Alex Garland Does for AI What He Did for Zombies in 28 Days Later
(Note: I’ve avoided spoilers here. No synopsis). I’ve been a fan of Alex Garland’s work since The Beach. I’ve read a couple of his books (including The Tesseract, which I loved). He made a great leap into film that’s been interesting to watch. What I appreciate most about Garland in general is that he doesn’t shy away from ideas that have proven to be cliche traps for lesser creators/authors. He has consistently taken ideas that had already seemed played out and made them FRESH and ORIGINAL. And it never feels like he “just had a clever idea” for a “new spin”; meaning that the work is authentic and true. Take 28 DAYS LATER, for instance. This came out in 2002, and in my mind I feel it brought about much of the resurgence of the modern zombie fascination. (When Walking Dead came out on TV, I actually thought it sort of derivative of 28 Days Later (but now I’m a big Walking Dead fan, too)). Anyways, what I’m getting at is that EX MACHINA brings that same level of originality and freshness to the AI genre. The overall effect is that it broadens the artistic scope of what can be done with AI in fiction/film. Isaac Asimov kind of got the ball rolling with the modern era of AI stories, and so many of them still revolve around the basic tenet of “will AI’s harm humans” (Asimov’s First Law of Robotics) and that extends up through stories such as The Terminator–could AI’s band together to take over the human race (now referred to as the Zeroeth Law of Robotics because it should supersede Asimov’s First Law). So it feels like all all AI/robot stories for the last 50 years have dealt in this same constructed framework. Then Alex Garland comes along and through brilliant collaborative film-making, he basically just plows over the entire scaffolding that had constricted all AI stories. He makes the AI/human conflict genuine and TRUE. And reminds the audience that robots are created by humans, and all the pathos and emotional, human intricacy of the human race come to play in the human/AI relationship. 28 Days Later made all previous zombie movies seem kind of flat, and ex Machina has the same effect on the AI genre. In short, it’s brilliant and gripping and thought-provoking. Aside from the writer-director-auteur Alex Garland, the entire cast and crew deserve props, and you will go through the entire movie hardly able to believe that the Oscar Isaac in Ex Machina is the same Oscar Isaac who plays Poe Dameron in Star Wars. Either there are two Oscar Isaacs or the man can really act.