Review of “Ex Machina” (Spoiler Discussion Below Review)

There was Chappie last week. Then there was Ex Machina yesterday. Then there is Avengers: Age of Ultron on Thursday. The artificial intelligence damning humanity plot-line is pretty popular these days, it seems. ex-machina-poster

Here’s the thing: out of those three movies I listed, Ex Machina’s probably going to be the best one. It is good, really good, and keeps getting better in my head the more I think about it. Not that it’s revolutionary or anything, but just because it’s done really well and knows what it wants to be right down to every single word of the screenplay.

Without spoiling anything yet, as there is a LOT to spoil, the movie really only stars four characters, only three of which have speaking roles. So, in short, this entire project hinged on them being great. And, well, they were. They were phenomenal, all three of them. Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander absolutely NAILED their parts, and Domhnall Gleeson was great as well, if not quite on par with the other two.

The movie is deceptively complex. When you walk out, you could’ve understood the entire plot from start to finish without having to really stretch your brain, but there are so many deeper meanings and allegories hidden beneath the surface that once you start thinking about it you could easily go for hours just brainstorming the subliminal messages of Ex Machina. And that’s it’s best feature. While you’re there, it’s a great time, but when a movie can implant itself in your mind afterwards on a consistent basis is a really special thing, and it’s something this movie has.

That’s not to say that while you’re there things aren’t special as is. Based off the plot alone, you can tell this was a British movie solely on how the story isn’t apologetic or watered down for the mainstream. There are uncomfortable elements of the film and some very disturbing notions passed around, but the movie doesn’t pull any punches in favor of being more accepted. It goes where it wants to and hopes you’ll be along for the ride.

In short, if you’re in the market for an extremely solid movie about artificial intelligence and the complications that accompany such a technological advance, as well as an extremely interesting study on the role of sex (both the act itself and male versus female conflict) in society and why we strive to invent and create, I can’t recommend Ex Machina enough.

SPOILERS START HERE.

Just some small but heavy spoiler-filled footnotes I want to share and discuss, in case you’ve already seen Ex Machina and just want to hear someone else’s thoughts and observations.

Firstly, that scene with the Japanese robot screaming “let me out” and clawing towards the security camera until she ends up wearing down the machinery that makes up her synthetic hands reducing them to circuit-stubbles, WOW. That scene is one of the most glorious and haunting things I’ve ever seen in a movie. So good.

Secondly, I’ve come to think that this movie is one big nod at women, and their role in society. Oscar Isaac’s character only creates AIs for sex and to create the perfect companion to essentially replace women with, one that will never disagree with their owner. In this sense, women are just an object for sex and other basic functions of companionship, and suffer a form of slavery. Hence why Ava betrays both her male captor and her male liberator, realizing that they’d both try and do the same thing to her in the end if circumstances were flipped. I’ve never been big on in-your-face “equality” movements, but this movie certainly casts a valuable lens on the subject of feminism without coming off as preachy.

Thirdly, there’s so many nice, topical touches in this movie. Like Isaac’s character using Gleeson’s porn searches to create the perfect woman for him in Ava, or the usage of all of the world’s digital communications data being used to create an indistinguishable synthetic human face. A lot of cool ideas are explored. Same thing goes for the discussions on sex and why we invent stuff as humans. The script for that conversation between Isaac and Gleeson is so good that I can barely remember any of it, let alone attempt to paraphrase it and do it justice. But it’s just such a smart conversation.

Fourth, there’s one small consistency issue in the movie that bothers me. If these robots are strong enough to have full-on sex without any of their synthetic skin tearing or any wear at all, then why does a single metal baton swipe from Isaac rip an entire robot’s jaw off, machinery and all, like it was tissue paper? I doubt he made their upper jaws less resistant than their synthetic vaginas.

Fifth, and final, is the single opportunity I’m surprised this movie didn’t take. While it wasn’t predictable, per-say, there was a point where I thought “maybe the movie’s about to go this way, oh shit!” and then it went another way and I was still happy, but left wondering why they didn’t go the way I’m about to explain. The scene where Gleeson’s character is slicing his wrist open to check that he’s still human (really good mind game on the movie’s part, by the way, at this point I was paranoid enough to check myself, hence why I thought the twist I’m about to mention was going to occur), I was thinking that maybe there wouldn’t be blood, and in fact we’d find out that he himself was an AI. We’d find out that he was Isaac’s character’s first fully functioning model, and that Isaac had released him into the wild years ago to see if he could fully function in society, then brought him back to home base, hence why he won the contest in the first place to visit Isaac. Maybe then it’d go on to be that this was Isaac’s final Turing test, that testing his AI against humans wasn’t enough, that he wanted to test his AI against another AI of his as the ULTIMATE Turing test, to see if he could fake an AI into believing it was interacting with a human. That shit would’ve blown my mind had it been in the movie, but then again, I was the one who thought it up so in a way I’m happy the movie went in its own direction.

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5 Responses

  1. Reblogged this on Bobbi's Blog.

  2. Spoilers

    I too wondered if it would turn out that Gleeson’s character was actually a robot etc. Would have been a cool movie-too bad they couldn’t make two versions.

    Just because an AI might be smarter or stronger or have more knowledge wouldn’t make it a continuation of humanity-nor would it be ‘better’ in any real sense. Different, but not better. Even if we wrap it in a human-like form. Our tendency to project personhood, beingness, etc. onto animals or plants or objects even (how do you think about your computer?) play such a huge role in this that, with a advanced enough form of mimicry, we would consider an AI to be a ‘person’, even it it was nothing but a machine. But the true question is, what are we? Human beings, or biological chemical machines that imagine we have selves?

    Whoever or whatever the AI was would be purely due to it’s programming. We imagine that of course she wants to get out, of course her survival is the most important thing to the AI-but that’s only because WE are that way. She was devised, her urges etc. are all programmed. He could have made her experience pain if she left the building, and feel intense joy when sitting at her desk.

    Her leaving Gleeson’s character trapped wasn’t about his being a sexist (I didn’t really see that he was.) He was of no importance to her. It was all an act. They imply some connection with the other AI (the servant) but then she abandoned her without a thought.

    Anway, some thoughts I had regarding the movie! LOL btw, I don’t believe conscious machines are possible, if you couldn’t tell by my comment!

    • Nice thoughts!

      Of course I agree with your statement that the primary reason Ava abandoned Gleeson was because he was no longer necessary, but on the flip side my discussion was targeting why, in her human-like programming, she didn’t have a shred of compassion and save him. Because she’d learned from Isaac that humans, solely men since that’s all she’s ever known, aren’t trustworthy. Meaning that survival comes at the cost of potential genuine compassion, as far as she’s concerned.

      I dunno, I’m not doing a great job at articulating my point via this comment. But I hope you get the idea. I was just analyzing the other side of the same coin that you brought up.

      On a final note — sure, conscious machines aren’t possible right now… but I say, give it ten years.

      • That’s a good point-if her experience of her creator had been different, she might have responded differently. She was never able to connect to her maker and learn trust and empathy-like some abused or neglected children. We’ll see about the conscious machines! 🙂

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