“If you’ve created a conscious machine, it’s not the history of man anymore.

It’s the history of Gods.”


Ex Machina, Alex Garland’s directorial debut, is a movie deeply rooted in fear. Fear of a reality where robots surpass us in intelligence. Dread of having created something that could outperform us in every way possible.


Fun fact: plays in ancient Greece had a recurring character; a floating god, lowered from a platform(machine) in order to save the day and give everyone a happy ending. This led to the origin of the Latin phrase Deus Ex Machina. Literally, it translates to “God(Deus) from a machine(Ex Machina)”.


The title Ex Machina is derived by removing the term ‘Deus’ from that phrase; a hint that in this movie machines and gods are considered one and the same. The story is set in a world where Artificial Intelligence models have evolved into gods. These gods look back at us as if we are primitive apes, ghosts of a generation fully set on their path to extinction.


AI is already causing massive changes in the work sector and the global economy. Mass layoffs for low-level jobs have already started to rise in order to cut costs, and AI provides a cheap and efficient alternative for those jobs. Therefore, despite having been released all the way back in 2015, Ex Machina feels shockingly relevant in our current times.


The film does not waste time introducing us to its world: the main premise of the entire movie is explained within just the first few minutes. Caleb is a programmer who won a company lottery to visit the CEO Nathan’s estate. He is invited to perform a Turing test on ‘Ava’, Nathan’s latest AI creation.


This Turing test is the focal point of the entire film. The objective is simple: if a human cannot tell that they are interacting with a computer, the test is passed, meaning we have obtained true Artificial Intelligence with consciousness.


The strength of Ex Machina lies not only in its screenplay but also in the exceptional performances of its cast. Oscar Isaac easily steals the show in his performance as Nathan Bateman(That’s right, his surname is Bateman. And yes, he is a massive narcissist and also works out every day. Do you guys see what I’m seeing?). Nathan is the CEO of the world’s most popular search engine, Blue Book. Although introduced as a laid-back person that wants Caleb to treat him like a friend, we get to witness Nathan’s true nature as the movie progresses.


Nathan is portrayed as a caricature of Big Tech CEOs, pretending to be your ‘buddy’ only to use you for their own benefit. He gets drunk in solitude at nights to the point of blacking out; and his house is revealed to be a massive underground research facility, showing his inability to separate work from his personal life. As he gets increasingly drunk every day, we watch him grow more and more narcissistic and manipulative toward Caleb.


Caleb is representative of the audience, we perceive the characters of the movie from his point of view. We grow to hate Nathan along with him; and through the daily tests, we are also drawn toward Ava along with him. When she secretly warns Caleb that Nathan cannot be trusted, he believes her instantly and so do we. It all makes sense! We feel empathy for this robot with emotions that is trapped in a glass room by her cruel creator, yearning to witness the real world. As they interact more, Caleb starts to fall in love with her, planning to help her escape.


Pygmalion is a Greek sculptor from an ancient myth that falls in love with a statue that he sculpted himself. Ex Machina presents us with a modern retelling of this myth, a dystopian tale of a human falling for a man-made robot. This does not even seem too far-fetched in our current reality: with both loneliness around the world as well as advancements in the field of AI both rising rapidly, the story of Ex Machina feels almost inevitable.


However, falling in love with an AI should be the least of our worries. The movie also explores several existential questions. In an exchange between Nathan and Caleb, Oppenheimer(‘The father of the atomic bomb’) is quoted directly; speculating that the advancement of artificial intelligence could be just as influential and damaging to humanity as the discovery of nuclear warfare.


Alicia Vikander’s performance as Ava shows a balance between innocence and manipulative intelligence, leaving us questioning her true intentions until the very end. As Caleb engages in conversations with Ava, he finds himself drawn into a web of intrigue and manipulation. Ava’s allure lies not only in her uncanny physical form(a human-like face with mechanical body parts) but also in her ability to display emotions, desires, and a remarkable sense of self-awareness. 


Garland’s genius is shown in his ability to tell a story that is both intellectually stimulating and emotionally resonant. Ex Machina raises questions about identity, free will, and the nature of humanity itself. As the plot unravels, we are confronted with shocking revelations that challenge our preconceived notions.


Nathan considers himself a god for having created Ava. But should we be deemed as gods for creating something that so wildly surpasses the best of our abilities? Does it even matter if, in the end, we will have no choice but to bow down to our creation?


This is not simply a film about machines and their potential to surpass us. It is a cautionary tale about the dangers of unchecked progress, and the ethical dilemmas that come with creating conscious machines. It urges us to contemplate the potential consequences of blurring the boundaries between humans and AI. 


Ex Machina will leave you questioning what it truly means to be human in an increasingly technology-driven world. Also, I would not recommend watching this movie at midnight with the lights off, please learn from my mistakes.


(This article was generated by ChatGPT. Did I pass your Turing test??

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