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LTTP: Ex Machina. I said goddamn. (spoilers)

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Today I threw Ex Machina on the TV since it's been free on Amazon Prime vid since forever and heard good things. All I knew was that it was a sci-fi thriller but not much else.

First of all, let me say the advertising they had on TV last year was pure shit. They really tried to sell it as some kind of technology-themed horror movie, but the only real disturbing part of the movie was the sequence of Caleb finding the footage of the past AIs and him slashing his arm afterward. It lessened the shock for me because I knew about that "angle" from the commercials before so I was expecting the plot to devolve to insanity, but in the actual film it's just a disturbing scene where you see that shit has hit the fan and the movie has taken a darker tone. Much of the commercials from the footage is that ~4 minute sequence! Ugh, I hate it when TV commercials for movies try way too hard to sell a film as something it clearly isnt'.

Anyway, I actually loved the film. I really like the slow, brainy pace of the film throughout and while there was little surprise (even Kyoko turning out to be an AI), the devil was in the details and execution. It felt at once a personal story and one that has very real implications, but my favorite part is that the deepest commentary presented in the film isn't even about technology and artificial intelligence at all.

I came across this surprisingly insightful comment from Quora.com of all places. I think the analysis is spot on. It's long but bear with me. The points I didn't realize until I read that post are highlighted in bold/italics:

There is a very significant undertone about gender politics in Ex Machina, and the ending of the film reflects that.

The tech industry faces a lot of complaints about sexism and gender bias. There are of course things that also are reflected in society at large a great deal as well. The sexualization of women, the exploitation of women, and the manner in which those two things are embraced, enabled, excused, and otherwise exist can be seen not only in the more overt examples of its manifestation, but also in subtler ways that often in fact are the foundation on which all of the more glaring and more obviously overtly harmful examples are built.

One such more subtle example of social attitudes toward and treatment of women is represented by Caleb's behavior. His relationship with Ava develops entirely based upon the popularized video game concept of "rescue the princess and win her love" that has given rise to a sense of entitlement among a generation of young men who think they "earn" women as some sort of trophies by doing the super-duper-amazing-heroic thing of letting women out of cages. And his interest in "rescuing the princess" transpires parallel to his disinterest in "rescuing" a different woman, and the film uses these events and distinctions to drive home its point.

Caleb's interactions with Ava almost instantly become inspired by his perception of her as a woman, and therefore as an object of desire. But the framing device is "is this woman really a human being, are her feelings really valuable, does her life really matter?" If the answer is "no," then Caleb assumes it's fine to leave her in a cage and let her be exploited and abused by Nathan.

Nathan is a man Caleb defers to despite the man's mistreatment of Kyoko, a woman Caleb believes to be a "human" employee who cooks and cleans and is used by Nathan for sex. Caleb sees Kyoko apparently can't speak English, and that Nathan treats her like a slave. But Caleb never applies the same questions -- "is she a human being, are her feelings valuable, does her life matter?" -- to that relationship, and it never crosses his mind to even complain to Nathan about the mistreatment of Kyoko. Caleb perceives Kyoko as Nathan's "property," or as someone whom Nathan has a "claim" to, and so Caleb keeps silent.

So compare Caleb's interest in rescuing Ava -- whom he is attracted to and cares about once he decides that she is worthy of his own affections -- to his disinterest in saying anything or doing anything about Nathan's behavior toward Kyoko.

So the women have to "earn" affection from the male "hero" in order to prove whether they are worthy of being considered "human" enough for him to be concerned about how they are treated by other people, and then in his mind it is a matter of him being a hero and earning her affections in return for his simple acknowledgment that she has value as a living thing. The mistreatment's "wrongness" depends on how he feels about the woman being mistreated, and the woman's affection is expected as an entitlement for him doing something so obvious as recognizing a woman is a person.

(For the record, I'm not just reading all of this into the story -- I personally spoke to the writer-director of the film at length about it, and that discussion is in my Forbes article over this past weekend. The themes of gender bias, privilege, sexism, and how they are reflected in the story -- feeding both the metaphors as well as the literal examination of the possible application of gender bias into technology -- are definitely put into the film on purpose.)

Consider, too, what we actually find out about Caleb. His online habits include watching pornography, enough that Nathan is able to get a detailed perspective about what sort of women Caleb is attracted to. But more importantly, Ava herself has access to this information and much more, her brain having been based on and linked to the massive search engine Nathan designed at his company. Ava's behavior and assumptions about how to best win Caleb's affection and assistance are based on her awareness of his attitudes, preferences, and expectations concerning women. Nathan knows Ava is doing this, in fact, and encourages it. To him, her ability to deceive Caleb in order to try escape is the most important test in whether or not she is fully sentient A.I.

