Saturday, January 9, 2016

Lovely lady robot

Last week, in the midst of obsessively gobbling down every bit of data even tangentially related to The Force Awakens (Don't worry; I won't blather about here - but feel free to get me going in the comments section), I decided to rent Ex Machina. It's a movie I'd been wanting to see for several months, but the impetus for renting it now was that two of its stars, Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson, have large roles in The Force Awakens. Both are playing characters here that are polar opposites of the ones they played in TFA, and I wanted to see if they could pull off the switch. They absolutely did; and Alicia Vikander, whom I'd never seen before, was every bit as good in her role.

Now, let me say right up front that this is a five-star movie. I'd recommend it to anyone, regardless of whether they like gynoids or not. But the fact that the gynoid is arguably the lead character in the movie makes it even more tempting for robot fetishists.

Vikander plays Ava as being very obviously a robot, but she's not the jerky, stilted-voice kind we're all familiar with. Her movements are graceful if not entirely human, and her face is lovely and expressive. But there's all that mesh in her torso and limbs, showing suggestive tubes and LED's that make up her internal "organs." Depending on how the light hits her, the mesh can disappear so that you see her robot sections displayed in full; or a ghostly female outline can half-hide her robot parts so that you almost believe she's a real woman. It's a fascinating effect.

This trailer gives you a good synopsis, and below it I'll give you a few more tasty pictures to appreciate. As you can see, this film features another robot trope so many of us enjoy: that of a seeming human who peels back part of their skin (preferably on their face) to reveal their true nature. It's a bit of a spoiler in Kyoko's case, but the trailer spoils it too and you wouldn't have much doubt about her anyway.

Now, I'm not sure whether you want my detailed review of the movie or whether you're just here for the gynoid pictures, but I'll make it easy on everyone by pasting in a review I already wrote. This was for a different audience, so it's a little more "professional" that the above. You can read it or not as you please. There aren't any spoilers.

Ex Machina is a low-budget indie movie with one remarkable visual effect: turning Alicia Vikander into a robot who looks utterly convincing (She acts utterly convincing as a robot, too - a heartbreakingly human one named Ava.).

The rest of the movie looks incredible too, thanks to the cinematography and set design, but that's all secondary to the story. It's too high-concept to summarize quickly, but I'll try: A nice young programmer named Caleb (played by Domhnall Gleeson) gets the chance to spend a week at his CEO's secret hideaway. That CEO, Nathan (played by Oscar Isaac) is a staggeringly rich asshole who runs the world's biggest search engine, and he's brought Caleb in to be "the human component in a Turing test." In other words, Caleb is supposed to decide whether the robot Nathan has built possesses true artificial intelligence or only mimics it. Things get more complicated, though, when Ava warns Caleb that Nathan can't be trusted and asks him to help her escape. Nathan really doesn't seem trustworthy, but can we trust Ava? Should Caleb help her, or is she just a machine after all? Maybe Nathan programmed her to be paranoid, either to mess with Caleb's head or for some other inscrutable reason. He's such a sociopathic weirdo that there's no telling what he's really up to. This is one of those stories where you don't know whom to trust or who's capable/incapable of what until the end. Because the three leads are all so wonderful, you're willing to believe each of them at various points, or at least believe that they believe what they're saying.

Ex Machina asks a lot of deep questions about the nature of consciousness, gender, creativity and responsibility. Writer/director Alex Garland attempts to answer all those questions, but that doesn't mean you'll agree with his answers. I didn't. In the DVD extras he explains which character he was rooting for as he wrote the script, but it's not the same character I chose at the the end; and you might not choose that character either. But that's just the kind of provocative movie this is. It'll leave you with your brain buzzing.


Johnathon Howard said...

I would say that Ex Machina was probably one of my favourite movies that I have seen recently... and of course the fetish side has its appeals as well, but just such a very well crafted film with a superb soundtrack.

thrall said...

I'm glad you liked it as much as I did. :-)

Robyn said...

You may also want to watch Alicia Vikander's Oscar nominated performance as Gerda Wegener in The Danish Girl. The story is not 100% historically accurate, but it is heartbreaking. Alicia's performance as the tragic heroine giving up her love to save her love is transcendent.

thrall said...

I definitely do want to see that. It looks like a powerful, heartbreaking movie.