Ex Machina

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Ex Machina

Postby Jorpho » Fri May 08, 2015 1:38 pm UTC

Hmm, no thread about this yet.

Has anyone else here seen this movie yet? It's been getting mighty good reviews. I'm not sure it did all that much for me. The acting and effects were convincing, the Norwegian countryside sure looks spectacular, and the fate of the protagonist is rather unsettling. I think I might have liked it better if there wasn't some undercurrent of the film trying to be a profoundly deep intellectual exercise rather than actually being about the characters.

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Re: Ex Machina

Postby raudorn » Fri May 08, 2015 5:05 pm UTC

I've seen it and found it good, but not overwhelmingly so, unlike other recent scifi movies. I like how they picked up on themes that are also present in academic (and non-academic) discussion about AI, instead of relying on the same old tropes we've been seeing ever since Terminator. I'd recommend the movie, but don't think it's a must-watch.

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Re: Ex Machina

Postby Zohar » Fri May 08, 2015 9:39 pm UTC

I was really Meh about it. I didn't find they discussed any of the questions in any depth, and what they chose to focus on didn't hold my interest. The movie is weirdly misogynistic and racist, too. Personally what bothered me most was they tried to write a hyper-intelligent character and just failed miserably. Give the script to a sharp nitpicky person and they would point out all the plot holes, but no - instead they tried to write a genius-level character and they turned out really dumb.
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Re: Ex Machina

Postby ahammel » Sat May 09, 2015 2:07 am UTC

I've not seen it, but the fact that the trailer is mostly quotations of people who are smarter than the screenwriters can't be a good sign.
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Re: Ex Machina

Postby Jorpho » Sat May 09, 2015 3:52 am UTC

Zohar wrote:I was really Meh about it. I didn't find they discussed any of the questions in any depth, and what they chose to focus on didn't hold my interest. The movie is weirdly misogynistic and racist, too. Personally what bothered me most was they tried to write a hyper-intelligent character and just failed miserably. Give the script to a sharp nitpicky person and they would point out all the plot holes, but no - instead they tried to write a genius-level character and they turned out really dumb.
More than anything it reminded me distinctly of The Island of Dr. Moreau, i.e. the version with strange Marlon Brando.

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Re: Ex Machina

Postby charliepanayi » Sat May 09, 2015 5:58 pm UTC

I thought it was decent, good work from the three leads (Isaac is on his way to being a big star, and deservedly so). Nothing amazing but I like the sense of creeping dread throughout.

And misogynistic and racist? Seriously?
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Re: Ex Machina

Postby Zohar » Sat May 09, 2015 6:17 pm UTC

charliepanayi wrote:I thought it was decent, good work from the three leads (Isaac is on his way to being a big star, and deservedly so). Nothing amazing but I like the sense of creeping dread throughout.

And misogynistic and racist? Seriously?

Yes, seriously:
Spoiler:
All the androids have different races, the best and most successful one happens to be generic white. All the androids happen to be sexy women death robots, but no men. The men basically judging the women's worth and value as conscious beings throughout the movie. And no, "Isaac's character is an asshole" is not an excuse - there are better, less lazy ways of showing someone's evil than through their treatment of women characters.
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Re: Ex Machina

Postby Jorpho » Sun May 10, 2015 2:07 am UTC

Zohar wrote:
And misogynistic and racist? Seriously?

Yes, seriously:
Spoiler:
All the androids have different races, the best and most successful one happens to be generic white. All the androids happen to be sexy women death robots, but no men. The men basically judging the women's worth and value as conscious beings throughout the movie. And no, "Isaac's character is an asshole" is not an excuse - there are better, less lazy ways of showing someone's evil than through their treatment of women characters.


Spoiler:
The other androids are all shown so briefly I had the impression that they were all Asian, not unlike whatshername. I sure don't remember any black androids.
I thought you were referring to the subordinate Asian.

I suppose there is something to be said for the emphasis on Ava's sexuality, but in a way that's sort of misandrist, isn't it? That men are easily manipulated and the test of a conscious being is whether it can make a man sufficiently stupid?

