As someone who loves watching Science Fiction movies and shows, and who is also a Science Fiction writer himself, I had a total fanboy moment when I watched the trailer of Ex Machina for the first time. Go ahead and watch the trailer I've embedded. I'll wait.
You're back? Good. It looks good, doesn't it? In robotic/android Science Fiction, the trope that is regularly employed is the Pinocchio issue: a construct who wants to be a real boy. If a robot is equipped with artificial intelligence (AI), will it destroy humanity like Ultron of the Avengers: Age of Ultron movie is set to do, or will it preserve humanity like The Vision does? Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics are also discussed at great length in android stories, be them directly or indirectly. What are these laws, you ask?
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
I, Robot uses these laws and discusses about what happens when these laws are corrupted. A thoroughly good movie, that. In my story, "Act of Faith", the same rules are used, albeit indirectly. I discussed about whether a robot has a soul, and if so, can it be a follower of the Faith?
Here we have Ex Machina. In the movie, Nathan, a genius who founded a popular search engine, has created androids and wants a third party to test his technology, so he calls in one of his employees, Caleb. He uses a modified Turing test to see if Caleb will treat a robot like another human even though he is aware that he is interacting with a robot. Ava is a humanoid android that doesn't even pretend to look fully human. Her abdomen is transparent, and her limbs are covered with mesh instead of skin.
She still looks beautiful.
I can't say much without giving spoilers, but like any other thriller, Ex Machina raises the question of trust. Can Caleb trust Nathan? Or should he trust Ava? How can he trust either of them--or even himself--when he develops an existential crisis?
Even using a minimalist setting (one location) and cast (just three of them, unless you count in the ever-silent Kyoko), this movie manages to evoke a mini-existential crisis within my psyche. Something like what The Matrix did. What if our existence is just a lie? What if what we know is not real? What is real, anyway? Who gets to decide?
Ex Machina doesn't even care about Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics. Here, what makes a robot human is not free will, but the instinct to survive. How far will a robot go to ensure its survival?
It's sad to see that Nathan's goal for developing these androids is to create lifelike companion/sex bots. It's sad to see that at this day and age, women are still seen as sexual objects. Ex Machina is still an amazing movie, regardless, because of the storytelling and the character development/arcs. Layers upon layers are peeled off from these three main characters to reveal who they are, what their essence is.
The only qualm I have is how easy, how convenient the ending is. I guess I expected more? Breanna can attest to my aversion toward convenient endings. It's the ultimate struggle/conflict, and the protagonist has to risk losing everything in order to earn victory. The keyword here is "earn". While there is no question that all three of them have gotten what they deserve, but I don't think one of them has earned it.
Overall, it's a beautiful, thought-provoking movie. It approaches the android trope in a tasteful, novel manner, and I highly recommend it.