Alex Garland’s the scriptwriter and director. Domhnall Gleeson plays Caleb, a code worker for a software company called Bluebook. He wins a prize to spend a weekend with Nathan (Oscar Isaac) in the Norwegian mountains. Caleb is required to interview an A.I. robot Ava (Alicia Vikander) and check on how artificial she is. What happens among the three of them?
Since The Beach Garland tries to show how the deadly threat of human corruption in any contrived paradise. I found Ex-Machina very irritating. Garland is not a scientist so he had to have scientific advice on this and frankly it looks like any nerd’s wet dream. More than that, it reminded me of a poor man’s version of Sleuth (Shaffer’s observation of social class between two sparring characters), except that the sparring doesn’t really get started. Nathan is god like smug in his multimillionaire’s fortress as he tells Caleb he will design Ava. It’s main resemblance to Sleuth (lacking that play’s wit), is a rich man toying with his creation and employee. Of course robot creation goes back to Frankenstein, Pygmalion, I Robot, and Bladerunner and in this latter film there is real fun to be had with the essentially non-question of artificial versus human intelligence. Isn’t it just one of the big myths of our age? In this and other similar movies it looks like script material for unoriginal movies. Asimov wanted to take the debate to some pretty esoteric level, but in Garland’s it looks like a nerd’s obsession, a questionable male fantasy with its apparently compliant female robot. Instead of dramatic dialogue we get juxtapositions of would-be insightful statements. The film can mention Wittgenstein’s Blue Books all it likes, but it’s a pointless name drop. Ava herself looks like a plastic battery in the witch Momby’s gallery, she’s on the look out for a good skin graft. The other female robot is Japanese with all the animation of a zombie. This is a fifty year old stereotype, the amoral Oriental killing machine beloved of James Bond movies. When Nathan and the robots break into po-faced dancing, it just made me laugh. Was this supposed to be an outbreak of spontaneity?