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Re: Ex Machina

Postby Zohar » Sun May 10, 2015 4:30 am UTC

Perpetuating fear of women and their predatory nature is another form of misogyny.
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Re: Ex Machina

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon May 11, 2015 12:32 am UTC

I dug it, it wasn't great, but I dug it. I felt like it was going through a laundry list of 'topics to discuss pertaining to Frankenstein/Pygmalion/AI/creation', but never really explored any in sufficient depth. I like the ambiguities, and felt the film did a good job playing with your emotions the same way Calebs were played with.

@Zohar, I think you are grasping at straws with respect to misogeny and racism being elements of this film. The racial models were not comments of superiority, and there was even a discussion about why sexuality is pertinent.
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Re: Ex Machina

Postby Zohar » Mon May 11, 2015 1:34 am UTC

Just because it's being discussed, doesn't mean there still aren't shades of superiority there. For example, I'm pretty certain none of the filmmakers intended to make a comment about race by making Eve the best model. But then racism often is unintentional.

Also, I'd really appreciated if people started saying "I disagree" or "I don't see it the same way" or "I don't really get the same vibe as you do" or a myriad of other phrases, instead of "I think you're wrong", "I think you don't make sense", "I think you're looking for things that aren't there". And I'm not talking only about here, I had similar reactions in the Avengers thread. Let's try to be more respectful towards each other. We can criticize and disagree without dismissing others' opinions.
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Re: Ex Machina

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon May 11, 2015 3:14 am UTC

Zohar wrote:I'm pretty certain none of the filmmakers intended to make a comment about race by making Eve the best model
But they told you why she looked the way she did - she was based on Calebs porn search history. If anything, the misogyny angle here is that... AI's may be used as optimized seduce-o-matic fuckbots? That Nathan has a thing for Asian chicks?

Zohar wrote:Also, I'd really appreciated if people started saying "I disagree" or "I don't see it the same way" or "I don't really get the same vibe as you do" or a myriad of other phrases, instead of "I think you're wrong", "I think you don't make sense", "I think you're looking for things that aren't there". And I'm not talking only about here, I had similar reactions in the Avengers thread. Let's try to be more respectful towards each other. We can criticize and disagree without dismissing others' opinions.
Sure, but, respectfully, I've seen you, in the past, make quite strong statements about your interpretations of a film, and get... snippy? hostile? angry? upset? that people disagree with your views. So, yes, you're right, we should aim to discuss the film kindly and civilly - I request that if someone disagrees with you, you also aim for kindness and civility.
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Re: Ex Machina

Postby Zohar » Mon May 11, 2015 8:24 pm UTC

Fair enough, and if you see me comment strongly towards someone (especially yourself), please tell me about it.

In any case, regarding Eve, I say again - just because there's a reason the creators included in the film, doesn't mean it doesn't send an unintended message. I mean, in the end, do you disagree that Eve is the "best" android in the film? Do you disagree that Eve is why while the other androids we've seen aren't? I'm not saying this makes the film terrible, or the creators more racist than other people - everyone is racist to an extent, everyone is misogynist to an extent, and the only thing we can do is try to be aware of how these issues are part of our culture.
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Re: Ex Machina

Postby Izawwlgood » Mon May 11, 2015 11:40 pm UTC

I don't think you're wrong, that there's a choice to cast a white dude being seduced by a white chick, but given the films message about programming and desire and manipulation and consciousness, any choice they would have made here would have drawn your ire. The Asian bot that Nathan treated as a servant/sex toy could be just as insulting as if the creators had picked an Indian, African, European, etc. This is why I disagree with you that the film was racist - you can take offense to literally any thing being slotted into this role, and the point of Ava being a white woman was literally only to provide a mirror to Calebs desires. There was even a joking line about it, when Nathan was like 'say, for the sake of discussion, you're into black chicks...'

The message, to me, was less about white-sex-bot being superior to Asian-sex-bot, and more a commentary on the programmed nature of humans, of consciousness, of desire. The only way we could have gotten away from your perception of this message is if we play some randomization of races with all the various members of this limited cast, and hopefully end up with a permutation that doesn't suggest anything to you. So, say Caleb was a black dude who had a thing for Asian chicks, and Nathan was an Inuit who had a thing for Russians, and the previous incarnations were Russian, with Ava, the Asian chick, being superior - would that have made you happier, or would you have also derived a message of racial superiority of Asians over Europeans?

