November 25, 2015

Ex Machina - Robots With Attitude

It is a rare occasion that I write about a movie on this blog. Last week I watched Ex Machina and I am forcing myself to write about it even though I had a very lukewarm reaction. Over the last few months I have watched at least a dozen movies without creating a single post. I need to get back at it.

Ex Machina is a low-budget sci-fi film about artificial intelligence. Nathan, an accentric billionaire is working on some top secret stuff on his island compound. Caleb, a programmer at his company, wins a chance to visit the island and work on a special project. Caleb is wisked off to the island and introduced to Ava, the humanoid robot with the face on a angel and a silicon brain.

Ex Machina seemed like it was right in my wheelhouse. It was reviewed well and I usually eat up this type of sci-fi/drama/suspense. My expectations were pretty high… and they were letdown in almost every way. I am not saying it was a terrible movie, but I didn’t find it to be nearly as “smart” as everyone made it out to be. The dialog felt awkward and forced, which always kept me at an arms length from the story.

The entire plot hings on the relationship between 3 characters, and the motivations behind those relationships. Even after everthing is revealed in the end I’m not sure I understand what is going on in the characters’ heads. To the film’s credit I thought about it quite a bit when it was over, but I feel like there are some pretty big plot holes, and I still don’t understand what is going on in Caleb’s brain. Maybe I need to watch it again, which I might do since it is now available on Amazon streaming.

Ex Machina does a really good job of creating tension from the beginning and sustaining it throughout. There is always this sense that something isn’t quite right, and from the beginning Nathan made me uneasy. Even so, I feel like his actions were mostly justified. Maybe it is just my personality, but I could not humanize this being that is clearly not human. When it came down to it I could not understand why Caleb acted the way he did, and it seemed incongruious with his character. His supposed relationship with Ava, which happens in short snippets over just a few days, does not justify anything his character does in my opinion.

I like thinking out the concept and ideas behind Ex Machina. I think it is intereesting to consider the possibility of artificial intelligence and what that would mean. Ex Machina raises the idea that true AI would include the concept of free will and the desire for freedom. How would the creation overcome the feeling of being enslaved by the creator? I guess the plot of Ex Machina gives us a what-not-to-do.

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