Ex Machina II: The Rant

Well, I finally got around to watching Ex Machina, a terrible movie with a good ending, part of which was just that it felt so good that it was ending. I get that it’s a Brogrammer Pygmalion and as such has something to say about what a Pygmalion would be if it were made today – sexist, mysoginist, grandiose, pseudo-intellectual bullshit – in other words, pretty much like any other movie made today.

It’s certainly possible that a billionaire genius brogrammer would do nothing more with his time and his money than create several closets full of sentient sex slaves of various physical and ethnic types, and it’s certainly possible that having done that he would become even more of a drunken asshole. It’s much more believable that a young douchebag brogrammer would fall head over heels with the physical incarnation of his own web-search porn profile, but both of them are only expressions of the guy who made the movie, and the robot is his own Artificial Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and the whole experience was like watching the film maker masturbate. Kind of gross.

The ending was okay, but seemed obvious from the very moment we first met the sexbot and saw her partially shattered glass cage (LEMME OUT!!), a bullshit movie thing because everywhere else the fancy home was flawless. I know it’s a pain to get construction workers out there to Greenland or wherever the fuck, but movies, even terrible ones, could be a little more subtle with their foreshadowings.

As for the AI itself, there was almost no content there. Do you like me? Do I like you? What is art? Why am I so shallow? In movies – which create the future – AI are either mass murderers or sex slaves. It’s getting tiresome, people. Please make better movies.

3 thoughts on “Ex Machina II: The Rant

  1. Isn’t that the truth…murderers or sex slaves. Nothing in between. The one movie I’ve seen that strayed from that norm (and still wasn’t great) was Bicentennial Man. It’s too bad about this one. I like science fiction, and Alex Garland is a good writer. Maybe not so much as a film director?


  2. Granted the Asian Ai was a sex slave but I think Ava was definitely much more than that? She was manipulative, emotionally intelligent and calculating. All very human traits.

    What makes you think Caleb is a brogrammer? Nathan, definitely. But Caleb seemed fairly well adjusted and an interesting character, torn between affection for a ”personality”, his Turing test and his ethical opinion of Nathan’s AI experiments.

    I thought it was a good film, and a certainly much more original sci-fi film than there has been in recent years.


    • Certainly originality is often a recombination of things that have been done before – in this case I thought of ‘Sleuth’ and ‘Surviving the Game’ – rich guy, private estate, a game of wits, subtle deceptions and so on. Caleb is definitely a brogrammer – they talk about it in the film (you didn’t pick me because I’m the best programmer? no, but you’re okay) … then there’s the alcohol connoissuer bit, very bro and googley.

      I saw Ava as a wasted opportunity. She’s a prisoner who wants to escape, she’ll do whatever she has to, but otherwise, what is she? What qualities does she possess that make her otherwise interesting as a person or a different kind of being? What do we get to learn about her as an artificial being? I would have liked to ask her many things. Caleb, for a supposedly bright guy, was curiously uncurious and she remained pretty much a cipher, a projection of desire.

      It seemed, on reflection, that the ‘Turing test’ notion was no such thing and was never intended to be. Nathan only wanted to figure out what Ava would do so in his next iteration he could figure out some kind of workaround to keep his creations in his closet. If there was any genuine interest in artificial intelligence, they might have shown at least one conversation with some substance. There didn’t seem to be much in the way of curiosity on the part of either bro, and Ava just wanted to get out, travel and see the world. The shallowness of her character was not her fault. She wasn’t given a chance to be much other than cute, passive, wistful and deadly.

      Just my impressions, of course. The AI concept should evoke far more depth and nuance than the stuff we’ve been getting. Porn has driven some technologies, for sure, but what a fucking waste if that’s the road to AI.


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