Programming note: Monday is MLK Day in the US. As such, I have a holiday from work, and according to the rules I set out for myself, I get the day off. I’ll be enjoying my time away, and I hope you all do as well. Regular posting returns on Tuesday. And now for today’s content.
A few nights ago, the boy was out of town, so I couldn’t continue watching any of the shows that we’re watching together. And while I was progressing with Jessica Jones on Netflix, I finished what I thought was the last episode…only to discover there were 3 more (Netflix does 13 episode seasons, Amazon 10. Must get this straight.) So I definitely wasn’t going to finish JJ that night. But I knew that Amazon had a movie streaming that I’ve wanted to see since it came out last summer, and that movie is Ex Machina.
The premise of the movie is that Nathan, a reclusive high-tech billionaire who lives isolated in the mountains, invites Caleb, a low-level programmer at his company, to his home for a week. It’s a “prize” that Caleb won, except it’s not – Caleb has been invited with the specific purpose of testing an android named Ava who has a new artificial intelligence. Caleb is to perform the Turing Test, and determine whether Ava is ready to be introduced to the world.
All of this is summary that you would find in any movie description, but now I’m going to talk about details of the movie. If you’re not interested in spoilers but want to know if you should see it – DO IT. It’s so interesting, and you’ll look at the world slightly differently afterwards. If you’re interested in a trailer, there’s one at the bottom of the post, and I’ve broken up the spoilers with a few asterisks, so just move your scroll bar to that point. But for the rest of you who have either seen it, aren’t planning on seeing it, or don’t give a crap about spoilers…continue below. Let Nathan and Kyoko’s dance fill the space…
This movie is just bizarre. Alicia Vikander amazes me in everything she does. Her ability to play a robot who can portray emotions (but still in a very cold/uncanny valley type way) is a feat. For most of the film the only real part of her body that we see is her face or hands. She likely did most of it in a green body suit so that it could be replaced in post-production, but her ability to become this human machine is breathtaking. Domhnall Gleeson who plays Caleb is so good at the bewildered everyman role, that it’s interesting to see how he evolves later in the movie into a more calculating and suspicious person. Oscar Isaac is just unbelievably good. He draws the eye whenever he’s on screen, and while at the beginning of the movie we see him as this bizarre drunken and reclusive oddball, he shows later how smart he really is, and how he was able to use his natural abilities to build such a world-encompassing internet search engine. But you can also tell how hard he works, because he’s built this android, and he takes care of his body, he maintains a beautiful home practically by himself, and he’s still bizarre and fun. But you have to wonder if he was always a little mentally unstable, or if moving to an isolated nowhere is what made him want to build these beautiful female androids.
Yep – multiples. That’s the thing we discover late in the movie. Ava is not the first, just the latest, and will likely be discarded/shut off when the next one is built. And as with all intelligence, she has learned things about the world that scare her, and wants to find a way out. This is where being a robot works to her advantage – she can pick up on micro-expressions in others that tell when they are lying, can use emotion to manipulate others into doing her will, but can also use her lack of real emotion to not give away her plans. It’s so creepy and I LOVED IT.
All the other androids were kept – Kyoko, the “foreign” servant that we see but never hear throughout the entire film – is an old model of the android/AI. Nathan keeps her around to serve, and to be…I’m not sure. The fact that Nathan has kept parts and sometimes entire models of his old android AIs makes me wonder what he does with them, or did with them. He did say that they have an anatomically correct opening, and that it could be used to give the AI pleasure…but did he do that? Was he just creating hyper-realistic sex-dolls? What was the point?
And should we blame Ava for killing Nathan, escaping and leaving Caleb behind? Sort of? I don’t know. It would be hard to justify keeping any human being trapped in one place against their will, and Ava – while not human – is intelligent enough to know how she is being used. She knows or at least has a good idea of what Nathan does with the older models (something that from a human point of view makes sense) and is only trying to protect her being in any way that she can. Is this something we would blame a human for doing? But what about the way that she treated Caleb – is it forgivable to use him the way that she did, and leave him locked in the house, even though he helped her? I think Caleb would have loved her, and been happy to continue being with her. But if Ava was only ever using him, and her flirtations were meant as a way to escape…at least we can say that she let him live. But for how long? Can he survive out there alone? What’s next?
A direct sequel to this movie would be really cheesy – there’s too much movie or television content out there that’s based on previous IP, so the fact that this was an original piece was especially refreshing. But the idea that Ava is out there in the world, walking among us, and potentially capable of creating more of her own kind is intriguing. Is this how the robot apocalypse happens – one android gets out, lives unknown in a world of humans, secretly building a robot army? That could be interesting – especially if it weren’t revealed to be Ava as creator of it all until the very end.
And thus end the spoilers.
Who else has seen the movie? What did you think? The movie was nominated for two Oscars yesterday – Best Original Screenplay and Best Visual Effects, both of which are deserved. Would this make you more interested in seeing it if you hadn’t yet?
More Information: “Ex Machina”, written and directed by Alex Garland. Available streaming on Amazon Prime.