New look old ideas
For all the movies made about the future and the robots who are certain to dominate, there aren’t many fresh ideas out there and the visually sleek and thematically empty “Ex Machina” is a perfect example. The film presents some interesting questions about Artificial Intelligence, male-female relationships even human sexuality but right when the film should be hitting us with some “a-ha!” moments it swerves into voyeuristic contrivances and settles for antiquated gender stereotypes. “Ex Machina’s” languid pace doesn’t help either – it is not an action thriller and the script isn’t as smart as it thinks it is.
This is unfortunate because the film had a potential to be a great Twilight-Zone esque cautionary tale about men creating female robots that rebel – though film fans will know this is by no means a new idea either, after all the classic silent film “Metropolis” is going on 90 years young. “Ex Machina” calls on a sturdy performance from Oscar Isaac (“Inside LLewyn Davis”) convincing as Nathan the uber-rich creator of IT company “Bluebook” holed up in his isolated bunker experimenting away with self-aware female cyber-bots. Wanting to put his latest iteration Ava (Alicia Vikander) through the “Turing-test” (How human is this robot?) Nathan uses a lottery to recruit eager-eyed employee Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) flying him in to his remote digs by helicopter.
Without divulging too much, suffice to say that Ava is pretty convincing and has some ideas of her own about the outside world and her own independence and Caleb seems like the perfect accomplice. And Caleb too is hamstrung by his gender role – so easily seduced as to throw out all logic – and the audience is asked to overlook plenty of obvious rational science as well. It is always tempting to ask in these film why the genius creators of these highly sophisticated machines never include an on/off button?
As “Ex Machina” gears up the tension – instead of throwing us a surprise element or a nifty action sequence the film pours on the twisted titillation which feels more than just awkward especially given its place in the final act—it feels cheap — perhaps acting as a camouflage for a rather unsatisfying conclusion. “Ex Machina” on the surface looks very avant-garde, but at its core it objectifies women in the same old ways.
(Rated “R” for graphic nudity, language, sexual references and some violence)