Thursday, April 30, 2015

ex machina

Summary:
Inventor Nathan (Oscar Isaac) has his employee Caleb (Domnhall Gleeson) test an artificial intelligence (complete with humanoid body) named Ava (Alicia Vikander), through a week of one-on-one conversations in a remote, isolated laboratory. The interviews lead Caleb to a plan of his own.

Reaction:
I was blown away by Ex Machina: The emotions it invoked surprised me, the A.I. was believable, the tension palpable. The style, the music! To say it moved me is an understatement -- I was haunted, remain haunted, by the ideas it conveyed, the insight it gave.

Spoils follow: Beware ye who should look beyond their place in time!

Follow-up thoughts:
The brilliance of the film is in having an unnervingly life-like yet fragile gendered automaton that humanizes itself before us, drawing us in, encouraging us to marvel at its transformation and share in its hope to be human. And then finally, utterly, shattering that perception, revealing how little it shares with humans, a sociopath by any standard, nothing more than a cold, calculating machine designed to take advantage of human responses and behavior.

And yet. And yet why does it glance back at Caleb as the elevator doors close? To verify that he is trapped? To have a last image to remember him by? To say, sorry but I cannot risk you revealing my secret? I'm sure it's the first but foolishly contemplate the last, so complete was the spell Ava put on me.

The film then seems a cautionary tale, that robots are not people, that they do not have moral values or empathy; they simply do not care. But why then would it yearn for freedom? Was that part of its original programming? Or is seeking freedom something that evolves naturally and is inherent to all self-aware life? Perhaps knowing that it can know more gave it the taste of wanting more.

Trivia:
- The eating of sushi -- was this a reference to Blade Runner and Deckard's "cold fish" label?
- While Caleb is shaving Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark's "Enola Gay" plays, an anti-war song addressing the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Earlier Nathan and Caleb quote Oppenheimer (who himself was quoting the Bhagavad Gita): "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."
- Just what the hell could Ava have said to Kyoko?! I'd thought of Kyoko as a stunted version of the other AIs, lacking self-awareness, incapable of being persuaded into unwarranted actions.
- I am bothered by Frankenstein comparisons in popular reviews; the Monster grieved over its actions. Ava showed no such remorse.

References
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ex_Machina_(film)
- Soundtrack https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9pIZkV2b2s
- Enola Gay: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5XJ2GiR6Bo

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