Ex Machina – My Review

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The world will end not with a bang or a whimper, but with a deception.

Another sexy robot story treads over some familiar ground, but with a seriousness to make it stick. This contained thriller, from 28 Days Later writer Alex Garland, is well acted and mostly interesting, with a couple of caveats.file_124528_0_exmachinaposterlarge

It’s a drama, a test of the robot, verbal exchanges and philosophy. But it also comes on at the end to twist the meaning. I would expect no less from Garland, who’s a modern master of the low budget. It did leave me thinking about it the next day, and so here we are.

Firstly, Alicia Vikander was mesmerizing and gorgeous, with an angelic face, what little of it shows. Ava never attempts to hide her robotic reality, and yet we must assess her despite knowing.

The “Turing Test” dialogue really bothered me though, almost a deal breaker. It’s pretty much the AI cliché, and it appears in every single God damned one of these films, books, articles, etc. Being a cliché–THE cliche in the genre–one would expect it to be handled expertly in this film. In a way it is through the plot.

But the introductory scene has the billionaire ask the underling if he knows what it is. The answer is yes. Stop there. That’s where you stop.

Ex-Machina (2)

But no. In an example of why blatant exposition doesn’t work the underling goes on to cite the Wikipedia version of it. Clearly it’s not necessary and solely inserted for the sake of especially ignorant audience members.

Fuck especially ignorant audience members.

Fuck em.

Seriously.

Characters shouldn’t say things solely for the benefit of the audience. Particularly in a thriller it’s just so cheap and insulting to the rest of the viewers. It’s condescending, and that’s the primary reason to avoid it. Exposition lets the audience know they’re stupid, or surrounded by some other people stupid enough that we have to stop the story and explain some shit. It treats everyone like the lowest common denominator, and it is obvious.

Several other bits of dialogue grated, supposed quotables that are also clichés. Plus poetry, always a risky move indeed. Things that work on the page may not when said aloud.ex-machina (1)

These mounting pinpricks serve to remind that the story is slow paced. It’s deliberately stretched out, steady and controlled. Thus it lacks much visceral quality. Action is rare. Focused on the characterization it is almost entirely told through dialogue.

I had to weigh my experience against all the gushing rave reviews floating around out there. Expectations matter. Ex Machina holds up as a b-movie, a watchable sci-fi thriller, but certainly not, as one blogger claimed the other day, “best movie of the year.”


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