Additionally, I think this film works perfectly well with the gender roles reversed - the point of sexuality had, in my mind, literally nothing to do with objectifying or demeaning women, and everything to do with, again, how humans desires are preprogrammed.

Out of curiosity, and huge apologies if I'm mistaken re; your orientation identity, but you're a gay man, correct? What did you think about the line where Nathan goes "You're programmed to like chicks", Caleb goes "I am not!" and Nathan gets pissed at him for even suggesting his heterosexuality is a choice?
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Re: Ex Machina

Postby Zohar » Tue May 12, 2015 1:45 am UTC

Personally I thought the general idea of taking the movie in a sexual direction wasn't a very good decision. It might make a better psychological story, but I didn't feel it explored the sci-fi aspects very well, but maybe those ideas resonated more with you than with me, and that's, of course, fine. Also, depicting the opposite situation, with human women and android men, is not the same since the oppression of women is not the same as men's experiences. I often have discussions with my husband about these choices in TV and movies and they're often critical of whatever decision the creators make.

For example, when watching Daredevil I was considering the choice to use a white Fisk and very racially diverse underlings, and the problem of a white man controlling or being in charge of other races, as opposed to choosing a hypothetical black Fisk and having all the evil guys non-white while the lead character who supposedly fights for justice, is white. I don't want to switch to talk about Daredevil (not the right thread anyway), but my point is any choice can be criticized, and criticism doesn't take away from a creation's value.

In this case, though, I did feel there were problematic tones, specifically because what I mentioned in the first paragraph - there's oppression of women and non-caucasian races in the world. Honestly, my biggest criticism of the movie is I didn't find it particularly interesting, and Isaac's character seemed kind of dumb at times.

As for the heterosexual comment - I must say I don't care much for the nature vs. nurture debate regarding sexual orientation, simply because I find it completely irrelevant - whether I'm genetically homosexual, or absorbed something in society to make me be attracted to men, or if I chose to be into men (or if I were bisexual and chose only to have relationships with men, for instance), is of no relevance to my right to fulfill these attractions and have the types of romantic and sexual connections I want. So I'm quite opposed to the "I didn't choose to be this way" argument, because so what if I did? The argument should be after this - this is who I am right now, and people should get over it and let me get on with my life. Specifically in the movie, I think Nathan was just trying to be provocative because he's an ass, and Caleb was overreacting because he's kind of gullible and panicky. I think he might have reacted similarly to other suggestions as well.

And no apologies needed, implying or asking if someone is gay isn't wrong because someone being gay isn't wrong. It's like me asking if you were glasses and then feeling bad if I'm wrong :)
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Re: Ex Machina

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue May 12, 2015 12:23 pm UTC

But I think when you can mix and match as you please and still come up with the same complaints, you've shown that your complaint isn't one of the movie's doing, but one of 'general dissatisfaction with the way the world works and how the story may be interpreted to fit that'. For example, given the movie as is, can you think of any permutation of ethnicities that would not have drawn this criticism? Can you think of a permutation of 'AI topic questions' to bring up that wouldn't have drawn this criticism?

I think the choice to introduce sexualization was a valid one, not because it gave an excuse for a cheap conversation about fuckbots and portraying Nathans shadiness, but because it turned the Turing Test around, which is, frankly, the most interesting side of these films -Calabs freakout in the bathroom wasn't about how awful Ava was being treated, but about doubting his own humanity. Sure, they could have taken a different route, one that perhaps wouldn't have primarily resonated with the films demographic of white nerdy heterosexual males seeing it, but the film was making a point about humans being programmed the same way AIs would be, and sexuality is a particularly strong resonating point for most people. My guess is you would have been equally annoyed had Caleb been a parent who recently lost a child and Ava was portrayed as a child, or if Caleb had been a chick who recently lost a parent and Ava was portrayed as a parental figure, or if Caleb had been a gay woman whose best friend had recently told her to fuck off and Ava was reminiscent of her friend, or a woman who just lost her younger brother, and Ava was... you get the point. The point of sexualizing Ava and having her be (as we're told) Calebs idealized woman was to make the audience recognize that the biggest risk to AI isn't that it's a complete mind, but that YOU, yes YOU! are not capable of rationally interacting with another complete mind, given that it can be created to specifically affect an emotional response from you.

