drwex (drwex) wrote,
drwex
drwex

We saw "Ex Machina" and it was boring

I had skipped seeing Ex Machina when it was in the first-run theaters because the trailers made it look too much like a horror film. We finally saw it last week at the Brattle. The film is not horror, in the modern sense of "horror" = "shock and splatter" but it is intended to be horrific. Sadly, it fails to do anything it ought to do. 1/5 stars.

I waffled about one or two stars. It gets +1 for being remarkably technically accurate, including some hilarious screenshots of what I think was pretty simple C/C++ code. And the explanation of how the intelligence gets built and learns isn't grossly far off what we think the best in strong AI is doing today. But the film gets a -1 for gratuitous voyeuristic male-gaze full frontal nudity and sexism.

The premise is that a lone genius has somehow invented a Turing-capable AI via techniques such as hacking every cellphone to watch peoples' faces and learn human expression plus massive text analysis from mining a world-wide search engine. This idiot then embeds the AI in a robotic body. Because reasons. Thus creating an android, though it's referred to as a robot throughout. And for REASONS he makes the body - and the robot's programming - cis-female and heterosexual. It thinks of itself as "she" and is programmed to be attractive to (flirt with, come on to) hetero men. And, we're told, is fully functional (thank you, Data).

So, that's icky. Turns out the reason it's icky is because the lone genius is also icky, and a careless drunk, and pretty much a sociopath who doesn't care that he's using the world's people and their information for his own purposes. Yay. Guess what kind of android a sociopath programs? Now explain to me why I should care when his creations turn on him?

Oh and there's a patsy, a guy brought in to (Turing) test the android. Except the entire test is rigged and you're supposed to guess who's testing whom. The patsy is testing the robot and also his freaky sociopath genius host who is in turn testing the two of them.

The only interesting part of the movie is when the android Ava (Alicia Vikander) turns from test-ee to tester and starts trying to dig the humanity out of loner nerd patsy Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson). There is a remarkably Silence of the Lambs-esque character to this table-turning and I found Ava the only sympathetic character. Which made it particularly offensive when I had to sit through an extended bit of Ms. Vikander's admittedly attractive body completely nude on camera. Even as the plot tries to imbue Ava with agency and authority over her body and destiny the camerawork and direction rob her of it. Instead of rooting for her I ended up wishing she'd just vanish and the movie to be over.

Fortunately she's also an idiot who seems not to remember she needs to charge via the induction plates in the house so when she leaves she's essentially becoming a Replicant, doomed to die soon anyway.

And therein lies the core of this film's problem. It's not doing anything that previous films haven't done better and more originally. Modernizing the story only gets you so far - if you're going to retell Frankenstein at least tell it in an interesting way.
Tags: movie, review
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