‘Ex Machina:’ Movie Review

April 22, 2015 0 Comments

I normally don’t review Sci-Fi genres, mostly because the person reading requires one of two things: 1) an imagination and 2) a basic competency of science or scientific terms. Other than that, unless you are familiar with this, you probably won’t find much Sci-Fi enjoyable. One of the main reasons why I passed on reviewing Jupiter Ascending (2015). I could barely remember anything that was going on in the entire film.

However, ‘Ex Machina’ is significantly more grown-up and subtle than the special effects and the action scene that people are probably use to from movies like Jupiter Ascending. Pretty rare to see a Sci-Fi that’s stylish, satirical and creepy all at the same time.

The Director, Alex Garland, an up and coming writer, was no stranger to the scientific mind. He wrote a novel titled “The Beach (1996),” which centers travelers searching for an earthly paradise, which later became a Danny Boyle film of the same name and later a best seller. After that, he went on to write two screenplays for the films ‘28 Days Later…(2003)’ and ‘Sunshine (2006).’ So, those are two great films to the credit of Garland. How does Ex Machina fair when compared to them?

The plot centers around a programmer by the name of Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), who wins a workplace lottery to spend an entire week with his genius, repulsive, billionaire boss, Nathan (Oscar Isaac). Caleb thinks the visit to his bosses’ estate is simply routine, but unbeknownst to him Caleb has been selected to work on a top secret project. Nathan has put together a top secret robot that is highly intelligent named Ava (Alicia Vikander). Nathan needs Caleb to engage the robot in series of questions for what is known as the ‘Turing Test.’

The Turing Test is probably the only bit of technical science that viewers will probably need to know. The Turing Test was introduced by mathematician, logician and computer scientist Alan Turing. Yes, the same Alan Turing who was the main character in the movie, The Imitation Game (2014) (And if you haven’t seen that film already, shame on you…).

The Turing Test is designed to asset human behavior of an intelligent component, such as a computer, machine or robot, but using a human judge to engage in natural language conversation. If the human judge cannot effectively tell if he or she is talking to a machine or a human, the machine has passed the test. Once this has happened, we have now created what is known as ‘artificial intelligence.’

There were plenty of films that attempted mix man versus machine and nature versus nurture. What exactly sets ‘Ex Machina’ apart from the rest of them? For one, you’ll probably appreciate the fact that the film doesn’t attempt to take itself too seriously, and at the same time, using all of the technical Sci-Fi terminology that fans of the genre would love. You have Nathan, who is indeed a genius, but is also a goofball in his own right. He loves to drink, party, dance, exercise, explore and have fun. Something you wouldn’t normally from someone in his career field (think of that bodybuilding scientist Arnold Schwarzenegger played in ‘Junior (1994)’).

To the total opposite of Nathan, you have Calab, who is a polite and fairly introverted. Despite being very intelligent and sharp, he isn’t nearly as smart as Nathan, and not as intuitive with the ladies, which makes the constant all the more amusing the more you listen to these two characters speak to one another. Every time Calab and Nathan engage in their own dialogue, I think we’re going to be sitting through another TED Talks lecture.

The film manages to dives into the questions most of us think of when it comes to artificial intelligence. How do we know what is real and what isn’t? Does it have feelings, and if it does, how does it possibly feel? What actions are hardwired into programming and which actions are genuine?

Finally, you have Ava, the Robot with artificial intelligence. Without this one, the plot doesn’t exactly hold together. She knows things (a lot of things). She displays all of the characteristics of someone who is a robot. She is inherently self-aware of being the creation of a human, yet never really seems to question her exist or her place in the world (almost like human intelligence). Where most films regarding AIs’ are pontificating on the role of man, their inevitable self-destruction and their role to speed up that destruction, Ava is more concerned with securing her place in the world and belonging. So you’ll be set for plenty of Pinocchio moments throughout the entire film.

It may sound like I’m just jumping through the plot, but that is because I am. Ex Machina is the type of film where it is better if you know nothing about the plot jumping into the film. Even if you watch the trailer (which I did manage to see while watching another film), it is extremely vague as well. Like most trailers, you’re not going to get an idea of what the film is about, but Ex Machina is one of those rare films where you are not sure what you are going to see in the next scene. There are constant plot twist the further the story develops, and even when you’re sure that the narrative is going to come up short, Garland manages to surprise you, which is rare when it comes to modern filmmaking.

Final Verdict: B+

Aside from the cinematography (the wild Alaskan estate actually shot in Norway, the underground secure research lab, etc), much screenwriting will keep your interests. There is tons of philosophy, without being too rigorous and boring. You have comedy to keep your interests, without destroying the credibly and the integrity of Science. It stands out from the other films in the marketplace right now. Whether or not the film is Oscar/Golden Globe worthy is another matter entirely. That all depends on what else they release this month. Although, not everything is great about the film, it is more than likely to keep your interest if you have an open mind.

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