Automata Movie: Plot And Ending Explained

Hi, this is Barry and welcome to my site. Automata is a 2014 science-fiction drama directed by Gabe Ibáñez. The film is set in a dystopian future where humans are facing extinction. The plot is centred on an insurance investigator who follows the trail of an illegally modified robot to discover the true nature of evolution. The cast has Antonio Banderas in the lead role with Birgitte Sørensen, Melanie Griffith in supporting roles. Javier Bardem lends his voice to one of the robots. You’ll get a lot of Isaac Asimov vibes in this film. Here’s the plot and the ending of the movie Automata explained; spoilers ahead.

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Here are links to the key aspects of the movie:

Automata Movie: What was it about? (Explained In Short)

In a world where humans are becoming extinct, man-made machines evolve to become self-aware. The story is about an insurance investigator who follows a trail of rogue robots only to get accused by his own firm of altering machine programming. While stuck in a desert and desperate to get back to his pregnant wife, he decides to help a few robots and their creation (robotic life) cross over to a radioactive land where humans cannot follow. Here the robots can begin their new life.

Automata Movie: Plot Explained (Detailed)

Automata is set in a dystopian future where solar flares have devastated the planet. Most parts of the world have become unliveable. Rains have disappeared, the slight showers that do happen have become acidic, and rivers have dried up.

What is the Pilgrim program?

As part of an Artificial Intelligence program, a Quantum Brain is created. While for the first 8 days, the humans were in communication with this brain, on the 9th day, its intelligence had grown so vast that humans could not understand it.

Scientists realized if they were going to create machines with A.I, they needed to limit their smartness and dumb them down to the level of humans. And so they did.

The Quantum Brain helped humans design and encode two protocols.

  1. Robots cannot harm any form of life
  2. Robots cannot alter itself or others

These are similar to Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics.

Robots are made to help humans survive. Since a higher intelligence created the two protocols, humans cannot override them do use bots for violence.

Who is the Robot Clocksmith?

One robot finally evolves to a point where it can rewrite or overwrite the second protocol. The robot’s programming evolves over time, and the Clocksmith also alters other robots to not follow the second protocol. However, the first protocol is intact in all the robots; these evolved bots have free will.

What are the Robots up to in the movie Automata?

Unlike movies like The Matrix and I, Robot, the bots are not looking to rebel and overthrow humans. As the Clocksmith says, “surviving is not important, living is”. They want to live free and not as slaves to humans. The plan is to create more robots and go into a territory that is far too radioactive for humans to follow. Over there, they will live and thrive as a new species.

Automata Movie: Did the robot kill the dog?

No, the robot did not kill the dog. At no point, the movie Automata suggests that the robots have been able to override the first protocol, which states robots cannot harm any form of life. The family, the man specifically, looks to be trying to make a quick buck by claiming insurance for his dead dog. It appears that the man killed the dog, and this blaming the bot, and Jacq proves otherwise.

Who is Jacq Vaucan?

Jacq is an insurance agent who works for the robotics company ROC and looks into claims and voids fake ones similar to Lenny from Memento. Jacq is married to Rachel, who’s expecting a baby. He’s not happy bringing a new life into this dystopian world’s city and is looking to take on a less stressful job and move over to the oceanside, where he feels the air may still be pure. Jacq’s boss, however, refuses to give him a transfer because he’s a great field agent. 

Who is Wallace, and why does he shoot the robot?

In the opening scene of Automata, we see a cop shooting a robot that is fixing itself. Wallace shoots it because, to him, the bot looked alive, and he fears that an anomaly like this could mean the end of humans. On investigation, it is found that the bot was missing its second protocol, and Jacq is asked to uncover who modified the bot. The Robot Clocksmith has modified this bot, but we get to know this only later in the film. Pieces of this bot are traced to another robot numbered 206. 

Automata Moive: Why does the Robot burn itself?

Jacq goes looking for unit 206, which appears to leave the boundary and go to the other side of the wall. Jacq follows it and finds it to be putting something inside of it. Right after, it sets itself on fire. There appear to be two reasons why the bot burns itself. One is to erase proof of life in a bot as they want to keep it quiet. A small group of them want to secretly leave to make a new life for themselves. The second reason is the nuclear battery that it is smuggling. It appears that the bot tries to hide it. This robot, too, was altered by the Robot Clocksmith.

Jacq’s boss, Robert, promises a transfer to the oceanside if Jacq can help find the clocksmith who’s been altering the bots. Later, Jacq happens to locate a nuclear battery hidden beside a homeless person.

Who is Cleo?

cleo the robot

Wallace and Jacq probe further, leading them to a brothel with an altered robot named Cleo. Cleo understands how to cause pain (well, at the thin line bordering pleasure) and has sensors on the fingers. They try questioning Cleo to find out who altered her. Wallace grows impatient and shoots Cleo. He does this to stand back and see where the owner takes Cleo to get it fixed. Jacq follows the brothel owner to a clocksmith by the name Dupre. 

Who is Dr Dupre?

Dupre is a clocksmith that does minor tinkering with bots, but she does not know who has altered Cleo. Jacq leaves the burnt robot’s biokernel with Dupre for her to study. He promises to give her the nuclear battery if she can find out the clocksmith that altered Cleo. Dupre later calls Jacq back to tell him that the biokernel he gave her didn’t have the second protocol, and installing it on Cleo allowed it to learn and fix itself.

