Of all the roles one can imagine Antonio Banderas playing after the apocalypse, insurance agent probably isn’t high on the list. After playing everything from Zorro to a gunslinging mariachi in Robert Rodriguez’ Desperado, a role as a mild-mannered claims adjuster just seems a bit tame for the man — even if its for a post-apocalyptic robotics company. But that’s exactly the vision that virtuoso Spanish director Gabe Ibañez had for Banderas in his sci-fi tour-de-force Autómata, which will be screening at Austin’s Fantastic Fest next week following a successful premiere at Spain’s revered San Sebastián Film Festival.
Featuring a handful of high-profile appearances by the likes of Melanie Griffith and Robert Forster, Autómata follows in the the grand tradition of philosophical sci-fi as it explores heady themes about the nature of life and man’s relationship with technology. Situated in a 2044 where things have evidently gone very wrong for humanity, Banderas’ Jacq Vaucan is the go-to-guy for ROC Robotics Corporation insurance claims. But when he discovers a robot violating the machine’s 2nd Protocol (“A robot cannot alter itself or others”), things seem to get really complicated really fast.
While the trailer gives a good sense of Ibañez’s impeccable visual style and the plot’s increasingly high stakes, it’s not entirely clear who’s threatening whom in this film. We see a human race rightfully spooked by the prospect of robot consciousness, but then we see tender looking robots with blinking eyes helping our hero flee some sort of looming danger. Either way, the team behind Autómata has found enough material for make for a very intriguing two-and-a-half minute trailer. We’ll just have to wait and see if this one’s got what it takes to make it into the big leagues of contemporary science fiction.