Isn't it strange, to create something that hates you?

Isn’t it strange, to create something that hates you?

 

Two of the most intriguing details about this latest piece of science fiction have nothing to do with what we see, but everything to do with what we hear. Sound effects have been laced into this film so intricately, that every motion and movement is accompanied by a whirr or a clink. They are subtle reminders that even though this being looks human, it decidedly is not. The other inclusion comes from the score, and its continual low thump.

As this music drifts in and out of the conversations between human and android, we begin to get reminded of a heartbeat…and likewise reminded that it’s yet one key thing that spritely being looking back at us does not have.

EX MACHINA begins by introducing us to Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), a programmer at Bluebook which is a Google-like company. Caleb has been selected at random to visit the secluded home of Bluebook’s CEO and inventor – a mysterious man named Nathan (Oscar Isaac).

After Caleb gets to Nathan’s incredibly isolated property, he is brought into the light by the inventor. Caleb is there to help perform a series of Turing Tests on an AI program that Nathan feels is close to being ready. The AI system is named AVA, and is a walking talking female form (played by Alicia Vikander).

During his first session with AVA though, Caleb is given a peek behind the curtain when the power goes out and the cameras monitoring the test are cut. It’s then that AVA tells him that he’s wrong in his perceptions of Nathan…and that Nathan shouldn’t be trusted.

Just what is Nathan up to, and just how much does AVA know? The only other soul in sight is Nathan’s servant Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno), and considering her lack of english vocabulary, she’ll be of no help in piecing together the puzzle.

Nathan is undeniably brilliant, and like many brilliant minds he seems capable of great danger. AVA seems to understand this, but how much help can she be in unveiling the malice of her own creator. Then there’s Caleb, who’s enticed by both Nathan and AVA but for very different reasons.

Is he really helping build the maze for this rat to run through? Or is he just the cheese standing in the middle of it?

 

Domhnall Gleeson & Oscar Isaac

This film by Alex Garland is beautiful and haunting. It is a glorious piece of science fiction in the way that so very much of it seems plausible – from the house itself to the data mining that Nathan employed to get his creation “just so”. Audiences will always flock to tales that send them to far away worlds, and push us to the furthest limits of our imagination, but there’s something special about stoking our science fiction with a little more science, and a little less fiction.

Where the fantastical is concerned though, we need to take a moment and tip our cap to AVA. She is a character that has been designed to disarm the audience, and disarm us she does. With her wide eyes and her perfect posture, it’s not hard to see why a man like Nathan might think she’s close to perfect, and why a man like Caleb might tip his hand in the testing phase. What this character does is play around with our sense of perception.

In our own lives, we throw up walls and do what we can to protect our most vulnerable feelings. Very seldom are we completely honest – not even when we are talking about films from the other side of a wi-fi signal. But now and again, someone comes along who looks at us in a certain manner, or uses their cadence a certain way. These people disarm us, they unlock us, and they prompt us to talk to them in ways we might not talk to others.

The crazy thing is that these people might not be the best outlets for us to be opening up to, but if they hide their malice just enough…say with a pleasant sweater, or a kind expression in their eyes…we don’t realize how much of ourselves we are giving up until it’s too late. That’s not to suggest that we only have ourselves to blame, more to wave a flag at the mass packs of wolves that stalk this world and how they use the sheep’s clothing to their advantage.

But this film doesn’t want to blame the witness to these confessions. It wants us to think about how we get into these situations. It wants us to think about the crass commercialism that spawns these sorts of innovations, and the complicit nature with which we enter into these areas of questionable morals.

EX MACHINA isn’t treading any new ground by its warning cries about trying to create a “more human human”…but I don’t feel as if it is trying to. What I do believe it wants us to think about when we’re being the most honest version of ourselves. Perhaps that version comes forth when we’re completely isolated from society, or perhaps that version comes forth when we’re speaking with someone we believe is beneath us. Better still, maybe that version comes out online…when we feel like nobody knows what we’re doing, or what we’re saying.

“The real us” is somewhere in the space between these three personalities. Maybe that’s why we have such trouble create a truly human experience in our tech: If we don’t know who we are, how can we recognize it in that which we create?

 

Matineescore: ★ ★ ★ 1/2 out of ★ ★ ★ ★
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