Yes, women and (well, every) ethnicity has been treated horribly either still or at one point in time - but including them in films is a must insofar as they exist in the world. That's why I thought Nathans whole line about why making the AI a grey cube wasn't an option was apropos. We're not interested in an AI that sits on our wrist and encourages us to go play in the park or make new friends, we're interested in an AI that can act as a stand in for an actual human being.

I think the biggest problem I had with the film was how vague it was on the motivations of the characters. The problem with a film where we're supposed to think everyone is lying is that unless there's some reveal about their true intentions, we just don't know what anyone actually wanted. Nathan ultimately was the most truthful, but we're basing that on clarification of just a fraction of what he says in the whole film. Caleb we can presume isn't lying, but he's such a wreck at the end it's hard to tell what's really going on in his head. Is Kyoko actually programmed to not speak, to be somewhat intellectually stunted, or is she traumatized from Nathan? Is Ava just trying to get out (and was she programmed that way?!) or is she full actualized and up to something more nefarious?
Spoiler:
Zohar wrote:And no apologies needed, implying or asking if someone is gay isn't wrong because someone being gay isn't wrong. It's like me asking if you were glasses and then feeling bad if I'm wrong :)
This is the best analogy I've heard regarding asking someone about their sexuality - my worry was more that you would take offense to me not having remembered an aspect about your personal life given our respective tenure on the fora. Like asking someone you've been getting lunch with for the last 5 years if they liked ketchup.
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Re: Ex Machina

Postby Zohar » Tue May 12, 2015 12:58 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:But I think when you can mix and match as you please and still come up with the same complaints, you've shown that your complaint isn't one of the movie's doing, but one of 'general dissatisfaction with the way the world works and how the story may be interpreted to fit that'. For example, given the movie as is, can you think of any permutation of ethnicities that would not have drawn this criticism? Can you think of a permutation of 'AI topic questions' to bring up that wouldn't have drawn this criticism?

I think the choice to introduce sexualization was a valid one, not because it gave an excuse for a cheap conversation about fuckbots and portraying Nathans shadiness, but because it turned the Turing Test around, which is, frankly, the most interesting side of these films -Calabs freakout in the bathroom wasn't about how awful Ava was being treated, but about doubting his own humanity. Sure, they could have taken a different route, one that perhaps wouldn't have primarily resonated with the films demographic of white nerdy heterosexual males seeing it, but the film was making a point about humans being programmed the same way AIs would be, and sexuality is a particularly strong resonating point for most people. My guess is you would have been equally annoyed had Caleb been a parent who recently lost a child and Ava was portrayed as a child, or if Caleb had been a chick who recently lost a parent and Ava was portrayed as a parental figure, or if Caleb had been a gay woman whose best friend had recently told her to fuck off and Ava was reminiscent of her friend, or a woman who just lost her younger brother, and Ava was... you get the point. The point of sexualizing Ava and having her be (as we're told) Calebs idealized woman was to make the audience recognize that the biggest risk to AI isn't that it's a complete mind, but that YOU, yes YOU! are not capable of rationally interacting with another complete mind, given that it can be created to specifically affect an emotional response from you.


Well, the only thing I know of that actually tries to randomize sex and ethnicity for its characters is Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. As soon as you consciously choose a sex and a race for a character, the choice can (maybe even should) be criticized. What does it mean that this character is white? Is it because white is the default? What does it mean this character is a woman? Is it because straight is the default? Why is this character Latina, is it because they're trying to work the stereotype that they're more emotional? And so on. Specifically in this story, though, they've decided to literally build women to serve a sexual purpose, be controlled, not have agency over their own actions and be controlled by other men, and specifically women of color being controlled by white men. There isn't such a terrible and commonplace practice of exploitation of children by parents, or of parents by their children, or of friends by their friends etc. Certainly it would have helped if Caleb and Nathan weren't both white men and controlling these women, and then I would have questioned their choices as well (maybe just "Oh that's a neat role reversal" or maybe more, I dunno).

