Ex Machina Does it Fizz or Fizzle?

Ex Machi­na or rather Deus Ex Machi­na, God from the machine is the phrase from which the title of Alex Gar­land’s new film is coined. It con­cerns A.I. or arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, a holy grail along with per­pet­u­al motion, immor­tal­i­ty and time trav­el. The machine is built by humankind  but God is inferred.

Cer­tain mys­ter­ies are out­side the grasp of human under­stand­ing. All our tech­nol­o­gy, math and sci­ence are no guar­an­tee of the sur­vival of the species, espe­cial­ly when we play with the forces of cre­ation. The sin­gu­lar­i­ty of exact­ly when our machines will become sen­tient and a life force capa­ble of their own pro­cre­ation can­not be mapped any­more than the weath­er.

The sin­gu­lar­i­ty will arrive pre­cip­i­tous­ly on its own pre­rog­a­tive. That is what hap­pens to the cha­grin of Nathan Bate­man (played by Oscar Isaac) the would be Promethean demi-god and cre­ator of Ava (Ali­cia Vikan­der), the cen­tral arti­fi­cial humanoid in the sto­ry.

The themes cov­ered by this excel­lent work of sci­ence fic­tion have been inves­ti­gat­ed before but Ex Machi­na does it with fresh­ness and clar­i­ty. The film ends in a con­fla­gra­tion of clar­i­ty when the genie escapes the bot­tle and an evil opens Pan­do­ra’s box.

The pac­ing of the film is even and the cin­e­mat­ic approach is refresh­ing. The effects serve the sto­ry unlike so many cur­rent sci­ence fic­tion films where the effects are heavy and the sto­ry if any gets left to func­tion like the tail wag­ging the dog. Ex Machi­na was made for lunch mon­ey at only 20 mil­lion, but the shot vol­ume and pro­duc­tion val­ues are impres­sive and at no time are we dis­tract­ed by bud­get con­straints seep­ing out on screen.

The film has a qui­et grace while it exam­ines hor­rif­ic, cat­a­clysmic ideas of play­ing god, the birth of a new species and human extinc­tion by tech­no­log­i­cal sui­cide. I liked the sub­text of a three way chess match between Ava, Nathan and Caleb Smith played by (Domh­nall Glee­son) where one dis­cov­ered check after anoth­er revers­es the plot sev­er­al times.

This may be as much of a hor­ror film as it is a sci­ence fic­tion film. It shares the same sto­ry DNA as, Alien, Solaris, For­bid­den Plan­et and The Thing from Anoth­er World where an invis­i­ble and dan­ger­ous­ly clever mon­ster stalks among us. I would say that Ex Machi­na will hold up and stand the test of time. Is it fizz or is it fiz­zle? This is def­i­nite­ly fizz.

Ira Har­mon | film review­er for Pop Machine


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