AUTOMATION / CERT: UNRATED / DIRECTOR: GARO SETIAN / SCREENPLAY: ROLFE KANEFSKY, MATTHEW L. SCHAFFER / STARRING: ELISSA DOWLING, SADIE KATZ, PARRY SHEN / RELEASE DATE: 3RD DECEMBER (USA)
The theme of humans being replaced by robots is a pertinent one in today’s society, hence Garo Setian’s Automation comes to us with a lot to say. Even though it feels a bit like an extended Workaholics episode, it keeps things fun and even showcases a sweet ending that you may not be prepared for.
Susan (Sadie Katz), co-owner of a small corporate business, is showcasing the company’s machine to her business partner. Auto, a robot who has been happily lifting weights humans could only dream of, is so efficient that Susan plans to replace 90% of the workforce with more robots. Auto himself has shades of Kryten from Red Dwarf about his outfit and movement (quite refreshingly being someone in a suit, rather than a CGI monstrosity), complete with glowing green eyes that, strangely, reflect off his co-workers’ heads. He is very polite to everyone, but none more so than wannabe singer and independent contractor Jenny (horror femme fatale, Elissa Dowling). Those two strange points seem to define her character – she is even editing her own music video when we meet her. Auto is a fan though, and they bond over the impending firing of the employees. However, when one of the disgruntled humans attacks Auto, he retaliates, killing the remaining workers after his past as a military robot is discovered. Oh, and it’s Christmas for no reason.
Automation does take a little bit too long to get going, especially when it becomes pretty obvious what is going to happen. The set is horribly drab and makes you feel quite claustrophobic at times, but maybe that is what the filmmakers were going for; creating a workplace you wouldn’t want to spend too long in! Despite some of the acting and the lack of budget, there are some nice touches; we get a glimpse of an outside world complete with towering futuristic buildings and flying droids to emphasise the fact that we’re in the future, the flashbacks to Auto’s military career are done well and there are a couple of inventive deaths once Auto inevitably turns murderous.
Despite the interesting ideas that Automation raises, the film itself won’t set the world alight. It doesn’t quite have the skill or resources to pull off an idea which will inevitably be copied by other directors with more panache. However, to give Garo Setian some credit, without giving anything away, he pulls off a truly heart-warming ending, reminiscent of the best anime auteurs.