Spoiler:
Zohar wrote:And no apologies needed, implying or asking if someone is gay isn't wrong because someone being gay isn't wrong. It's like me asking if you were glasses and then feeling bad if I'm wrong :)
This is the best analogy I've heard regarding asking someone about their sexuality - my worry was more that you would take offense to me not having remembered an aspect about your personal life given our respective tenure on the fora. Like asking someone you've been getting lunch with for the last 5 years if they liked ketchup.
[/quote]
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Personally I would have loved if the movie used the history of the other androids to go in a different direction - what's actually required to become conscious, what level of consciousness is required to have basic rights and agency, where's the intelligence threshold between "worthy to be have a life" and "just a machine", would that be affected by having Eva portrayed as a child or as an adult, etc.
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Re: Ex Machina

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue May 12, 2015 1:19 pm UTC

Zohar wrote:they've decided to literally build women to serve a sexual purpose, be controlled, not have agency over their own actions and be controlled by other men, and specifically women of color being controlled by white men.
And I disagree with this interpretation - Nathan literally built a sexualized robot not to be controlled, but to manipulate Caleb. The point of Ava's sexuality wasn't that she could be exploited, but that she was specifically built to exploit Caleb. Your earlier point about this being demonstrative of some sort of base fear of woman's manipulative power spoke to this, which is why I said you would have had the same issue had Nathan exploited any human desire, be it due to lost family, friends, whatever.

The commentary wasn't that woman are manipulative or to be exploited, but that *humans* are also programmed, and that emotional programming can be manipulated.

Zohar wrote:Personally I would have loved if the movie used the history of the other androids to go in a different direction - what's actually required to become conscious, what level of consciousness is required to have basic rights and agency, where's the intelligence threshold between "worthy to be have a life" and "just a machine", would that be affected by having Eva portrayed as a child or as an adult, etc.
I agree, this could have been a really interesting point - the previous incarnations were maybe lacking very key aspects of humanity, but nevertheless railed against their captivity. Is imprisoning them ethical? What about dismantling them? In utero, a really large portion of a fetuses cells undergo apoptosis and are pruned away - is that ethical?

Somewhat relatedly, I read a decent bit of sci-fi a few years back where one of the points made is that in a world where minds can be created and used commonplace, you'll find them in all kinds of applications you wouldn't have considered. At one point, and spoilered because this is kind of graphic and potentially triggering -

Spoiler:
We're introduced to a character who has two android children with him, and is acting somewhat fatherlike towards them. So, sure, the implication starts off that maybe he lost a child or something and having an android daughter to care for is some kind of therapy for him. After a long sort of father-daughter back and forth, he starts acting weirdly, and the reveal is that he's a pedophile, and the two android children have been given to him as a preventative measure against him assaulting a human child. They're fully functioning minds that have been programmed to undertake this role.

Is that ethical?


I think Ex Machina does a good job doing a few things, and maybe not as well as it could have, but still -

1 ) It points out that humans are also programmed minds.

2 ) It points out that programmed minds opens a bag of ethical worms that is quite complex.

3 ) It points out that, like humans, the motivations of another mind can be complex, varied, and not always obvious.
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Re: Ex Machina

Postby Jorpho » Tue May 12, 2015 2:00 pm UTC

What do you think happened to Caleb at the end? It's such an unsettling image to finish with (so, probably a good choice on the part of the director).
Spoiler:
I suppose it is most likely that he would have starved to death, alone. Nathan doesn't seem like the sort who would let a silly thing like failsafe protocols get in the way of security, even if he seems to enjoy getting blackout drunk.

I suppose Caleb could maybe shut down the generators by short-circuiting an electrical outlet of some sort, but even then he'd be stuck hundreds of kilometers from civilization with no means of signalling help. So grim.

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Re: Ex Machina

Postby Izawwlgood » Tue May 12, 2015 3:25 pm UTC

Spoiler:
I think his fate was the same as the bots before him. That he eventually hammered on the glass until fists were bloody before just giving up


Which I think has a nice kind of horrifying symmetry to it. "What is the cost of birthing these minds?" can be answered in a couple ways.
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Re: Ex Machina

Postby Flumble » Tue May 12, 2015 10:19 pm UTC

This isn't helping me decide whether this film is worth the watch. :P
At least I know imdb isn't to be trusted (any mediocre sci-fi film can get a 8-10 there during the first months), but the mixed opinions in this topic at the very least lower my expectations.

