Saturday, May 16, 2015

//FLM RVW: Ex Machina- More like Sex Machina Amirite?

Ex Machina is a movie about a simp that gets duped by a fembot, gets his boss killed and unleashes her to, probably, exact a Species-esque vengeance upon the innocent humans of earth (a cool sequel idea for the makers). Sure, it is heart warming to watch her gaze at the nature of freedom with lost eyes and a wide four-year-old-that-just-found-his-boner smile until you realise she had no qualms with leaving her savior for death. I feel like this movie would better be reviewed after multiple viewings but maybe another more in-depth look can be on the horizon when I'm not bummed about no one hanging out with me on a Friday.

Ex Machina does what science fiction movies of this kind always do- cannonball into conversations about A.I., evolution, human emotions, sexuality, art and smart dead people. A quote from J. Robert Oppenheimer's infamous "I am become death the destroyer of worlds" post-dropping-of-the-Atomic-Bomb television speech can only be as for-shadowing as running a title card across the screen reading 'Caleb is going to do something really dumb in a minute'. Caleb being the name of the main character who, by the way, must have either been the victim of slight miscast or terrible writing. Perhaps both, really. I sit and ponder at how strange it is to have a seemingly head-on-shoulders character suddenly unwind into a mental breakdown in an awkward scene in which he slices open his forearm with a razor to try and see if he is human or not. You'd only think a pivotal scene like this would come with warning signs leading up to it but no- I guess Alex Garland, the director, was trying to catch us off guard (tres bien!). This scene also goes away as fast as it came in with barely anything to serve off it.

I will admit though that the movie does take a few turns I didn't expect. I forget how much we're used to the usual man-teams-up-with-reliable-robot motif swarming today's sci-fi scene. It's like we're 9 again daydreaming about how amazing it would be to fall in-love with a female robot made just for us. Something that knows us so well and is also intelligent as fuck. Something that can too easily become a someone then back to just a something. We all love to play god and fuck the the thing that we've created, no? This movie explores all that at an observing distance. Whether this distance was created as a way of hiding a facade of intellectualism or to truly make us step back and think is debate-able and an answer can only be formulated after a repeated viewing- which I've already stressed I was not in the mood for. Caleb becomes the subject of manipulation by an adorable Ava (the fembot) despite the efforts of the laid-back creator, Nathan, to warn him. Nathan is also written so badly you wonder why they didn't just kill him at the beginning instead of having him stick around for a good 90+ minutes with nothing to do but drink, fuck his asian servant, spout some cyber gibberish and drink some more. I mean, as soon as you see this guy you think 'this dude is totally going to die'. He is introduced as the nonchalant-genius-next-door-that-hit-it-big-but-still-says-dude-a-lot kajillionaire and is shown surfing a hubris of Shakespearean proportions- he must have known the movie was going to kill him off.

If I seem negative and particularly distasteful of this movie, I'm not. I'm usually always this critical and harsh, especially when my niggas leave me hanging on a Friday night. In actuality this movie is probably going to grow to become one of my favorites in sci-fi cinema. Not only because this movie is slightly unique to a sea of sci-fi schlock that doesn't try but also because it borrows elements from some landmarks in the genre. Like Blade Runner, the matrix, ghost in the shell and many others it borrows the sleek, slow and clean symmetrical cinematography (god forbid a science fiction film that doesn't show off amazing architecture) and the surrounding set becomes its own character. At some point you aren't even paying attention to the movie but wondering where they shot this and how much it cost to shoot it there. A beautiful compound amidst such natural beauty is a strange location for this sort of science fiction and a house that barely has windows is even stranger. So many earth tones tinted to a strange neon-ish NTSC color gamut to hammer in the point you're watching something that is not real, it's nature but not really. The blood in this movie sometimes looks like red Gatorade. The color thing is used regularly, of course, to 'much effect'. As if Ava dawning a white dress after gaining her freedom couldn't have communicated a message of catharsis enough, she rips the skin off an inactive robot hanging in a closet and a plot-hole where she puts it on herself follows- rebirth galore. Only then do yo realise she spent a chunk of the movie completely naked, the skin is the cloth and the fabric is symbolism. Cool, got it, great job.

Ugh, I hate myself for saying this but I'm developing a disliking to people putting too much effort into their art. This movie definitely tries. From its Nolan-esque style to its slow-paced attempt at dread and Greek-like climax you can't help but want to give its architects the praise they deserve- but only if it weren't for the fact this movie fails to go into areas it could have boldly sunk balls-deep into. Dialogue is cheap and we've heard it all, particularly why I get paid almost nothing to talk to my friends about nihilism, but it's actually the expressions and things that aren't stated that say it all- more of the space between the 1s and 0s. We're starting to surpass verbal language but this movie is a reminder that we're still, very much, addicted to it. Until we have a science fiction visual that transcends the limitations of exposition and story-lines how will we truly understand what it is blur the line between humanity and digital-ism? Did Scott Pilgrim Vs The World do a better job as a science-fiction film? Just a thought for anyone thinking of making some sci-fi some day.