Screen Anarchists On: EX MACHINA
(What is on display here: intelligence, artificial intelligence, or just artifice?)
Last week Ex Machina got a wide release in the United States. The previous two weeks it had been in a hugely successful limited release already, scoring the highest per-screen average of 2015 so far (its box office equaled over 80,000 dollar for each screen in its first week).
A bit earlier, it also won the audience award at the Imagine Film Festival Amsterdam. Combined with an IMDb-rating of 8.1, and a Rotten Tomatoes score of 90% fresh, it's an understatement to say that Alex Garland's first film as a director is doing fine for itself!
Still, it's interesting to see just how different people's opinions are on Ex Machina. Some praise its science but hate the story, others love it as a thriller but say the science is crap. It's been called smart science fiction, dumb science fiction, feminist, misogynous, and I've even heard someone calling it a robotic rape/revenge film. Wow.
In her review, Shelagh Rowan-Legg stated she liked parts of the film, but was left with a feeling of disappointment. Some here at ScreenAnarchy agree with her, others think it is brilliant.
So we had a quick round-up of opinions about the film, and decided to put them here for all to see, in a gallery. There are some minor spoilers ahead, but we all steered clear of any big ones.
The first one up is Shelagh again, adding a few words to her review, but click through them all to see our general reception of the film.
Shelagh Rowan-Legg, Contributing Writer:
What saddens me about Ex Machina is its lost potential. Garland creates an interesting tone and concept around human ego and hubris. But stripped of its window dressing, the film is little more the standard crisis of masculinity story that uses the female character as an object for investigation of the male characters.
From Maria in Metropolis to Pris and Rachael in Blade Runner, female robots are almost exclusively portrayed in relation to their sexuality, as opposed to male or non-gendered robots, who are meant to more fully represent the potential of AI and its meaning for humanity.
Even the posters for the film (which I know Garland would not necessarily be involved in designing) display Ava as an object, either with just her torso (no brain to think with or arms and legs to for independent movement), or the standard photo-from-behind with torso twisted towards the front, so that both buttocks and breasts are on display.
One could argue that Nathan is portrayed as a misogynist: he has created an AI brain capable of passing for human, and he uses it to make a series of ‘programmable woman’, sex robots that, once he is bored with (or perhaps afraid of), he dismantles. This film perhaps criticizes this behaviour. And yet, Ava remains little more than a sex robot, never displaying the advancement of this AI brain because the narrative never allows her to move beyond using her sexuality for power, like a femme fatale. The film’s story remains little more than the standard fear-of-woman tale, a fear that is realized to the detriment of the female character.