Primary Function: Autopilot of the Axiom
Premiered in: WALL-E (2008)
Voiced By: MacInTalk (Primarily a fusion between “Ralph” and “Zarvox”)
Let me start out this review by saying that I do not think of AUTO as a villain in any way shape or form. While he is certainly cold and ruthless in following his programming, that does not make him a villain. If anything, that makes him as much a sympathetic character as… as Scar or even Hades in my book. AUTO was programed to run as the autopilot of the ship Axiom and was given the directive to, and I quote, “Go to full autopilot, take control of everything, and do not return to Earth. I repeat, do not return to Earth.”
Directive A113 was further expanded in outside materials that there was a stipulation that should evidence otherwise present itself, such as a plant being recovered by one of the EVE probes, then the directive was to be ignored in favor of returning to Earth. Now while AUTO did not follow this stipulation, I argue that it was because he was directly told otherwise by his own maker to take control and to never return to Earth, but I do believe that, like WALL-E had developed a level of sentience in the centuries since his activation.
The first major clue to this is the series of pictures depicting AUTO looming closer and closer to every new captain up to a point where he might as well shove them aside. To be fair, it was painfully obvious that all of the humans aboard the Axiom, including the captain, had grown so complacent with simply surviving instead of living that AUTO was, in effect, the acting captain of the Axiom and had no true reason to believe otherwise. For pity’s sake, he had to show the captain how to open a book. Secondly… I can’t help but wonder if AUTO was actually afraid to return to Earth.
Hear me out. If the Axiom were to return to Earth, the people aboard it would, eventually, have no reason to remain aboard the Axiom once full re-colonization was finished. True, it likely would take a few centuries for humanity to reclaim Earth as a new home, what with clearing away the junk to at least establish something resembling an actual colony never mind adapting to the act of walking again, but even so AUTO’s purpose would eventually cease to be. While many of the other robots were given new tasks and jobs to accomplish that were akin to their primary directives, AUTO could not have any alterations made to his directive for him to fulfill and would, for lack of a better word, be decommissioned.
Or to translate robotic speech, he would have no other purpose than to die.
After all, what use is a ship’s autopilot without need of a ship or a crew to care for?
AUTO’s “minion” in the film was a robot appropriately entitled as GO-4 and, as its name implied, was essentially a gofer for AUTO and was originally responsible for trying to destroy the plant EVE recovered. He is summarily destroyed in the fight between the Captain of the Axiom and AUTO in a both comical and rather tragic fashion considering he, like the SECURE-T bots, were simply following their directives. Not to say the little bugger wasn’t scary in his own right what with the hissing and all but overall a rather poor minion indeed.
In the end, AUTO’s worst fear comes true and the Axiom is switched to manual piloting and steered on a hyper-speed course back to Earth. Though contrary to popular assumption, AUTO was not “killed” upon the switch but was given a far worse fate I feel. I imagine that as is his function as the autopilot, AUTO would have been effectively cut off from the ship and placed in the human equivalent to a dark cell where he could not see, hear, or anything else. He would have effectively been trapped in his body with nothing but his own thoughts and programming to entertain himself until such a time as the core of the Axiom runs dry, something not likely to occur given its lifespan in space, or if he and the ship are taken apart to use for new construction.