A Brief Review: Ex Machina

Whoa. That was different.

An employee of Definitely Not Google So Don’t Even Try To Sue Us Google wins a lottery that lets him stay a week at the reclusive company founder’s estate in … Alaska, I think. It’s basically Fallingwater perched atop a mad-science-based supervillain’s apocalypse bunker/research center, with glaciers n’at between it and the rest of civilization. But once he’s there, he learns this isn’t just some fun retreat alone with an uber-rich and vaguely-off-putting drinking bro: he’s there to help with a test. A Turing test. Founder-bro wants the see if his robot Ava is an honest-to-god AI.

And from there, the movie goes in … ways you’d expect, ways you’d emphatically NOT expect, and ways that generally do not fail to be interesting and thought provoking.

It’s hard to discuss this movie without either giving spoilers out like they were M&M’s or being infuriatingly circumspect. Some things that I hope are vague enough to be enticing without giving the game away: Ava is neither a terminator nor Skynet. “Intelligent” does not mean “human,” and anthropomorphizing something intelligent enough to have its own agenda is not wise. Being a horrifying creep doesn’t make somebody wrong about everything. And the implied question “So, why did this guy build his AI to have very feminine tits and ass?” very definitely gets answered.

This is thinky sci-fi, not explodey sci-fi. Thinky sci-fi is notoriously difficult to pull off, as movies in general can often wind up significantly dumber than their makers intended. This one doesn’t. It explores interesting ideas and asks intriguing questions, with moviemakers who top-to-bottom know what they’re doing. It’s slow, but if you get on its wavelength, never dull.

There’s some sexual content which can get a bit squicky, if you have a thin skin for such things. Some misogynist tropes ultimately make themselves known, but as “presenting” and “endorsing” are two different things, they didn’t wreck the movie from me.

This movie is a hell of an unexpected treat. If anything I’ve said sounds intriguing, I recommend it highly as a change of pace before the summer blockbuster season gets started in earnest.