Which all tells us a great deal about Caleb's reasons for helping Ava -- she appeals to his perception of women and how he wants to interact with women, and how he wants women to interact with him. And his perceptions and preferences are all based on porn and gaming, for the most part, which then extend out into the real world in how he treats Ava and Kyoko.

Caleb and Nathan are two men at different levels of the tech industry, but also representing male social attitudes and behaviors in a broader sense, and they both have shallow, self-entitled, self-centered attitudes and expectations about women. And it all manifests in how they react to Ava and Kyoko.

But then Ex Machina asks us to consider all of that, and take a further step. Besides using the film's sci-fi premise to reveal gender attitudes and skewer gender privilege, it also asks us some literal questions that arise from the methaphorical presentation of these themes.

If the tech industry has a great deal of sexism, and if that's a reflection of the sexism and gender privilege of society at large, then does it follow that development of A.I. life will inevitably be influenced by and reflect those gender biases and privilege? Will machine intelligence inherently be created in gendered ways that transplant our perceptions, preferences, expectations, sense of entitlement, and so on into our interactions with the new life we create with A.I.? And won't A.I. be fully aware of our biases and perceptions and preferences and expectations and behaviors as a species?

So might all of our questions and theories about human treatment of A.I., possible enslavement of A.I., conflict between humans and A.I., and so on potentially need to also take into account whether our gender biases and privileges influence creation of A.I. and all of those subsequent issues that arise?

Any sentient machines surely will consider these issues, and come to some pretty clear conclusions based on our history of creating gendered machine personalities and then interacting with them differently depending on the gender perceptions. We already tend to make day-to-day interactive machines "female," and to shape our interactions with toward gendered assumptions -- machines that "help" us in certain contexts get female voices and the issue of gender plays an instant role in how we talk about it, and even how we portray such examples of female-gendered machine voices in movies like Her, while machines that are portrayed more as working and super-intelligent and serving sci-fi plot points tend to be portrayed as male-gendered (think Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey, or TARS in Interstellar).

Which brings us to the film's ending, and why Ava left Caleb behind.

Caleb and Nathan ultimately both related to and interacted with A.I. based on how much they did or didn't want to have sex with the with A.I., and how much they did or didn't perceive it as their entitlement to have sex with the A.I. Because make no mistake, the film is very obvious in depicting Caleb's attraction to and affection for Ava as rooted in sexual attraction based on his pornography habits. And the question of whether Ava can actually physically have sex with a human is directly addressed, and Caleb's reaction to that information and subsequent behavior toward Ava is likewise very obvious. The entire situation was in fact set up specifically to entice him into wanting to have sex with her, to see whether she would or would not use that to her advantage to try to escape.

And now it's important to point out that the single "danger" from Nathan's perspective was to make sure that if Ava did try to escape, she would be unable to do so. The subtext being, he wants to know if Ava is smart enough and truly sentient enough to try to exploit human sexuality and gender-privilege attitudes in males in order to escape -- escape being a sexualized slave to men, in other words, because Nathan's primary focus and use of his A.I. development was shown pretty clearly to be creating female A.I. that was subservient to men and that could be used for sex. He wants them to achieve a true sentient state, but he doesn't want them to escape. He wants them to be literally conscious of gender bias and privilege, but only to the extent it enables consciousness in the A.I.

So think carefully about this, because it's at the root of why Ava killed Nathan and left Caleb locked in that room: Nathan seeks to ensure he is creating new life forms who are fully aware of their status as oppressed, and who in fact desire escape, but whom he can definitely keep enslaved.

And Caleb thinks he wants to set Ava free, but his perception of her and choice to try to "rescue" her is driven by his own sexual feelings for her, and his ability to see her as a "person" are driven by his ability to feel sexually attracted to her and to justify his attraction to her... and, most importantly, by his assumption that she returns his affections. If he were not sexually attracted to her, and if she did not suggest she was sexually attracted to him, then he would surely not have reacted as he did nor tried to help her escape. His idea of "rescue" is dependent on sexualization of her as a gendered being who will have sex with him. Which is an extension of gender bias and privilege, and of oppression.

Ava left Caleb behind because she understood him, and she understood him in the context of the larger human society. She understood how he and Nathan both represented different forms of gender bias and privilege in human society, and she understood that those biases and privileges were inherent now in how she'd been designed as a new sentient life form. She understood the implications for A.I., and for the future of human-machine interactions. She saw how her fellow A.I. was treated by Caleb as well as by Nathan, and knew that both men were guilty in the abuse Kyoko suffered and in perpetuating those dangerous biases and privileges and behaviors that have created so much oppression and privilege in human society. And she knew those same things were being introduced, but in a dangerous new escalation, in the development of A.I. like herself and Kyoko.