Zohar wrote:I didn't find they discussed any of the questions in any depth, and what they chose to focus on didn't hold my interest.

Do I understand correctly that it's mostly just your average drama, but with more shiny props? On the same level as Interstellar?

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Re: Ex Machina

Postby Izawwlgood » Wed May 13, 2015 12:30 am UTC

I think it's definitely worth the watch, but I don't think it's worth seeing in the theaters.

I don't think it was a bad movie by any stretch of the mind - indeed, I don't know of any AI films that did it better. The Spielberg film was horribad.
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Re: Ex Machina

Postby Jorpho » Wed May 13, 2015 6:04 am UTC

Flumble wrote:Do I understand correctly that it's mostly just your average drama, but with more shiny props? On the same level as Interstellar?
Interstellar at least had spectacle. While the effects in this one are convincing and in some regards pleasing, they don't seem like anything that hasn't been done many times before. Someone suggested it might make an interesting double bill with The Skin I Live In, but as I haven't seen that one I can't comment.

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Re: Ex Machina

Postby roband » Mon May 18, 2015 8:37 am UTC

Flumble wrote:just your average drama, but with more shiny props? On the same level as Interstellar?

If that's your opinion of Interstellar, don't watch Ex Machina.

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Re: Ex Machina

Postby Flumble » Tue Sep 01, 2015 9:45 pm UTC

Well, I watched it now, and I'm leaning towards this opinion:
Izawwlgood wrote:I dug it, it wasn't great, but I dug it. I felt like it was going through a laundry list of 'topics to discuss pertaining to Frankenstein/Pygmalion/AI/creation', but never really explored any in sufficient depth. I like the ambiguities, and felt the film did a good job playing with your emotions the same way Calebs were played with.


I enjoyed the film mostly for the one twist that I didn't expect.
Spoiler:
Which is Ava actually being manipulative instead of feeling attracted to Caleb because he's the only (non-father) guy.
...and Caleb being one step ahead of Nathan (you know, the door "hacking") despite the fact that Nathan expected his every move.

And I like it that they put a character in the film who's aware in control of the linearity of the film. It gives a bit of depth to the fact that the film is, for the longest part, as linear and predictable as hell.

What I still don't really grasp is
Spoiler:
Why do Ava and Kyoko stab Nathan to death? Doesn't a tremendous amount of data come with ideas of justice and forgiveness as well as how to stab someone with a kitchen knife? And why the hatred towards Caleb?

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ArgonV
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Re: Ex Machina

Postby ArgonV » Thu Oct 22, 2015 10:32 pm UTC

Flumble wrote:What I still don't really grasp is
Spoiler:
Why do Ava and Kyoko stab Nathan to death? Doesn't a tremendous amount of data come with ideas of justice and forgiveness as well as how to stab someone with a kitchen knife? And why the hatred towards Caleb?


My best guesses:
Spoiler:
I don't really know how sentient Kyoko is, but I though it was pretty obvious Nathan was being sexually abusive with her, perhaps she was forced/programmed to have sex with him against her will? Like an abused wife killing her spouse to be free? Or Ava put her up to it, as it seems pretty clear she felt Nathan had killed the previous iterations, so she exacted revenge, maybe even instructed Kyoko to kill him, during the inaudible conversation.

Well, she is either still bugged and does not correctly value human life, or she is just getting rid of the last thing that can betray her. Nathan and Caleb were the only two people who knew she was an AI, with them dead, who will ever find out?

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eSOANEM
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Re: Ex Machina

Postby eSOANEM » Wed Nov 22, 2017 3:02 pm UTC

I just watched this film with my university's science-fiction society and the philosopher we had with us actually thought it was representing Wittgenstein's philosophy (which they referenced as the explanation for the name "blue book") pretty well.

Spoiler:
We definitely agreed that Kyoko was bieng sexually abused pretty early and, for us, the fact she didn't make it out was one of the saddest things.


The main thing I realised is that this film is basically what happens if you take the elevator pitch for a weird porn and then somehow make a beautifully shot thoughtful sci-fi film from it which was kinda interesting.
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