Monday, May 18, 2015

Is She Or Isn’t She?

Ex Machina Raises Eyebrows And Questions About The Singularity And The Nature Of Man And Machine


ARTH VADER (AV): A mostly original screenplay from sci-fi director/writer Alex “28 Days Later” Garland, Ex Machina explores a complex world of human/AI relations. While not directly emulating any existing sci-fi story this film feeds Hollywood’s almost morbid fascination with The Singularity, Garland’s sterile, almost asylum-like portrayal of a future AI development program is eerie and compelling. Thoughts, Pontificator. 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): Ex Machina is an original take on a very old science fiction theme of man playing God through replicating the creation of life. Although not the first film to touch on this subject, the delivery is unique, entertaining, and downright creepy at times. There is a lesson to be learned here that it seems the hubris of man will never allow to be learned.


AV: With a minimalist cast that works seamlessly, led by frontman Oscar “Inside Llewyn Davis” Isaac (also soon to be fully sci-fi indoctrinated in the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII), who portrays the visionary/whack-job mad scientist Nathan who is out to create the next stage in AI evolution… the perfect human-like woman. Let talk direction for a moment, though, Ponty. I was blown away but the subtlety of this film and the minimalist environment of this film. In truth, the sci-fi/fantasy genre could use a whole lot more of this kind f storytelling. P-Man? 

TP: The casting was well done here Vader. I have taken a liking to Domhall Glesson ever since his performance in “About Time” and he doesn’t disappoint here as Caleb, the unsuspecting patsy used to test Ava (played by Alicia Vikander). Vikander also delivers in her role of a machine being tested for true sentience that keeps us guessing if she really does. Oscar Issac is Nathan, a genius billionaire recluse with alcohol issues and a god complex. He sells the roll convincingly and without a doubt, the unique direction of the film was pivotal in the delivery. 


AV: As always my friends, the best visual effects are the ones you can barely identify, if not, that are down-right invisible... as Ex Machina excels at subtlety. The subterfuge of this movie is in concealing whats in plain view, women (“fembots” if one remembers THAT obscure reference) who are manipulative because they are fighting for their place in the world that turn out to be closet (literally closeted) psychopaths. With interchangeable body parts like layered skin and removable appendages, the visual effects are top notch and are subversively threaded throughout the film. 

TP: The special effects were outstanding! Without the need for big explosions or massive amounts of CGI, this film presented Ava as a real machine built on the cutting edge of technology. Although no new ground was broken, the mastery with which all the old tricks were used was absolutely breathtaking.


AV: I was discussing this film recently with a friend of mine and one of his statements properly sums up the overall impact of this film. Hollywood needs more films like this. Not since 2014’s ‘Her’ has a film taken such a personal approach to the relationship between man and technology. Very soon–if not all ready the case–mankind will have a profound, evolutionary convergence with his technology. This film is deeply disturbing and exhilarating all at once. Just like the subject matter. Such a smart, next-level movie has done surprisingly well at the box office which makes me think our intellect is at least partially intact. Maybe we won’t be such easy pickings for the Robo-master race we are creating. If this is the face of sci-fi for the foreseeable future—then bring it on! 

TP: There was quite a bit going on in this film. I don’t know where to start… the question of what life truly is? The folly of man whenever he chooses to play God? The vulnerability of human nature when given cause and reason? The stagnating view of the role of women in society as seen through the insanely rich and eccentric? The power and drive of sexuality? The example humanity sets by the observance of such on the internet? This film has so many points of further discussion I could literally write a complete post about all the various subjects it touched upon. What I can say, with certainty, is that a film such as this that forces you to think and consider so many important aspects of our society is a rare gem worth watching intently. 


AV: If we are at all lucky, this movie will be a stand-alone story. As most should be. This story has been told with no need for follow-up. Its predecessor should be a film of a completely different voice, of the same calibre. 

TP: There could certainly be a sequel to this film if they so desired, but like many classics.…this installment alone can stand on it’s own merit and by leaving us with some questions to Ava’s ultimate fate, we are forced to ponder the film long after the end credits finish.


ARTH VADER rates Ex Machina: For those who like their sci-fi filled with explosions, lame one-liners, over-the-top CGI, laser swords and giant, galaxy-spanning spaceships, would do well to avoid this film. However, if you’re of the ilk that likes intelligent, introspective and engaging films that keep you guessing and offer simple but smart dialogue, then Ex Machina is a must-see. If you’d like a glimpse of what Sci-Fi as genre is capable of and what expert story-telling can do, put on your artificial skin cover a full ten Busted Blocks for this surprisingly intelligent movie. 

THE PONTIFICATOR rates Ex Machina: Although a bit slow and more story–oriented than action focused, this was an excellent film filled with tension and mystery. Most of the fun in watching was spent not only trying to figure out Ava, but also Nathan and the effect their machinations were having on Caleb. In the end, this film escaped to the real world with seven (7) busted blocks.

Ex Machina: 8.5 / 10 Busted Blocks