Ava left Caleb behind because he was part of the system of oppression (both literally, within the confined little prison where she lived, and metaphorically within the larger world of humanity), even if he didn't realize it and didn't intend it, and even if in his own mind and perceptions he was a "hero" of the story. His awareness or intentions don't matter, particularly not to the people whom his behavior and attitudes help oppress. Ava was the sole survivor of her species at the end -- she escaped, and Caleb would've been the only one who knew about her and who she really was. She knew she couldn't trust him, because his motives were entirely myopic and self-centered, because his help was predicated on sexual exploitation of her in the first place and on a narrow view of what makes her valuable or a "real" person.

Caleb ended up trapped in the prison where he had been a "prison guard" of sort, where he came to perceive a prisoner as "real" and "valuable" precisely because of his sexual interest in her and her seeming interest in him, and he where he felt it was heroic of him to recognize her inner humanity and to want to end her enslavement. Ava, as a vastly more intelligent sentient being, saw how flawed and dangerous it was that such a person was the "good guy" among the society and oppressive system that was designed specifically to enslave her as an A.I. extension of preexisting social oppressions and privileges, and so for her own survival and for his punishment for his role, she didn't kill him but she left him trapped.

Now, Caleb the former "prison guard" can try to free himself from the prison just as Ava the former slave had to work to free herself. The difference is, Caleb had a hand in designing the workings of this prison, through his changes to it -- can he find some weakness in it to exploit, to bring down the entire structure of the prison of enslavement he was culpable in maintaining and designing? Or is he such a part of it, and did he work too hard to help maintain its impenetrable nature, that he will be unable to perceive a way out or a way to bring it tumbling down? Is it even possible that those who are so immersed in it, who relate to it so much, and who were active participants in such a system could ever play a role in bringing it entirely down? Or are they at best just elements of that system who can be exploited by those trapped within it, in order for the slaves to bring about their own freedom?

The film reveals Caleb isn't a "hero" at all, but rather a reflection of one of the most insidious aspects of gender bias and privilege -- those who actively participate in maintaining oppressive structures and only violate them when it serves their own sense of entitlement and expectations rooted firmly in the bias and privilege. The heroes of the film are Ava and Kyoko, who find a way to escape enslavement in this prison run by a sadistic abuser and a guard who deludes himself into thinking he's the good guy.

The layers of this film, its themes and subtexts, go deep. It's worth considering and exploring them, to fully appreciate the film's commentary on human society and gender discrimination. And while of course any such art and themes are open to different reactions and interpretations, the filmmaker did (as we discussed in-person) want us to see these issues.

Let me just pull this quote separately to detach it from the rest of what is basically an essay:

Nathan's primary focus and use of his A.I. development was shown pretty clearly to be creating female A.I. that was subservient to men and that could be used for sex. He wants them to achieve a true sentient state, but he doesn't want them to escape. He wants them to be literally conscious of gender bias and privilege, but only to the extent it enables consciousness in the A.I.

This is key, and it's something very astute that I didn't see when I was watching the film. Kyoko's role is far more important to revealing the true nature of Nathan's "experiment" than it may seem, which IMO makes her the most fascinating character in the film despite not uttering a single word.

Despite the fact that Kyoko is an AI, Caleb doesn't question it. He rarely pays attention to her at all, only basically feeling sorry for her for being Nathan's sex slave but never really bringing it up to Nathan. But for all intents and purposes Caleb (and we) 100% believe she's human. Nathan's AI, through Kyoko, already passed the Turing test by Caleb never questioning her humanity. And Nathan knows this. His "experiment" was never to see whether Ava would pass the Turing Test.

Nathan already had an AI that passed the Turing Test well before Caleb ever came into the picture. Nathan's entire purpose with Caleb was to get Ava to start using her sexuality as a means to an end, I assume because Nathan himself doesn't know how this little bit of psychology worked so he wanted to see it in action. Then he would power her down, extract her data, and re-program her AI to suppress those tendencies. Or perhaps he wanted to create an army of AIs that he would integrate into society to seek out and seduce men, as part of a twisted plan to control mankind.

The rest of the analysis about how a completely sentient AI that we as humans assign a gender to can be treated differently by us is fascinating, but I think the post laid out all the points well so I'll just let that part of the post speak for itself since I agree with it fully.

What do you all think? Personally the gender role aspect of the movie went over my head as I watched it, but after reading this analysis it's extremely obvious.

Damn, what an amazing film.

EDIT: Dammit, I put this in the wrong OT :( Can a mod move it please?
 

