Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Internet Personified and The Nerdy Nice Guy, or Thoughts on Ex Machina


A digital rendering of Alicia Vikander as Ava, the Robot with a Heart of Chrome.  Created as always in Adobe Illustrator, exclusively for this blog, because I care about you.  Or maybe because I just enjoy drawing women.

Ex Machina (2015) is a story that has been told many times before, from Bride of Frankenstein, Metropolis, Vertigo, all the way up to Blade Runner and modern iterations such as Her and Six from Battlestar Galactica.  It’s a popular theme, creating the perfect woman.  The film stars Domhnall Gleeson, AKA Bill Weasley, as Caleb, the protagonist, Oscar Issac as Nathan, the Steve Jobs/ Dr. Frankenstein creator, and the alluring Swedish Actress Alicia Vikander as Ava, the sexy glass and chrome robot.
The movie doesn’t truly begin until we are introduced to Ava, the female artificial intelligence created by Nathan.   At its most basic level, this is a movie about two males interacting, through the prism of a female character that one of them has brought into a semblance of life.  This movie is no different than one man lost in an immersive video game that another created or a writer inviting someone over for the weekend to read one of his latest novels.  It's important to note this, because at its core this film is more about how men today interact with women than the larger issues of Artificial Intelligence and the blurred line of humanity.
Ex Machina depicts the interaction of Ava with two very 21st century male archetypes: the bearded hipster visionary douchebag and the nerdy nice guy.   Both of these men are awkward around women in their own ways, and are far more comfortable around computers.  Sound familiar?  Sound like anyone you know?  The premise is simple; a series of conversations between Caleb and Ava unfolds from behind a sinister glass wall like a zoo exhibit, or a high tech prison, discreetly monitored from a bank of computer screens by Nathan.
Ava is the Internet personified, a sexy exterior masking a cold and indifferent heart, where every fact is measured equally.  In Ava, Ex Machina has created our latest incarnation of the Perfect Female, and the embodiment of our complicated relationship with computers, cell phones, social media, games, porn and digital life.  (Porn is relevant in this conversation; it’s ubiquitous online and Nathan turns one of his creations into a sex-bot).   The Technological Singularity is also hinted at, because if Ava is released into the world at large she will act as a virus that will ultimately destroy humanity, or at least change it into something more efficient, dispassionate and ultimately less human.
I found the CGI to be subtle and non-distracting, much like Imperator Furiosa's arm in Mad Max, Fury Road, another of these new 21st Century female archetypes, but she's a subject for another review.  It’s nothing new to personify an AI or a machine as female; we have named and been treating machines as females ever since we started manufacturing them.  Examples abound from the Millennium Falcon to the Enola Gay.  (Caleb also listens to Enola Gay  by OMD as he unpacks, a not-so subtle reference concerning the devastating impact scientific advancement can have on the world).
The first time director and writer Alex Garland, author of The Beach, (a novel that is far better than Leonard DiCaprio’s movie adaptation), is also the writer for 28 Days Later, Never Let Me Go and Dredd, and no stranger to bleak, dystopian futures like the one everyone seems to think we are heading for.  The film is a breezy yet provocative 108 minutes, and populated by adult characters exploring adult themes, for an adult audience.  We don’t make enough movies for adults, that’s why they all stay home and watch reruns of Breaking Bad and Mad Men. 




my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.