i liked the movie. i liked the style of it, the contrast between the vast outside spaces and the claustrophobic hidden ground where AI and human interact. i liked the natural pivots of the narrative, the pithy philosophical bombs dropped here and there for the audience to pick up and chew on. (ever tried eating a bomb? you get your mind blown. hehe.) i liked how self-contained it is, limited to a space, a few (perfectly cast) characters, that artificial construct of the turing test.
but this isn’t a review. it’s a processing. i’m not really in the mood to write a real review, so don’t read this unless you’ve already seen the movie.
so let’s sum up the plot thus: man creates machine. man contains machine. man plays/ messes/ fucks around with machine and fellow man. fellow man and machine scheme to get the best of man.
no one seems to be innocent of a hidden agenda.
and let’s skip to the heart of the matter: what are we afraid of? sci-fi is the most paranoid fiction out there, it’s usually a way to grapple with tech phobia, and moral/ ethical dilemmas. that classic setup of playing at being god, and of creating the instrument of one’s own destruction. (“is it strange to have made something that hates you?” asks every kid of a shitty parent.)
we’re familiar with the paranoia over AI: it’s not just that they will take over, that humans will be superfluous, but that humans will be bested, in the worst way. (“one day the AIs are going to look back at us, upright apes, all set for extinction.”) that we would create the perfect sentient machine but only something that passes for human, aping emotion, and lacking perhaps a soul. if we overstep ourselves by creating something almost-but-not-quite-human, we’d probably create a rebellious monster (hi mary shelley!) who reflects our fears back…maybe acts on that fear by lashing out. a creature even more callous than its creator.
someone so flawed ought to create something in their own image: flawed as well.
take the term “artificial” in AI. google the definition of root word artifice: “clever or cunning devices or expedients, especially as used to trick or deceive others.” so intelligence here can be liberally interpreted as a deceptive intelligence, a cunning sort of cleverness. and yet, it may just be enough to gain the caged being what they want. survival? revenge? freedom?
alex garland already gives you a clue with the title: ex machina. could be a play on deus ex machina, that plot device where an intervention helps the hero extricate himself from an untenable situation. but garland takes the god out of the machine, or the god out of the equation. *drumroll* what’s left is the machine, the creation, the machination.
no gods, just monsters. and fallible men.