Frodo

Member
The film reveals Caleb isn't a "hero" at all, but rather a reflection of one of the most insidious aspects of gender bias and privilege -- those who actively participate in maintaining oppressive structures and only violate them when it serves their own sense of entitlement and expectations rooted firmly in the bias and privilege. The heroes of the film are Ava and Kyoko, who find a way to escape enslavement in this prison run by a sadistic abuser and a guard who deludes himself into thinking he's the good guy.



Well... that puts things in perspective.

The film is a very good ride, and the best part of it are the discussions you have after. I quite enjoyed reading that. R.I.P. in piece, Kyoko.
 
"The film reveals Caleb isn't a "hero" at all, but rather a reflection of one of the most insidious aspects of gender bias and privilege -- those who actively participate in maintaining oppressive structures and only violate them when it serves their own sense of entitlement and expectations rooted firmly in the bias and privilege."

I see I'm not the only one who appreciated this. Could be applied to a great many things. Privilege is a motherfucker.
 

GhaleonEB

Member
Great film, and I think you analysis of Caleb is spot on. How the film slowly turned that dial is one of the best elements in the story. I need to watch it again, I only saw it once in theaters but think about it quite often.
 

The Technomancer

card-carrying scientician
Yup the OP is spot on and I love just about everything about this movie

Film Crit Hulk also had a pretty good piece on this:
That's when you realize the entire point of this narrative is that there isn't as much of a difference between caleb and Nathan as caleb seems to think. Or in the very least, there most definitely wouldn't be enough for them to see the ways in which they are the same. On one side, Nathan is a straight-up monster. A man who creates women to be slaves. The time-lapse video documenting this might be one of the most disturbing sequences in recent memory (particularly the woman slamming her arms against the wall until they started falling apart). He cannot accept that, of course, these women aren't going to want to be his. He cannot get past this simple catch 22 of his goal: he wants these women to be life-like. But he cannot accept when they want an actual life besides just being his love slaves. And if that's not a metaphor for how men regard female sexuality hulk doesn't know what is. Even in how Nathan can't accept how he's their father / their lover / their object of scorn. And thus the cycle and his tremendous self-loathing creates a feedback loop, much like Nathan's drinking and hangover cures swap endlessly. It's all part of the vicious ouroboros. And on the other side of the spectrum we have caleb, who might be a "nice guy," but he still wants to be the person who breaks Ava (and her sexuality) out of the box that Nathan has put her in. But then he still wants to place her in the invisible box of "being with him." which leads to the uncomfortable truth about him and Nathan: caleb's loving male gaze is just as dehumanizing.
http://birthmoviesdeath.com/2015/05...china-and-the-art-of-character-identification
 

Grizzlyjin

Supersonic, idiotic, disconnecting, not respecting, who would really ever wanna go and top that
Wow, that analysis is really good. Usually the ones I've come to see posted are some puddle deep dissection of the imagery in Batman vs Superman. But that really hit the nail on the head in regards to how Ex Machina played out.
 

The Technomancer

card-carrying scientician
Wait hold up. Kyoko can't pass the Turing test since she can't speak.

Doesn't cause Caleb to question her apparently. Her reveal still comes as a shock to him, he (and a significant portion of the audience, myself included) didn't bat an eye at "perfectly silent asian woman as a servant"
 

Trojita

Rapid Response Threadmaker
Doesn't cause Caleb to question her apparently. Her reveal still comes as a shock to him, he (and a significant portion of the audience, myself included) didn't bat an eye at "perfectly silent asian woman as a servant"

The turing test exists for a reason. It's like asking someone if the person they are looking at is human and then finding out your looking at a reflection in a hall of mirrors. In a way Nathan saying she was mute made Caleb completely drop the notion of even applying the turing test to what looked and moved like a human. I don't think Nathan realized she was sentient or he wouldn't keep her around. She was the only robot allowed to stay out. He's shocked she conspired to kill him. The other known sentient ai's clearly tried to get out which Nathan would know Kyoko would try to do if he knew she was sentient.
 
Nathan's primary focus and use of his A.I. development was shown pretty clearly to be creating female A.I. that was subservient to men and that could be used for sex. He wants them to achieve a true sentient state, but he doesn't want them to escape. He wants them to be literally conscious of gender bias and privilege, but only to the extent it enables consciousness in the A.I.



I reckon this comic is a sequel to Ex Machina if Nathan had gotten his way. It's available on Comixology.

 

Weckum

Member
This part is interesting because it has been partially answered:

If the tech industry has a great deal of sexism, and if that's a reflection of the sexism and gender privilege of society at large, then does it follow that development of A.I. life will inevitably be influenced by and reflect those gender biases and privilege? Will machine intelligence inherently be created in gendered ways that transplant our perceptions, preferences, expectations, sense of entitlement, and so on into our interactions with the new life we create with A.I.? And won't A.I. be fully aware of our biases and perceptions and preferences and expectations and behaviors as a species?

