Tuesday, September 15, 2015

She, Robot

Here's an interesting movie in the recently popular A.I genre, which, oddly doesn't seem to feature Scarlett Johansson: Ex Machina (2015).

It is basically a "three-hander": nerdy programmer and cog in Google/Apple/Oracle-like hi-tech company Domhnall Gleeson (Bill Weasley from Harry Potter) wins a lottery to stay at charismatic oddball founder Oscar Isaac's remote compound. When he arrives, and after he signs a very intrusive NDA, he is introduced to the third character: humanoid robot and A.I. Alicia Vikander. Objective: determine whether the A.I. has human-level intelligence, using methods similar to the Turing Test.

What we wind up with is a mixture of arthouse, comedy, and sci-fi action. The compound is a cool modern space, and we get plenty of shots of people sitting or standing blankly in modern architecture looking blankly at displays or just the walls. We have all the requisite philosophical discussions about the meaning of intelligence and humanity. But Isaac's tycoon is a hard-drinking flake, whose lack of seriousness, abundance of ego, and vague creepiness keeps Gleeson on the defensive - I guess comedy is too strong, but it is kind of silly. The end has some unexpected (SPOILER?) action, and cinematography that matches what we see in Transcendence, Her, etc.

It's also a bit of a character study, and the characters are a bit odd. There's Isaac, but he could be thought of as Tony Stark. Besides, I'll bet most Hollywood writers are familar with egotistical alcoholic geniuses. Gleeson's nerd is also a little outside the usual parameters. I kept referring to him as clueless or socially stunted, and Ms. Spenser kept correcting me: He is actually smarter and more thoughtful than he seems; he's just a little shy and not very assertive. And of course, there's the A.I. Whether she is truly intelligent and to what degree is the puzzle of the movie.

This could have been the best of the latest batch - a lot more thought went into it then most of the rest. But it still suffered from some of the same problems, like the apparent failure to make anything of an amazing new technology. Like new technology appearing sui generis from the hands of a single tinkerer. Like treating tech like magic.

But I'm afraid I would have enjoyed it more if there had been more action, even if it were stupider.

1 comment:

mr. schprock said...

I really enjoyed this movie and decided I liked the ending after first hating it. I'd like to know how that drunken, sloppy, reclusive genius kept his place so clean and well maintained with no staff except for a robot or two (who I don't think are there to clean his toilets).