Ex Machina (Alex Garland, 2015)

What's it about? Programmer Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is invited to the isolated home of his mysterious billionaire employer Nathan (Oscar Isaac) to help carry out a Turing Test on Nathan's new AI creation Ava (Alicia Vikander). However, there's more going on than first meets the A-eye.


Is it any good? A thoughtful sci-fi piece, more interested in ideas than action, with a clean, clinical visual style. Storywise, the problem it faces is that there's nothing here that hasn't been covered before elsewhere, in stuff like Asimov's I, Robot, and films like A.I., Blade Runner and, more recently, Her. In fact, the one part where it could have had something new to say is in exploring further the mining of social media to help create Ava's mind - I felt that could have been, well, mined for more interesting impact. That said, it's still a tidy directorial debut from Garland with nice performances from the small cast, which put flesh onto the slim, precise structure, with a plot that may not entirely develop the way you are expecting. It actually reminded me most of Never Let Me Go, which Garland previously co-wrote, both in terms of its examination of what it means to be human and in its slightly ethereal presentation, so if you liked that, you'll probably like this. And there's plenty of scope for a interesting intellectual debate/blazing row over gender differences and exploitation. Also, robo-boobs.

Anything else I should know? In a rather splendid piece of marketing, a profile for Ava was created for the Tinder dating app, before being launched on an unsuspecting public at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. Sure enough, more than one horny punter found themselves falling for the robot, only to be left a little shame-faced when the stunt was revealed. Then again, the picture used for the profile was of the not-hit-with-ugly-stick Alicia Vikander, who was definitely a human female last time I looked. Or is she.....?

What does the Fonz think? I, Fembot



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