Schwarzenegger Fans: ‘Ex Machina’ Presents a New Android
By Aidan Linscott:
Ex Machina changes the game for blockbuster films exploring the alluring, yet frightening prospect of artificial intelligence. Many productions addressing the age-old science fiction topic of AI rivaling human intelligence present a violent conflict between machines and humans. Director Alex Garland challenges that notion with his remarkably simple, yet faintly challenging directorial debut; a portrayal that succeeds in particular when he addresses the impalpable aspects of human and feminine identity with regards to AI.
Machina’s protagonist, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), accepts a false sense of security when he arrives at his boss’ mountain retreat, where everything at a superficial level is visually appealing (with breathtaking shots of evergreen forests and snow-capped mountains). After relaxing, Caleb quickly discovers that his employer, Nathan (Oscar Isaac), has selected him to determine if an artificial life form, Ava (Alicia Vikander), exhibits behavior discernible from that of a human being. Rather than the all-powerful, aggressive, and uncaring machine from the Terminator films, Ava is apparently docile, quiet, and curious. What’s more, Ava soon develops a seemingly romantic interest in Caleb, providing emotional interactions at a level that certainly deviate from the indifferent and violent T-800.
Garland leaves room for Isaac and Gleeson to engage in comedic banter over drinks while discussing the progress of examining Ava. He also presents serious issues surrounding Nathan’s patriarchal, hegemonic treatment of his female android servants and, as we eventually learn, prisoners. Breaks in the tension through philosophical speculation and discussion prevent the issues Garland explores from being overemphasized, encouraging the viewer to think and engage instead of relaxing. Garland’s examination of AI and identity culminates in a curious fashion with a simultaneously conventional and ambiguous ending that leaves unanswered questions about how an android will confront the modern world.
Despite being overpriced in this day and age, a ticket to ‘Ex Machina’ gives the viewer a worthwhile experience and provides a new window into the possibilities of artificial intelligence. Garland’s examination of human and female identity, in conjunction with the questions he raises about the existence of an artificial, make the film a worthy companion to the top tier of science fiction.