A lot of important, thought-provoking questions are raised while viewing the film Ex Machina. Questions like : Are we close to experiencing the technological singularity? Will it be bad for humans when we do hit that point? Would I ever fuck a robot? Did the writers of Lost completely luck out on not getting completely annihilated during Google searches ? Are even the smartest humans on the planet mere simpletons when compared to basic Artificial Superintelligence? Is this movie dope as hell?
Spoiler alert : the answer to all these questions is a definitive Pretty Much.
Another spoiler alert, I’m going to talk about the end of the movie in the next paragraph or two.
Alex Garland wrote and directed the piss out of this movie. He was also responsible for the 2012 Dredd film – which I wasn’t a huge fan of. But man, did he spew out a masterpiece this time around, especially in comparison. The movie is really fascinating and has tons of subtle layers. I’m looking forward to future viewings of this, where I can pick up on a lot of stuff I’m sure I missed.
I watched Oscar Isaac in a both A Most Violent Year and Inside Llewyn Davis. The man has some serious chops, and range to boot. When his character (Nathan) gets stabbed by his own creation (Ava), his last words are “Fucking Unreal”. If I had just been reading a script, I would have probably suggested Alex go back to the drawing board with this line. But, Mr. Isaac made it fantastic, as he did with the rest of his scenes.
The Jackson Pollack discussion Nathan has with his employee/guest (Caleb) is one I really enjoyed. It was part of a larger discussion at the crux of one of my previous articles ( “Fields R Us” ), concerning the question of whether there is any part of consciousness that is not automated. The Pollock drip and splatter paintings are a great physical manifestation of this debate. Some sections of his paintings seem deliberate, while other parts suggest a seemingly random, chaotic flow. But, I believe the difference between these two things is only what Pollock’s perception of his intentions were. That is – when Pollock was creating these works, every mark on the canvas was the result of an automated response. If he tried to completely explain and plan out the paintings, he wouldn’t have painted one stroke.
The only difference between the markings on the canvas are the ones where he had the delusion that he was exerting free will over his choices, and ones where he believed he was tapping into some kind of natural, subconscious chaos. Perhaps the only delineation between the two is merely the story we tell ourselves to feel special. Perhaps, the only true difference between microbe, insect, monkey, man, and ASI machine is an ever-increasing ability to create better fiction to help our minds cope with the reality of an automated universe. Conversely, this might not be the case at all.
The only negative things I have to say about Ex Machina are plothole-oriented criticisms. You mean to tell me that these two brilliant philosopher/programmers couldn’t figure out the end game of the AI doing whatever it could to escape? They really didn’t anticipate her attempting to play them like pawns in a game of chess? And how exactly does Nathan get the vast quantity of materials and supplies out to his insane laboratory/domicile, when the closest people can get to it are via a chopper flying over 200 miles of roadless forest, followed by walking next to a river?
Ultimately none of these trivial distractions tainted the overall enjoyment of the broad strokes of rich artwork being presented to my eager brain. The only scene where I found myself squirming in my seat a bit was when Caleb initially lies to Nathan after his first “off the grid” encounter with Ava. If anything, I would have guessed this was a setup test for Caleb, as Nathan’s chosen subject for this experiment. There’s no good reason not to immediately tell your highly perceptive, genius host about his test-phase robot telling you not to trust him. It made no sense that Caleb would side allegiance with Ava, and risk ruining his relationship with the man who employs him(who also happens to be one of the most powerful men on the planet, especially when it comes to surveillance). But, those things didn’t really bother me, since the rest of the film was so compelling. And I guess it kinda made sense to get captivated by Ava, since she was being played by the enchanting Alicia Vikander – so I’ll give all this stuff a pass.
And now for a tangent.
I had a vague, loose idea of what the expression “Deus ex machina” meant. But I wanted to do a bit more homework on its origins for this review. That’s when it happened. The television series Lost somehow showed up in my Google results, and that deep, gushing wound was reopened yet again. When you run a Google search for “Lost Ex Machina” you will get results for the Season One episode titled – “Deus Ex Machina”. This is either amazing foresight on the writers’ part, or just dumb luck in essentially creating a massive Google Search cock block for the show that was perhaps the most infamous for its use of cheap, ridiculous plot devices. Allowest me to doth quoteth the ultimate source, a Wikipedia article defining Deus ex machina as :
“a device to resolve the plot of tragedies. It is generally deemed undesirable in writing and often implies a lack of creativity on the part of the author(s).”
It makes it really hard to search for articles mentioning the exact terminology that should be used in criticizing the show. Instead of linking me to thousands of articles by masses of disgruntled fans, it instead directs me to the one Lost episode with that title, thusly avoiding the appropriately deserved conflagration of rage.
So, let’s say a new television show is hypothetically called “Dr. Inappropriate”, and it has come under fire by the public for being borderline child pornography. Perhaps, the shows producers could take a page out of the Lost writers’ playbook and call one of their season one episodes “child pornography” so that when you run a Google search for the query “Is Dr. Inappropriate child pornography?” – You end up getting results for just the episode listing of that title, instead of chat rooms and blogs filled with outraged parents.
Or just maybe just lucky sons of bitches. Either way, a big “fuck you” to Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, those rich bastards.
What was I talking about? Oh yeah.
This movie is totally worth seeing. The effects are mesmerizing, the acting and writing are sharp, and the scenery is gorgeous and inspiring. This movie made my mind bubble with excitement and introspection, and that is the best kind of entertainment I can think of.
Overall Rating : 8.9/10