Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac), the AI researcher in Ex Machina, benefitted from nearly 20 years of advancements in technology when he created Ava (Alicia Vikander), his smoking-hot thinking computer who uses seemingly real emotions and perky breasts to convince an employee (Caleb played by Domhnall Gleeson) to set her free.
Ever since Mary Shelley sat down with Lord Byron on the rocky shore of Lake Geneva, people have been fascinated with science and fixated on the idea of man creating man. Most recently, roboteers broke the internet with rumors of an international giant robot duel between the United States and Japan. At a time when game consoles no longer require controllers and baby dolls grow facial hair, the Terminator franchise seems more a forewarning than popular entertainment.
Ex Machina, the directorial debut of writer Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Sunshine), does well to speak to the fears of an American public overwhelmed by technological advancement. Part of this blog, BTW, was created using my cellular phone, a device that doesn’t require physical contact with my finger to be controlled.
In Mary Shelley’s story, the presumptuous Dr. Frankenstein uses unorthodox methods to create a hideous yet perceptive creature. The monster is shunned by his creator and society. Likewise, the creature’s fear of mankind forces him to flee into the wilderness.
Ex Machina shares a few narrative details with its predecessor. Like Mary Shelley’s work, it too features an arrogant genius obsessed with creating an unnatural being. The humanoid robot in this case however, is beautiful. She is sensual and enchanting. She seems as intrigued by humans as they are by her and it is her dream to become part of human society. And she looks great in yoga pants.
Ava’s human-like behavior appeals to a young programmer who determines her internment to be abuse. The question is, are her emotions real, or has she conquered the human art of mental trickery.
I don’t know how my smartphone works. I know it connects me with everyone around and answers all the life-changing questions my mind generates while sitting on the potty. I know its sleek construction and dark coloring look nice sitting on my night stand. I know it scares me a little. I also know I’ll be the first in line when the next model is released.
Ava is able to convince Caleb she needs him because she has sultry eyes and a gorgeous body. She appeals to female viewers because she looks dainty in her modest house dress. The real life Bonnie and Clyde didn’t look like Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty. Hamburgers aren’t only eaten by men in hard hats and women in bikinis. I’m convinced the Dreamcast didn’t catch on in America because it wasn’t pretty to look at. That’s the one thing Victor Frankenstein didn’t understand. People like pretty things. They would have been more accepting of the monster if he looked like Aaron Eckhart.
Ex Machina is one of the best films of this young year. It is visually stunning and superbly acted. This is Oscar Isaac’s third score in a row following Inside Llewyn Davis and A Most Violent Year. It is a fascinating examination of our obsession with science and technology and beauty. It’s suspenseful and edgy and has me constantly checking IMDB for Garland’s next movie venture. Still unknown. Ugh.