Monday, April 13, 2015

Ex Machina

Confessions of a Sci-fi-fan

Ex Machina - 108min - R

I have always been an easy sell when it comes to science fiction. From the first moment I saw the robotic woman from Metropolis I was hooked on the genre. Obviously this film is going to be rated with an easier eye in my book...

Or so you would think.

Perhaps my love for this kind of film makes me look at it with more scrutiny. I found the movie to be a wonderful idea poorly executed. At best, it's a yellow light. There are some captivating cinematic elements, but the pace of the film kills any tension that it starts building. Plus, some of the messages in the film rub me the wrong way.

Nathan,(Oscar Isaac) is the very creepy owner of Big Blue, the world's largest Internet search engine. He holds a lottery and invites one of his minions - sorry, employees - to take part in a new project. He's creating a woman and wants to see if his employee can be taken in by a bizarre and highly sexualized Turing test.

I have to tell you how uncomfortable I am with the implied subtext in this film: Women are objects that are best experimented on. To make a perfect one, make her unable to communicate and sexually available whenever the need arises. The emotional connection it creates with you is all an act to get something from you and if you do give them any freedom they will kill you.

There, it just had to be said. I know I have a pro-feminist streak but I can’t be the only one who saw this, can I?

The cinematography is perfectly done to bring out the maximum amount of creepy, and the soundtrack works to heighten the tension. The problem is the long stretches of tension are interlaced with characters watching each other staring introspectively. When you have so much tension, your audience gets numb to it so when things happen in the story that should elicit a reaction of surprise or enlightenment they are more likely to respond with "Oh. Well that happened. Finally."

Nathan is ultimately way too creepy from the start. To make the end work better they should have slowly shown us his oddness. It should have started out with him being a fun eccentric. Instead he starts off being someone who would make the family robot say “Danger, Danger Will Robinson!”

Domhnall Gleeson as Caleb, the hapless employee, was a great casting choice. He was the perfect test subject and he played his role really well. Alicia Vakander, who played the robot, Ava, did an amazing job at simulating emotions like a robot trying to... simulate... emotions. Your head can go wonky if you think about it too long. How well a performer does at playing a robot is hard to gauge. Are they doing a good job because they are a great actor or are they simply robotic in their performance? Imaging how confusing that direction would sound like from the director. “Ok do these lines but don't emote because you're a robot. BUT you are faking like you have emotion”.

Comparing her work in Seventh Son and this film gives you a better understanding of her range. She is someone to keep an eye out for. Hopefully we can see her (I can't believe I am saying this) with more clothes on.

Alex Garland is one of my favorite directors. His work in 28 Days caught my attention and I enjoyed Dredd, so I was looking forward to this film. This one is not among my favorites in his portfolio. I know he can do a less disturbing story.

What popular movie has a subtext that rubs you the wrong way?

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