MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Directed by Alex Garland. Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander
Since I go to the movies regularly, I am well aware that a film can be visually interesting and extremely well acted and still not have much of a message. In other words, it is possible to enjoy a movie as a creation that exists in its own universe without overthinking things.
Ex Machina, the new science fiction film written and directed by Alex Garland, is so technically adept and ingeniously constructed, with great performances all around from its small cast, you really want to give it an “A” for effort. The movie is consistently entertaining and ingenious in the ways it keeps you hooked as a viewer.
The movie, however, has the shiny surfaces and haunting musical soundtrack that suggest that it has something important to say. Set those expectations aside and you may have a good time at the movies.\
The premise is a simple one that I can share without spoiling the film for you. Caleb (Gleeson) is a computer programmer who wins an international competition to spend a week with Nathan (Oscar Isaacs), the media mogul who not only has created the planet’s most popular search engine, but who is experimenting with artificial intelligence in his secret underground compound. After Caleb arrives, he is introduced to Nathan’s current project, a robotic beauty named Ava (Vikander). At this point in my description, if you are thinking that Nathan may be playing God and that Ava might be his version of Eve, you have reached the “Well, duh” phase of this obvious scenario. Nathan wants Caleb to spend the week with Ava to test her to see if she passes The Turing Test (the imitation game in which a computer is sophisticated enough to pass for human). Will Caleb develop feelings for Ava, even though she is a man-made projection of female characteristics? Is this paradise headed for a fall?
To its credit, Ex Machina flirts with having profound things to say, but it is just a slicker version of 1935’s The Bride of Frankenstein, with the addition of a few plot twists and surprises that have become a staple of twenty-first century suspense films.
What I resented most about the film was its blatant objectification of women as objects of desire. Let’s face it – the concept of the beautiful lady robot goes all the way back to 1927’s Metropolis with a side trip to My Living Doll, television’s robot comedy of 1964. To add insult to injury, Ex Machina uses the mechanical concept of lifelike robotics as an excuse to squeeze full-frontal nudity into an R rated film.
There is a popular saying that the only thing that separates men from boys is the price of their toys. Unfortunately, when boys never grow up, they continue to treat women as playthings. I was hoping for more in the future.
Two halos: A well-acted and beautifully filmed science fiction film that isn’t quite as profound as it appears on the surface.
Three pitchforks: Swearing; some crude sexual banter; a great consumption of alcohol; full frontal robot nudity; offensive objectification of women.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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