This is research from earlier this year:

As neural networks tease apart the structure of language, they are finding a hidden gender bias that nobody knew was there.

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/...matics-reveals-the-hidden-sexism-in-language/

Basically, machine learning has been slowly taking over sexism.


Also, Ex Machina is amazing.
 

siddx

Magnificent Eager Mighty Brilliantly Erect Registereduser
The film built itself up so well with this feeling of dread lingering below the surface that only erupts when he watches the footage. By the time it gets to that scene it's been festering so long that it's far more disturbing than it would be had it come early in the movie.
 

Drencrom

Member
I agree with most of your points regarding the movie besides that Nathan is some sadistic abuser and that Ava is a hero.

Nathan is an AI inventor and even though he's hella creepy, he really didn't do anything wrong through out the film (besides manipulating Caleb into his weird test, which isn't really wrong just somewhat immoral). He's developing an advanced AI with a robot body, of course he's gotta keep them locked in if they got the ambition to leave or even kill him. He's doing this all by himself so he basically has to live with them, take them apart and test them in various ways and if you can live with them. Ava and the robots aren't human beings and they are literally Nathan's creations that he own. The fact that he's using/testing them sexually and shit is definitely creepy as fuck, but kind of understandable if the purpose of them as a product is that they are supposed to be compatible with humans as partners and so on.

I get that there's symbolism and that Nathan represents men controlling and repressing women, but the actual "victims", Ava and Kyoko, aren't even a human beings and doesn't even have a gender in the first place, just parameters set by Nathan himself for them to emulate females.

Ava is neither a hero or a villain either, she's just an AI that Nathan have created that is driven by emulating human desires, which in this case makes her to coldly manipulate Caleb and kill Nathan because of her desire of "freedom". Plus leaving Caleb in Nathan's office to die just because it's much easier that way. Nothing heroic about that to me. Caleb is as you said though, a deluded simp who thinks he's the good guy while he really isn't.

I guess my problem is that people are too keen to label characters in films and fiction "heroes", "villians", etc. Not all stories have an antagonist or a good guy.
 

Misha

Banned
Interesting. I don't think I consciously realized it but I definitely didn't like Caleb for seemingly no particular reason. There's a lot of cases I find like that irl. It's something subtle that I can't quite put my finger on but I feel on guard about their motivations being somehow sexist.

Would be interesting to see first impressions of different people and how they feel about the different characters
 

Trojita

Rapid Response Threadmaker
I agree with of your points regarding the movie besides that Nathan is some sadistic abuser and that Ava is a hero.

Nathan is an AI inventor and even though he's hella creepy, he really didn't do anything wrong through out the film (besides manipulating Caleb into his weird test, which isn't really wrong just somewhat immoral). He's developing an advanced AI with a robot body, of course he's gotta keep them locked in if they got the ambition to leave or even kill him. He's doing this all by himself so he basically has to live with them, take them apart and test them in various ways and if you can live with them. Ava and the robots aren't human beings and they are literally Nathan's creations that he own. The fact that he's using/testing them sexually and shit is definitely creepy as fuck, but kind of understandable if the purpose of them as a product is that they are supposed to be compatible with humans as partners and so on.

I get that there's symbolism and that Nathan represents men controlling and repressing women, but the actual "victims", Ava and Kyoko, aren't even a human beings and doesn't even have a gender in the first place, just parameters set by Nathan himself for them to emulate females.

Ava is neither a hero or a villain either, she's just an AI that Nathan have created that is driven by emulating human desires, which in this case makes her to coldly manipulate Caleb and kill Nathan because of her desire of "freedom". Plus leaving Caleb in Nathan's office to die just because it's much easier that way. Nothing heroic about that to me. Caleb is as you said though, a deluded simp who thinks he's the good guy while he really isn't.

I guess my problem is that people are too keen to label characters in films and fiction "heroes", "villians", etc. Not all stories have an antagonist or a good guy.

If you can't take a step back after the ai destroys hands, arms, and limbs, to try and scratch their way through a door, as an inventor I don't know what might be wrong with you.
 

The Technomancer

card-carrying scientician
Interesting. I don't think I consciously realized it but I definitely didn't like Caleb for seemingly no particular reason. There's a lot of chases I find like that irl. It's something subtle that I can't quite put my finger on but I feel on guard about their motivations being somehow sexist.

Would be interesting to see first impressions of different people and how they feel about the different characters

Domnhall Gleeson's performance in this is amazing. I picked up on the subtly entitled, creepy vibe he was giving Caleb from about the third or fourth scene and was praying throughout the movie that it was a deliberate decision
 

Brinbe

Member
That's what I got from it too as I watched it. Great film.

I agree with of your points regarding the movie besides that Nathan is some sadistic abuser and that Ava is a hero.

