Sunday, August 9, 2015

Movie Review: Ex Machina {SPOILERS]

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This is a very interesting sci-fi movie about Artificial Intelligence (AI). With this genre of film, the main theme is our fear that AI machines will outsmart humans and take over. Well, this film certainly covers that first part. Here's the plot:

Nathan (played by Oscar Isaac) is a genius who has created an AI woman named Ava (played by Alicia Vikander). Caleb (played by Domhnall Gleeson), who works for Nathan's company, is invited to check out Ava and see if she can pass the Turing test (i.e. to see if she is just as intelligent as a human being). Caleb has to take a helicopter ride to get to the remote location of Nathan's house, and is dropped off all alone and is told to hike to the house; right away you get the creeps and are yelling at the TV to tell Caleb to get back in the chopper. Once he makes it to the house, we immediately can see that Nathan is a complete weirdo who has been away from society for too long, since he's been holed up here to work on his research. Once Caleb realizes his assignment, he starts interacting with Ava to see if the robot woman does have human intelligence. They seem to build a sort of friendship (and perhaps a crush), with Nathan watching all of their conversations. But Ava has the ability to cut off the building's power for short periods of time, and during those times she can talk to Caleb privately. This is when she tells him that Nathan is a horrible person, keeping her prisoner and lamenting that he will destroy her when he creates a better, new model of the AI. Caleb is persuaded, and he works to try to help Ava escape. One day when Nathan gets black-out drunk, Caleb is able to break into to computer system and reset the safety features so that the doors will not automatically lock so Ava can get out. Nathan does find out about this, but by the time he knows about it, it's too late. Ava has been able to get out of her "cage" (if you will), and with the help of another AI woman (who pretty much just acts as Nathan's sex slave), they stab Nathan and kill him. At this point, you think Ava and Caleb are going to run away together and live happily ever after. But NO! The door locks Caleb in, and even when he calls for Ava to come get him out, she leaves. You watch her finally leave her prison and explore the woods around the house. She then catches the helicopter that is meant to take Caleb home, and we see her acclimate to city life. The end.

I really enjoyed this movie. It was beautiful to watch, especially since most of it takes place out in Norway (photos of the set here). And the three main actors did a great job: Isaac was a perfect creep, Gleeson is the epitome of the innocent and naive guy, and Vikander is amazing as a robot, with all of her precise movements (she was trained as a ballerina). I also liked the suspense, and the whole story really got me thinking about today's technology and what could possibly happen in the future. I certainly thought it was risky of Nathan to program his AI to attempt to escape using the help of another person, especially since Nathan did not want her to succeed! He was pretty much asking for it, and he got what he deserved. The movie kept me awake after watching it, just thinking of the robot's intelligence and then her lack of sympathy for humans. The cruelty of machines (without all of the feelings that people have) and how they could potentially destroy the human race is what we fear most about AI.

My least favorite part of the film was the last three minutes. They were completely unnecessary. When we see Ava leaving the building through the elevator and Caleb stuck in the house, the movie should have immediately ended there, with all of us completely shocked that she left him there to die. But we get to see Ava explore the house a bit, enjoy the outdoors, leave the area on the helicopter, and make it to a city where she can people watch, which was her dream to begin with. The audience can assume that when Ava leaves the house, she will enjoy the outdoors that she never got to experience before; we don't need to see it. It's actually almost an insult to the viewer to show these last few bits: we ARE smart enough to know that she would get outside and leave the house where she had been kept a prisoner. The ending was so obvious that it could not even be called artistic no matter how beautiful it was; it was just a waste of film. 

PS: Gleeson is a total dork during the special features; definitely a nerd!

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