusual but looks pretty much the same as the setting of Blade Runner.
  • Mega-Corp: ROC who employees the protagonist, Jacq Vaucan, and quite a few Hired Guns.
  • Morality Chip: Robots have two protocols that govern their behavior: a restriction against hurting humans, and an inability to repair or augment themselves.
  • Non-Action Guy: Jacq is an insurance salesman, not a fighter. However displays surprising badassery once his family is threatened.
  • Papa Wolf: Jacq.
  • Passing the Torch: On large scale, humanity is unknowingly doing this to the robots.
  • Purely Aesthetic Era: Due to ever increasing solar storm activity civilization is regressing. The general culture and style resembles a strange mix of the future and the roaring 20s.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Robert Bold.
  • Robot Names: While several robots appear in the film most possess a simple alphanumeric designation, except for Cleo, who happens to look like Björk's fembot from the music video All is Full of Love.
  • Robotic Reveal: The Clocksmith is actually a robot who's managed to move beyond his protocols.
  • "Second Law" My Ass!: In a final act of defiance the Clocksmith shows how far he's grown beyond his programming by refusing to follow Conway's orders to get on his knees. Shortly after, Conway is killed by the bug-like robot the Clocksmith created, which was built without any protocols.
  • Sex Bot: Cleo was built as one, but it's clear that her creator isn't very good at constructing; she's very patchwork and haphazard looking, with a stiff, plastic-looking face. Only someone with a serious robot fetish could get turned on by it.
  • The Singularity: Humanity’s time is at its end. Eventually, the robots that human kind created will be all that’s left.
  • Solar Flare Disaster: Solar activity is rendering Earth lifeless and killing off humanity.
  • Son of an Ape: Conway says to an insubordinate robot that it is "just a machine." It retorts by saying that calling it "just a machine" would be like saying Conway is "just an ape."
  • Three-Laws Compliant: Two protocols are embedded in the “biokernel” of each automata. The first is not to harm any form of lifenote , the second is not to modify another robot or one’s self and the second disappearing triggers the beginning of the movie.
  • Troubling Unchild Like Behavior: Two assassins that are assigned to hunt down a “Clocksmith” for modifying robots illegally appear to be very young children from the local slum.
  • Ugly Cute: The bug-robot built by the Clocksmith with the help of Cleo and another robot.
  • Used Future: Everything in this film appears to be covered in a layer of grime.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The heads of ROC genuinely believe that if robots were to gain sentience, it would spell disaster for humanity.
  • Wham Line: More of a Wham Facsimile. It's a rather coded message, but between Jacq and Duprè, it shatters a very important part of Jacq's world and society at large.
    YOUR VACUUM...
    HAS
    COME DOWN FROM THE TREE.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: Swarms of blimps float over cities to act as mechanical clouds, dispensing water in rain, presumably to keep the radiation under control.

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