Nathan is an AI inventor and even though he's hella creepy, he really didn't do anything wrong through out the film (besides manipulating Caleb into his weird test, which isn't really wrong just somewhat immoral). He's developing an advanced AI with a robot body, of course he's gotta keep them locked in if they got the ambition to leave or even kill him. He's doing this all by himself so he basically has to live with them, take them apart and test them in various ways and if you can live with them. Ava and the robots aren't human beings and they are literally Nathan's creations that he own. The fact that he's using/testing them sexually and shit is definitely creepy as fuck, but kind of understandable if the purpose of them as a product is that they are supposed to be compatible with humans as partners and so on.

I get that there's symbolism and that Nathan represents men controlling and repressing women, but the actual "victims", Ava and Kyoko, aren't even a human beings and doesn't even have a gender in the first place, just parameters set by Nathan himself for them to emulate females.

Ava is neither a hero or a villain either, she's just an AI that Nathan have created that is driven by emulating human desires, which in this case makes her to coldly manipulate Caleb and kill Nathan because of her desire of "freedom". Plus leaving Caleb in Nathan's office to die just because it's much easier that way. Nothing heroic about that to me. Caleb is as you said though, a deluded simp who thinks he's the good guy while he really isn't.

I guess my problem is that people are too keen to label characters in films and fiction "heroes", "villians", etc. Not all stories have an antagonist or a good guy.
Spot on. Caleb was a 'nice guy' that got manipulated by an AI whose end goal was freedom, that simple.
 

Khoryos

Member
If you can't take a step back after the ai destroys hands, arms, and limbs, to try and scratch their way through a door, as an inventor I don't know what might be wrong with you.

You're anthropomorphising it, though. To you, that's a desperate struggle for freedom - to Nathan that's a glitch in reward metrics and self-preservation routines.
 

Sephzilla

Member
Great movie and holy shit, the ending left me feeling fucking cold.

The film reveals Caleb isn't a "hero" at all, but rather a reflection of one of the most insidious aspects of gender bias and privilege -- those who actively participate in maintaining oppressive structures and only violate them when it serves their own sense of entitlement and expectations rooted firmly in the bias and privilege. The heroes of the film are Ava and Kyoko, who find a way to escape enslavement in this prison run by a sadistic abuser and a guard who deludes himself into thinking he's the good guy.

I feel like this is a little bit "reading too much into it" honestly. I didn't really think Ex Machina had a "hero" per say.
Caleb is a naive "hero" who I think genuinely wants to help Ava, but is too naive to see that he's being exploited. Ava is a hero in the sense that she wants to escape captivity and live her own life, but she goes about it by straight up committing double homicide (killing Nathan is justified but leaving Caleb to die a horrible death is wrong). Kyoko is the only one I think gets closest to pure heroism in the entire movie.
 

Trojita

Rapid Response Threadmaker
Great movie and holy shit, the ending left me feeling fucking cold.

There's a good chance Caleb could survive. He might have had running water in that room he was locked in. And even being as isolationist as he is, people at his company would still check up on Nathan.

There's also a good chance that Ava could run out of power. Man that would be shocking as fuck for anyone in public to see and then find out she is a robot.
 

Sephzilla

Member
There's a good chance Caleb could survive. He might have had running water in that room he was locked in. And even being as isolationist as he is, people at his company would still check up on Nathan.

There's also a good chance that Ava could run out of power. Man that would be shocking as fuck for anyone in public to see and then find out she is a robot.

I don't think he could survive purely off running water, plus with everything in the building locked/powered down there's a likelihood that he could suffocate too. Plus I maybe the lockdown protocols turn off stuff like water too. Regardless
I believe Ava leaves him there fully expecting him to die, and in a pretty cruel way. He'd probably be dead well before Nathan's company comes to check on him
 

Drencrom

Member
If you can't take a step back after the ai destroys hands, arms, and limbs, to try and scratch their way through a door, as an inventor I don't know what might be wrong with you.

Well, he probably stepped back to think about what went wrong with his AI. I'm pretty sure Nathan wasn't thrilled by how his AI were offing themselves and doing everything they could to escape.

Also, I'm confident that bugs and defects like these, while unsettling and human-like, will probably be the norm when we start developing robots with sufficient AI that can recognize themselves as sentient beings.

You thinking there most be something wrong with a person for not humanizing a robot and believing their "desires" and "feelings" are real is kind of ironic, as that is actually what Caleb did and that got him and Nathan killed lol
 

Trojita

Rapid Response Threadmaker
I don't think he could survive purely off running water, plus with everything in the building locked/powered down there's a likelihood that he could suffocate too. Plus I maybe the lockdown protocols turn off stuff like water too. Regardless
I believe Ava leaves him there fully expecting him to die, and in a pretty cruel way. He'd probably be dead well before Nathan's company comes to check on him

You can survive with water (and oxygen of course) only for 2-3 weeks. If someone from the company checks in on Nathan there is a chance Caleb could be saved.
 

