What if an alien in the future stumbled upon Alex Garland’s Ex Machina? Welcome to Earthling Cinema, where we examine the last remaining artifacts of a once-proud culture and try to understand what human lives were like before their planet was destroyed. I’m your host, Garyx Wormuloid.
This week’s film:
Ex Machina (2014)
Stars: Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vilkander, Sonoya Mizuno, Oscar Isaac
Director: Alex Garland
Production Co: Film4, DNA Films
Written by: Ben Steiner
Directed by: Jared Bauer
Analysis by: Kevin Winzer
Starring: Mark Schroeder (https://twitter.com/mark_schroeder)
Edited by: Ryan Hailey (http://www.ryanhaileydotcom.com/)
Original Music by: David Krystal (http://www.davidkrystalmusic.com)
Opening Animation by: Danny Rapaport
Produced by: Jacob S. Salamon
Ex Machina’s Hidden Meaning – Earthling Cinema
Greetings, and welcome to Earthling Cinema. I am your host, Garyx Wormuloid. This week’s artifact is Ex Machina, starring first name hoarder Oscar Isaac, best known for playing the blue guy in X-Men Apocalypse. No, not that one. Or that one. Yeah, there he is.
Ex Machina follows a cuble-dweller named Caleb who gets invited for a week-long staycation in a very exclusive bomb shelter with his company’s CEO, Nathan Bateman. That’s Natey Batey to his friends, of which he has none. Nathan shows Caleb the top secret project he’s been working on: a new line of skin-tight metallic bodysuits. Oh, and a robot model named Ava.
Caleb’s role in all this is to determine if Ava is capable of real human thought — you know, judging people, being selfish, obsessing about likes on social media, trying not to fart in public. They start hanging out on the reg, and naturally she starts crushing on him hard because ladies can’t get enough of that meek politeness. Nathan creeps on them using security cameras, so to spice things up Ava causes a power outage. That way they can talk about whatever their organic and/or mechanical hearts desire, like not trusting Nathan, or football.
Nathan announces he is going to upgrade Ava, thereby dooming her current self to electronic hell, which is a loading screen stuck at 99%. To prank Nathan, Caleb gets him to poison himself silly and changes his computer background to Tubgirl. Then he and Ava come up with a plan to leave together and never look back.
But uh oh, Nathan reveals he’s been listening even when Ava cuts the power, so now the proverbial Girl is in the other Tub. The real test of Ava’s intelligence was to see if she could manipulate Caleb with her feminine willies, which she totally did. Unfortunately for Nathan, Caleb also changed the security passcode to Tubgirl, allowing Ava to escape her room. After saying goodbye to Nathan, she graciously thanks Caleb by stealing his primitive excuse for a spaceship.
Ex Machina explores the line between human and automaton, which is, admittedly, pretty subtle. The film’s visual imagery illustrates the distinction between the artificial and natural worlds. Inside Nathan’s man cave-slash-research facility, stark, straight lines and muted colors reflect the order of machines, especially ATM machines, that old moneybags. Doors are strictly controlled by permission, similar to the well-defined parameters of computer functions. In contrast, the natural environment surrounding the facility is colorful and unpredictable, just like, well, nature. Come on, guys, try to keep up.
The central question of the film is whether Ava has transcended the deterministic thinking of a Lenovo or a Samsung Galaxy Note and entered the realm of the living. Nathan likens true consciousness to the work of abstract painter Jackson Pollock, son of Jackfather Pollock. The construction of Ava’s brain reflects the fluidity that human consciousness — and my haircut — require.
However, the film makes us question how useful Nathan’s test of consciousness really is, since calling human conscious is kind of a stretch. As he points out, Caleb’s sparkling personality is determined by programming just like Ava’s. His responses can be analyzed and quantified, which allows Ava to determine when he has a half-chub.
In the end, the film leaves the viewer with the impression of Ava’s humanity, and not just because she starts showing more skin. As she escapes, we see Pollock painting again, reminding us of Nathan’s distinction between a programmed machine and the subconscious motivations of a human. When Ava murders Nathan, she appears to pass his test with flying colors, aka the Pollock’s method. By killing Nathan, an act that she certainly was not programmed to commit, she demonstrates that she has transcended her parameters and is now legally qualified to raid tombs.
But Ex Machina is less a warning about the many horrifying dangers of technology and more a commentary about how man’s creations reflect human nature. Just as weapons like the atomic bomb and the trans-molecular destabilizer mirror the violence of the societies that invented them, Ava reflects the manipulative tendencies of Caleb and Nathan, the only human beings she has ever met. Thus, if Nathan has made Ava in his own image, what kind of person will she be? She’ll be a murderous robot who uses others to achieve her goals. With a pretty sweet beard.
For Earthling Cinema, I’m Garyx Wormuloid. Signing off.