I’ve always had an innate love for good writing. I also have an admiration for psychological manipulation. And additionally, I have deep respect for writers who can catch me off guard. This film fulfills all the above criteria, and how. Allow me to elaborate.
Ex Machina is, of course, the story of an AI, a concept that predates computing. I believe human beings have been obsessed with intelligence of any kind ever since we recognized our own. A philosopher may attribute this to a God complex of some sort but I’m no philosopher. Frankenstein fear is the normal route for AI’s in films, something recently explored in Age of Ultron (I’ll go there in a second). However, there have been those few films and books where the presence of an AI doesn’t go directly to the Frankenstein complex and Ex Machina thankfully is one of those. Here’s a film that isn’t outwardly afraid of the AI and that’s a really refreshing change of pace.
2015 saw a bigger and badder AI than Ava (the AI of Ex Machina) – Ultron. Full disclosure, I’m a MCU-ite, any and all forms of it. Ultron is also my favourite baddie in the comic book universe. How good was James Spader as Ultron though? I knew he would do a good job since they announced it, of course. There really was, as Joss Whedon puts it, no one else who could do justice to that role. But I’m getting side tracked. The point of this essay/blogpost is to act as a comparison between the two films that are obviously poles apart but do have one thing in common – philosophical questions about the AI. The difference however lies in the fact that while Ex Machina is almost like a tribute to the philosophy of the AI, the AI is almost secondary to Age of Ultron, a means to an end. Ultron is fan-boy-wet-dream-Whedon’s interpretation of the NSA spying that came as a direct result of the 9/11 interpretation that was the Chitauri invasion of New York (even the same city). The film therefore is largely allegorical and the existence of the AI is merely incidental.
Ex Machina on the other hand is all about that AI. Ava is the star. She is being put to the infamous Turing test, to see if she is really thinking or acting like she is thinking. Sound complex? Well it’s a complex film. Many films deliver a surprise twist. Generally the twist is a physical one, Ex Machina’s big twist is quite emotional. It plays with your head, makes you believe you are seeing something when in reality something else is going on. It’s really a fantastic film that I hope at least gets a nod for Best Original Screenplay next year.
Ex Machina is very much an essay to the AI concept and it is for those who like a film that respects their intelligence and emotional capabilities. Watch it, now.