(Recommended, once again, by Kalavente.)
I do like sci-fi. If my appreciation for Star Wars, Blade Runner, and the Metroid series is any indication, many already knew this.
Within the last year, I took a college course focusing specifically on sci-fi as a literary genre and its impact on pop culture in general. When people think sci-fi, they most likely think something along the lines of Star Wars: laser blasters and space warps and beam swords and alien creatures. With an entire semester (and a couple hundred bucks) dedicated to a crash course in sci-fi history under my belt, it’s interesting to consider something entirely “new” with science fiction: underlying themes of humanistic anxiety of the unknown.
Enter Ex Machina. It employs a lot of this “new” sci-fi concept. And the reason I say “new” is because it is not by any means new. Sci-fi dating back beyond what people would normally expect its origins to lie have incorporated this with relative blatancy. Here, the anxiety lies within where we stand with A.I., how inferior we feel compared to their unprecedented potential for rational, logical thought—which in many capacities exceeds our own. It also questions what it means to be human, and whether we can accurately consider ourselves so when a consciousness evolved from technology can replicate us with ease.
Smart sci-fi, one may call it. Sci-fi that isn’t interested in making a thrill ride designed to stimulate the need for surface entertainment. This is the sci-fi I find most interesting (as if my elitist tendencies didn’t make that apparent in the past), and the sci-fi that makes me fascinated with the “almost possible.” There’s a saying by Rod Serling, most notable for The Twilight Zone, that I really like that distinguishes sci-fi from fantasy:
“Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science Fiction is the improbable made possible.”
Though I haven’t spoken much about Ex Machina in general. There’s not much I really wish to say, however. I felt I’ve done enough damage even stating what I believe the film is incorporating with its themes, which is somewhat presumptuous of me to believe I have all the right answers. It is simply what the film said to me, as someone who watched the film with an open and rationalized mind, perceiving every possible route. Despite all I’ve said, I want to leave this film relatively in the dark. I find that these open-ended films that try to stimulate deep thinking are at risk of having someone who reviews them, like me, speak their opinion and have those who absorb it assume it to be the best answer without seeking the “truth” themselves. Of course, these reviewers also present their best case with evidence, but all I’ve done is vaguely discuss what I think the film wants to showcase, without an ounce of evidence. It’s just my (metaphorically literal) two cents.
All I’ll say is that I think it’s very good. The acting is believable, the tone gets the feeling of isolation splendidly, and the dialogue between the two male leads is uniquely technical while simultaneously heartfelt. Lots of mindfuckery here, and if there’s anything I think the film does wrong, it’s that the ending sequences feel just a tad underwhelming—not so much the future implications set by the end, but the execution of getting to that point.
Final Score: 8/10
The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.
For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!