The warnings about AI (Artifical Intelligence) from the likes of Elon Musk (see this clip) and Sam Harris are in some respect pretext of what we see eventuate in today’s featured movie Ex Maquina. Apart from Sci – Fi exemplars 2001 A Space Odyssey and Her, Ex Maquina demonstrates with jolting efficiency just how easy it would be for AI to supercede the humans species. To quote Nathan, the inventor of an intelligent humanoid robot – Ava:
Nathan: ‘One day the AIs are going to look back on us the same way we look at fossil skeletons on the plains of Africa. An upright ape living in dust with crude language and tools, all set for extinction‘.
Ex Maquina was made on a budget of $15 million; the film grossed $36 million worldwide, and received largely positive reviews. Mirroring the subject matter; this film is just so intelligently crafted and entirely believable in this day and age. To me, it’s difficult not this think that something resembling this plot hasn’t already been played-out or in development behind-the-scenes. Director Alex Garland also described the future presented in the film as “ten minutes from now” meaning, “If somebody like Google or Apple announced tomorrow that they had made Ava, we would all be surprised, but we wouldn’t be that surprised.“
Caleb, a 26 year old programmer at the world’s largest internet company, wins a competition to spend a week at a private mountain retreat belonging to Nathan, the reclusive CEO of the company. But when Caleb arrives at the remote location he finds that he will have to participate in a strange and fascinating experiment in which he must interact with the world’s first true artificial intelligence, housed in the body of a beautiful robot girl.
The script is so tight here and the performances are nuanced and cinematography and production-design sublime. The interiors are a work of art, but I especially liked the outdoor scenes (waterfall, forest and mountains filmed entirely in Norway). I don’t like seeing audiences dumbed-down in movies to secure big Hollywood mulla, but Ex Maquina presents itself like the audience know a thing of the topic. It was recognised as one of the best independent films of the year and awarded the Academy Award for best visual effects. Regarding that aspect: Ava’s robot body was achieved using a detailed costume, a full bodysuit made from polyurethane with metal powder poured onto it to create the mesh. There were lines on the costume to make it easier for VFX company DNeg to digitally remove parts of the costume in post production
The foundation for Ex Machina was laid when director Garland was 11 or 12 years old, after he had done some basic coding and experimentation on a computer his parents had bought him and which he sometimes felt had a mind of its own. His later ideas came from years of discussions he had been having with a friend with an expertise in neuroscience, who claimed machines could never become sentient.
Below is one of my favourite dialogues; including Nathan’s quote above at 1:50, but contains spoilers.