‘Ex Machina’ a cerebral piece of sci-fi art
Think super computer evolution in a more portable and prettier version than Hal 9000.
The aforementioned defective starship computer debuted in Stanley Kubrick’s Cinerama classic, “200l: A Space Odyssey” (1968). Androids, robots (the adaptation of ‘I Robot’ on ‘Outer Limits’) and artificial humans (no, not zombies!) have a tendency to instill sophisticated philosophies amidst futuristic journeys, such as an action-dominated “Lucy.”
Real time (i.e. now) has discovered an exotic, erotic female substitute in multiple societies where the long-term man/woman coupling has faded. Enter life-size, made to specification, ‘dolls’ for the lonely guys in your life.
“Ex Machina” contemplates advanced machines that speak, move, think and feel. The prototype aptly named Ava (played by human Alicia Vikander) has been developed by a reclusive billionaire search engine eccentric. He has programmer Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) flown in to the secluded research mansion to ‘test’ the creation and determine whether she has gained artificial intelligence (the ability to think and feel for herself).
No explosions. Little blood. Lots of conversation and speculation.
Ava’s creator Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac) enjoys his cyber God-like stature quickly rising psychotic suspicions accompanying his genius nerd status. The creator desires perfection and, with that, control, as expressed in an introductory non-disclosure agreement.
Ava and her examiner spend most of the film conversing in-between unexplained power failures. She’s gradually flaunting her mechanical self on Caleb, while simultaneously Nathan verbally debunks her skills.
The couple bond and their interaction flourishes as the feminine bot demonstrates increasing physical and verbal repartee interlaced by interpretative surveillance cat and mouse mysteries escalated through ‘you decide’ toss ups to her. As Ava finds female competition in the facility she fears for her own mortality (“can I be switched off?”) and exhibits personal appearance insecurities and traits of independence.
Written and directed by Alex (“28 Days Later”) Garland. the sterling, stylized and cerebral mousetrap asks, “who’s testing whom” and subtly strokes itself with the equation that art represents actions that are not automatic (i.e. cliche). Peaceful, relaxing virgin nature scenery and rustling leaves foretelling disruptions in the force qualify.