AUTOMATION (2019) REVIEW – Beware the Bot

Technology has been on the rise rapidly, and as our technology becomes more powerful, it becomes more intelligent. Mechanicalization learns, advances, and adapts to blend into our everyday lives just a little too well before we can even realize how well it chameleons itself as something we shouldn’t fear, but should.

Following the day-to-day life of the robot Auto (Jeff J. Knight), as he familiarizes himself with the holiday season around the office he’s programmed to work in, things become tenser as Christmas brings about hostility and workplace complications. Auto, as he observes the irritation of his colleagues, aims to alleviate their woes while upholding his off-the-beaten-path relationship with Jenny (Elissa Dowling.) He juggles his human complications with the fear of his own termination and takes the most drastic measures to protect himself.

Automation introduces itself with a changeup of a lead-in as it opens with a documentary-style initial cleave. The ingress is quick to shine the spotlight on Auto and the following of pattern of modernity: exchanging living, breathing employees for robotic alternatives. The camerawork pops and brings a number of prospectives to the table, exploring creative ways to catch an artistic view. The flexibility to keep the diversity up within the framework was present, but it came and went throughout the film.

Evidently, there is an abundance of dedication when Automation is stripped to its foundation. There is ambition that is set into motion, and the effort is unmistakable. Loyalty is not left out of this B-List flick. On the other hand, there are stretches of dialogue that shift the central focus and spin more side-stories that need to be thrown into the mix. In these spreads, the dramatic inserts can bear comparison to theatrical turns in a soap opera or televised situational series. The concept behind Automation is with no doubt a fun one, but the excitement rallies at the midway point.

Muddied sidesteps from the situation at hand include affairs, resentment, and an unusual romantic jab at cyborg set into center stage. The information that is packed in may be important, but it’s overstuffed. The most distinctive character in this independent sci-fi holiday feature is the robot himself. Boxes can be checked off for typical character tropes as new faces make themselves known, but the old hat adds to the oddball appeal.

Auto, guarding himself as his wariness sets in, takes a look back to his past as the intensity mounts. He is as human as he can bring himself to be, and a glimpse back at his time spent in combat pushes foreshadowing into the foreground. Including context to his actions adds depth to his character, but the effects overlayed on his traumatic flashbacks are distracting and take away from the scenes. There’s an uncanny resemblance to the early 2000s episodes of Doctor Who as the film progresses towards peril. Foreshadowing is tasted, washed out, and then refreshed as it is introduced anew.

As anarchy materializes through Auto’s feral, drastic volte-face, true colors come out in a vibrantly violent conclusion. The thick, weighty dramaturgy may pull down on the flow of the film, the frantic chaos of the conclusion hands over the suspense.

Verdict: 1/5 – The uphill trek to reach the peak of excitement is hefty, but once the climax is hit, the wait is rewarded. Automation can be put alongside with the operation of a rollercoaster: the third act compensates for the ongoing upward lurch and plummets with fast-pace thrill and high excitement wrapped up in holiday mayhem.

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