It's still a great story about boys and girls, sci-fi notwithstanding.
Director: Alex Garland
Screenplay: Garland (28 Days Later)
Cast: Domhnall Gleeson (Unbroken), Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year)
Runtime: 108 min.
by John DeSando
“I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson)
Ex Machina is a thoughtful science fiction film about Artificial Intelligence, whereby, to no fan’s surprise, the current female robot, Ava (Alicia Vikander), has human qualities that cause trouble for inventor, Nathan (Oscar Isaac), and visitor, young Caleb (Dominhall Gleeson). If you know anything about these stories, you could write the screenplay, but you’d need these actors to make it the impressive sci-fi it is.
Poets and philosophers have been intrigued by just this story about AI gone astray after interacting with humans. The Frankenstein motif is alive and dangerous, and the spirit of Spike Jonze’s Her, with the seductive operating system, is very much a part of Ava’s approach to Caleb. The destructive force of Nathan’s creation is more subtle than in Dr. Frankenstein’s creation, but menacing nevertheless: “Isn't it strange, to create something that hates you?” Ava to Nathan
Brainy Nathan has a compound somewhere in an Alaskan refuge as modern as could be with ID cards and glass walls and doors to give the impression of peace and transparency. Caleb is chosen to help Nathan use the Turing test to judge the quality of the AI-human experience.
As in real life, nothing is as it appears because neither Nathan nor Ava can refrain from lying. Yet, even Caleb is drawn into lies as he gets closer, even romantically, yikes! to Ava. Once again for science fiction, as soon as the robot gets to enjoy being like a human, trouble ensues.
However, even if this film seems like a retread, say, of Never Let Me Go, very few filmmakers could match the ultra modern, yet still sexy, set design. And Isaac’s character is so mercurial, at once comforting then tyrannical, that the film could be remembered if only for his star turn as the mad but charming scientist.
After all, Ex Machina is as much about a scientist playing God as it is about the bridge between robot and man. Each topic could, and has been, treated on its own. Here it is an exciting return to modern man as god and monster:
“I am God.” Nathan
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com