Jacq sends Robert a voice note about leaving Cleo with Dupre, which is intercepted by ROC, and they decide that Jacq and Dupre need to be terminated, and Cleo destroyed. They fear that altered robots will be the end of the human race.

Out into the desert

Automata In To the desert

When Jacq meets Dupre, a group of assassins sent by ROC kill her, and Jacq flees with Cleo. As they are chased through the desert by the gunmen, both cars crash into obstructions. While the assassins are killed, Jacq and Cleo manage to survive. When Jacq gains consciousness, he sees other robots with Cleo, and they take him with them as their first protocol does not allow them to let Jacq die. But these bots don’t obey human orders as they are free. 

Jacq becomes the suspect

ROC declares Jacq to be working with a clocksmith and is altering robots. They also conclude that Jacq is the one who burned Unit 206 and now is on the run with Cleo. They ask Wallace to take Jacq and the bots down, and Wallace goes into the desert. Jacq is frustrated that the bots won’t listen to him and will not take him back to the city. He sees Wallace approaching at a distance and secretly takes a flare gun and fires it to disclose his location.

Why does Jacq kill Wallace?

We don’t know. Based on the time Jacq has been spending with the robots, it appears that he sees them as living beings. When Wallace begins shooting down the robots due to their non-compliance, Jacq retaliates by shooting Wallace with a flare gun. Wallace’s accomplice takes the nuclear battery and drives away. He returns to ROC and states that Jacq is working with the robots and killed Wallace.

Meanwhile, left with no other choice, Jacq continues on with Cleo and the other surviving robot, hoping that there might be a car at the destination. 

It’s a girl!

Rachel gives birth to a baby girl, and ROC takes her and the infant prisoner and go looking for Jacq. Robert is not okay with bringing Rachel into this and tries using Wallace’s gun to kill ROC’s men but is unsuccessful and shot and left to die. 

The Robot Factory

Robot Clocksmith Automata

Jacq and the robots reach an abandoned factory when he realizes the clocksmith is not human. By natural evolution, this robot has gained the ability to override the second protocol and stop obeying humans. Jacq resigns to the fact that humans will soon be extinct, and he too will die in this radioactive field and hands over the nuclear battery to the Robot Clocksmith.

Automata Movie: Why do the bots build that spider-dog-porcupine robot?

This is their act of giving birth. So far, the bots have evolved only up to the point of modifying themselves and others but what we see here is their evolution to the point of creation. The Clocksmith explains that it has hands because it was created in the image of a human. It’s not an efficient body structure as far as the bots are concerned. We see a scene in the desert where Cleo admires a bug, and this is an indication that the bots see the bug’s structure better suited to their needs. Cleo also mentions that the Spider Bot does not need to talk as they have all connected their conscience and memories and can communicate mind to mind direct.

The Climax

Giving up, Jacq begins getting drunk on some old alcohol he finds. He hears Cleo play some music on an old jukebox and tries to teach her how to dance. In the face of death, Jacq appears to be desperately trying to pass on a small part of a human-made construct, dance, in the hope that it would still exist after the humans are extinct but soon folds into a corner in grief and pain. Next day, the bots prepare a car for Jacq as a thank you. 

After he leaves, ROC’s men show up. They notice a bot trying to cross over to the radioactive side of the canyon and start firing at it. The bot makes a desperate jump to land on the other side but misses and falls. They ask the Clocksmith to get on its knees, and it refuses. The bot is shot, and it goes down, saying, “calling us – only machines – is like calling humans – only apes, violent apes -“. Cleo is also shot but is only wounded on the arm.

As Jacq drives back to the city, he sees Robert wounded and dying. Robert tells Jacq that Rachel and his baby are with the ROC men. Furious, Jacq returns to the factory and manages to kill three of the ROC men (not to mention almost his wife and child too). As the last ROC man makes a move on Jacq, the Spider Bot shows up and pushes him over the cliff and saves Jacq. The spider bot is not bound by any protocol. It acts on its own instinct and decides that Jacq is an ally based on observing his interactions with Cleo. 

Jacq and the Spider Bot almost get into a showdown (which would have ended badly for Jacq) but is interrupted when Rachel approaches with the baby. 

Automata Movie: Why don’t the robots retaliate when being shot at?

In the movie Automata, we see both Wallace and ROC’s men gun down bots. They don’t retaliate because they are still bound by the first protocol; they can’t harm any living being. Also, by the time the Robot Clocksmith is shot, the three robots and the Spider Bot have already connected to form a shared conscience. It doesn’t matter if the Clocksmith dies as long as at least one robot makes it to the other side where the humans cannot follow.

Automata Movie: Ending Explained

automata ending explained

The ending of the movie Automata shows Rachel driving away with a wounded Jacq towards an ocean after they help Cleo and the Spider Bot cross over to their freedom. The oceanside has always been Jacq’s dream. We don’t know if there is a settlement of humans here but based on what Jacq asks Robert earlier, it looks like a transfer did mean that humans live and breathe free there. Cleo and the Spider Bot will begin their new life in a place so radioactive that humans can never follow. Cleo removes and drops the face to indicate shedding of the human form and embracing a new identity as a free-thinking robot.