Recently, topics of artificial intelligence have taken hold and forced people around the world to tackle new problems never before even thought of in history. Ex Machina added its piece to the conversation when it premiered at SXSW. This film comes from the writer of 28 Days Later and Dredd, Alex Garland, who also took time to reflect on his own thoughts about artificial intelligence in a panel at the fest. The film sparks many questions about AI and the ethical dilemmas that it presents but answers few of them. However, by the end of it, audiences are left with a thought provoking take on the relationships between robots and people.
When the team set out to make this film, part of their goal was to make the audience truly fall in love
with their AI, Ava (Alicia Vikander), especially through the music and cinematography. Certainly the portrayal shows her as more human than machine despite her obviously being made of metal and other elements. Ava captures the audience almost instantly when we meet her through the eyes of main character, Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson). The inventor, Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac), also makes a first impression as an alcoholic genius who has selected Caleb for one purpose: to perform the Turing Test on his creation and determine her level of consciousness. At first, Caleb feels nervous and excited at having been chosen, but as his understanding of the project evolves, he discovers distressing secrets and finds himself wanting more for Ava. Questions abound as viewers are taken through twists and reveals, discovering along the way the true power of AI.
Jordan Crook of TechCrunch compared the film to Frankenstein in the follow up panel discussion. Instead of a hideous monster, though, the AI is a beautiful seductress. In fact, the issue of Ava’s sexuality and gender were addressed both in the film and by the director and actors. All of the unsolved problems present true quandaries that the film intends not to solve, but to prompt a dialogue about. The topics of questioning included the ethical issues, true usefulness of the Turing Test and the relationship between an AI and its creator. The film was able to make the character seem so realistic in part because of the use of modern technological advancements in the field that meant Ava was made without green screen. Ex Macina provides a new look at the interactions between humans and artificial intelligence – a situation that may soon be a reality.