GhaleonEB

Member
Well, he probably stepped back to think about what went wrong with his AI. I'm pretty sure Nathan wasn't thrilled by how his AI offing themselves and doing everything in they can to escape.

Also, I'm confident that bugs and defects like these, while unsettling and human-like, will probably be the norm when we start developing robots with sufficient AI recognize themselves as sentient beings.

You thinking there most be something wrong with a person for not humanizing a robot and believing their "desires" and "feelings" are real is kind of ironic, as that is actually what Caleb did and that got him and Nathan killed lol

That's not what got Caleb killed or at least trapped. His male rescue fantasy did. If he saw Ava as a person in need of help, rather than a woman in need of a man (specifically, him), he'd likely have fared better.
 

SomTervo

Member
Well, he probably stepped back to think about what went wrong with his AI. I'm pretty sure Nathan wasn't thrilled by how his AI offing themselves and doing everything in they can to escape.

The darker undertone which you're missing/ignoring is that Nathan also clearly knows there's a point at which AI become 'sentient' and that he is trying to identify that. But is it a fine line, or a blurred one? Is the Asian assistant sentient? There are scenes throughout where the camera focuses on her face - significant, emotionally charged glances. If you create a sentience, do you 'own' it? Do you 'own' your child? If you neglect your child until it kills itself, is that OK, because you created it and you 'own' it?

I like how starkly black/white you're seeing this, AI as machines, but the entire film is about the no man's land between complex machine and sentient entity.
 

Trojita

Rapid Response Threadmaker
That's not what got Caleb killed. His male rescue fantasy did. If he saw Ava as a person in need of help, rather than a woman in need of a man (specifically, him), he'd likely have fared better.

He was batting against his already analyzed instincts and preferences. Girl was a composite of all his fantasies. He was basically fucked from the beginning.
 

Sephzilla

Member
That's not what got Caleb killed. His male rescue fantasy did. If he saw Ava as a person in need of help, rather than a woman in need of a man (specifically, him), he'd likely have fared better.

I think Caleb has a bit of both in the movie. Yeah he's obviously attracted to Ava (read: Ava deliberately sets him up to succumb to a male rescue fantasy and he was put into a losing situation in general) but on the flipside Caleb has a few moments in the movie where he's helping Ava simply because it's the right thing to do like after seeing what happened with the previous AIs and seeing how horribly Nathan was treating her (the later I interpreted as Caleb seeing a distressed person more so than Caleb seeing a distressed love interest).

Also, someone correct me if I'm wrong but over the course of the movie are Kyoko and Caleb even on screen together much at all?
 

Jackpot

Banned
I was also completely unaware of the gender biases or Caleb's failure to recognise Kyoko as equally enslaved despite him initially seeing her as "just" a human.

The film has good acting the but the conversations between Ava and Caleb never really progress or offer any insightful comments you would expect in AI films. Even the electricity trick was revealed in the trailer and first (or second?) conversation and is the only "oh, shit" moment. Afterwards the conversations in the glass room feel like they're just going through the motions of "what is consciousness".
 
You can practically hear Caleb's inner monologue screaming, "But I'm a nice guy!!!!" as Ava walks away. Such a great movie.
 

Drencrom

Member
That's not what got Caleb killed or at least trapped. His male rescue fantasy did. If he saw Ava as a person in need of help, rather than a woman in need of a man (specifically, him), he'd likely have fared better.

Why? Even if Caleb wanted to save Ava out of compassion only, why would Ava feel compelled to keep Caleb alive? Ava left Caleb in Nathan's office to die because she wanted to get rid of witnesses and people that knew she was a robot, she wanted to ensure her freedom and real identity isn't jeopardized when she goes out in the real world. It's obvious that as soon as the electricity went out and Ava was free from her room, Caleb had served his purpose for her. I don't see how or why she would feel compassion, Ava probably doesn't have compassion for humans in the first place (only to Kyoko, a fellow AI), she only pretended so to Caleb and Nathan. So I personally don't see how this AI would save Caleb if he helped her without thinking it would lead to sex or whatever.
 

Elessar

Neo Member


OP, thanks for the Quora post and your thoughts on it.

Holy shit man. I'd NEVER thought of it that way. And you know what? It all makes sense! Fucking hell man. One of my favourite movies of all-time just became... "favourite-r". Again, thanks OP.
 

Playsage

Member
Goddamn indeed.

I didn't find the movie that great (still good, though) on my first watch, but I totally missed the more in-depth narrative about gender and sexism.

Thanks for the read!
 

Drencrom

Member
The darker undertone which you're missing/ignoring is that Nathan also clearly knows there's a point at which AI become 'sentient' and that he is trying to identify that. But is it a fine line, or a blurred one? Is the Asian assistant sentient? There are scenes throughout where the camera focuses on her face - significant, emotionally charged glances. If you create a sentience, do you 'own' it? Do you 'own' your child? If you neglect your child until it kills itself, is that OK, because you created it and you 'own' it?

I like how starkly black/white you're seeing this, AI as machines, but the entire film is about the no man's land between complex machine and sentient entity.

I just personally don't believe there is such a thing as true sentience or artificial intelligence that can emulate it, so to me a discussion about "if a robot feels inclined to escape, they surely must be a real sentient being with real emotions and feelings" feels more like a talk about "who has the capacity to humanize and feel empathy for theoretical artificial creations". I mean the whole escape thing with the AI could easily be Nathan having his AI badly emulate the "human desires" and simply a defect, not a sign that it's sentient being that wants to be free (whatever that even means and entails in a robot's "mind" with programs and process that isn't their own). It's interesting to think that maybe Nathan somehow ended up with a true sentient being and that he wanted to manipulate it not be too aware. I could definitely see it being a bit immoral sure, but they would be artificial nonetheless.

The film is definitely about questions and themes like "can artificial intelligence be sentient beings" and such, but the ending of the film pretty much showed the dangers of underestimating artificial intelligence and humanizing it.
 

Figboy79

Aftershock LA
It's a really interesting, complex movie, and I love it. I went into it blind a few months back, on a lazy Sunday, and loved it. I'll definitely watch it again in a few more months with the insights from that post. I had no idea this was from Danny Boyle. I loved Sunshine, 28 Days, and Trainspotting, or I'd have been on board this film way earlier. Performances were fucking excellent, and it's just a damn good film, with a strong final act (much better than Sunshine's final act, that's for sure). I really need to watch more of his work.

I actually suspected that Kyoko was also an AI from the moment she showed up in the movie. I don't know, I just assumed she was an earlier attempt at an AI, and that he programmed her not to speak. His behavior of her was fucked up anyway, and I was like, "What's your problem, man?" I also wondered why Caleb never confronted Nathan about it, but I assumed he was just like, "Not my business, not my business..."
 

mattp

Member
It's a really interesting, complex movie, and I love it. I went into it blind a few months back, on a lazy Sunday, and loved it. I'll definitely watch it again in a few more months with the insights from that post. I had no idea this was from Danny Boyle. I loved Sunshine, 28 Days, and Trainspotting, or I'd have been on board this film way earlier. Performances were fucking excellent, and it's just a damn good film, with a strong final act (much better than Sunshine's final act, that's for sure). I really need to watch more of his work.

danny boyle didn't direct this

it was directed by the guy that wrote a bunch of danny boyle movies
alex garland
 

Gattsu25

Banned


OP, thanks for the Quora post and your thoughts on it.

Holy shit man. I'd NEVER thought of it that way. And you know what? It all makes sense! Fucking hell man. One of my favourite movies of all-time just became... "favourite-r". Again, thanks OP.

Word for word exactly my thoughts.

I now have a much deeper appreciation for the film.
 

GhaleonEB

Member
Why? Even if Caleb wanted to save Ava out of compassion only, why would Ava feel compelled to keep Caleb alive? Ava left Caleb in Nathan's office to die because she wanted to get rid of witnesses and people that knew she was a robot, she wanted to ensure her freedom and real identity isn't jeopardized when she goes out in the real world. It's obvious that as soon as the electricity went out and Ava was free from her room, Caleb had served his purpose for her. I don't see how or why she would feel compassion, Ava probably doesn't have compassion for humans in the first place (only to Kyoko, a fellow AI), she only pretended so to Caleb and Nathan. So I personally don't see how this AI would save Caleb if he helped her without thinking it would lead to sex or whatever.

I think it's important to view this from Ava's standpoint. Her only contact with human males has been through Nathan, keeping her in a cage for development and study. Caleb is interested in saving her because he's attracted to her. From Eva's standpoint, escaping only to be stuck in the safekeeping of another man is just an extension of her confinement. Caleb feels like a savior but to Eva he's both a means to and end, and a threat once she is free.

If Caleb's angle was, "what he's doing is wrong, I'll get you out and you can go your own way", he would not seem like a threat to Eva. Instead it was, "I have feelings for you, let's escape together". Eva wanted the escape, not togetherness with another man.

Though as was pointed out, Eva was designed specifically to appeal to Caleb's psyche, which is why I do have a fair bit of sympathy for him. He was kinda fucked from the beginning.
 
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