* this article has gone silver *
* thanks to you guys & gals! *
A thinking, feeling, loving robot comes to the big screen – and its name isn’t CHAPPIE.
The robot in EX MACHINA is played by a human – rising star ALICIA VIKANDER. With ALEX GARLAND directing it looks like the focus will be on the ethical implications of Artifical Intelligence, rather than an action movie like the aforementioned Neill Blomkamp feature.
Our main character is played by DOMNHALL GLEESON, another talent on the rise. He lead the way in the quirky indie FRANK, and is set to star in a galaxy far far away with the new STAR WARS. I’m sure Gleeson will be walking on emotional territory here. His character could be quite complex. Imagine a scientist who knows full well this is a robot, and how he could come to see this creation as a living being.
ALICIA VIKANDER has her work cut out for her. How do you portray a robot with emotions? How do you balance the performance? How much is too much? How little is too little? It’s essential for us to believe in her for this concept to work. Vikander is involved with several upcoming Award contenders. We’ll be seeing a lot more of her in the future. Her role here with MACHINA could be her most complex.
The internal work is a maze of its own, but Vikander also had to overcome quite a few physical demands in this role. The robot’s only human feature is its face. That’s all we’ll see of Vikander. She acted out the scenes in the special FX unitard. Her robot body was adding during post production as a computer generated effect. It must have been hard to stay in character while the crew focuses so much on her movements and the technical requirements such as lighting and motion controlled cameras. From the trailer, all of these toils, seem to be worth the effort.
Alex Garland (MACHINA’s director) is known more as a writer, behind a couple of impressive DANNY BOYLE films – THE BEACH starring Leonardo DiCaprio and the zombie flick 28 DAYS LATER. The former explored American ideologies and the idea of a Utopian society. It delve into such themes as the Nature of Man and Community. The latter film also deconstructed society under the veil of an exciting thriller. It also re-imagined zombies as a realistic infection and popularized the fast running version of the Walking Dead.
I’m really compelled by Garland’s involvement here in MACHINA. It’s his first time directing. I wonder if this is a personal passion project he saved for such an opportunity. I wonder how he will reimagine the emotional robot? We have seen several movies focus on a sentient cybernetic being. It looks like this one will take a realistic approach. It seems like it will explore emotional territory between a scientist and his creation. Melding the best of Isaac Asimnov and Philip K. Dick with Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN.
The trailers had a vibe that reminded me of Canadian David Cronenberg’s work (like EXISTENZ) and Andrew Nicchols high-brow cautionary tale GATTACA (with Ethan Hawke & Jude Law). I love it when this genre is taken seriously. Sci-fi affords the creative team the rare opportunity to explore the future. The best uses contemporary theoretical science, leaps us forward in time to when this technology exists, and warns us of the dangers. Sometimes we get a worse case scenario that we never want to see happen in real life. Sometimes we get to see a future we want to build towards.
MACHINA explores artificial intelligence. The day isn’t far away when we will have computers smarter than all humans to have ever existed. An emotional AI will be created soon that will seem to be human. It begs the question: Can you unplug a machine that is alive? How will civil rights evolve in the future? Will we adapt along with the new species we create? I hope this film explores these themes.
What will the conflict arise from? Will there be more thrilling elements? It looks like the antagonist is played by OSCAR ISAAC (another actor in the new STAR WARS). It seems like he’s the creator testing out his creation with Gleeson. Is he though? Is there another reason he chose Gleeson? I hope it’s not some BLADE RUNNER twist and he’s seeing how the latest upgraded cyborg reacts with the previous. As in, Gleeson is AI as well. That could be interesting, but it would be a hard pill to swallow.
What happens when Gleeson comes to love (even platonically) this robot? What happens if Isaac wants to shut down this creation? Or someone wants to steal it away? Will Gleeson come to love her as a creation, a pet, a daughter, a sister, or a lover? I can’t wait to see these two interact. What if Vikander’s robot gets jealous and kills Isaac? How would Gleeson react? Would he cover it up so Vikander won’t be terminated? This could be an exciting turn of events.
I can’t wait to watch Gleeson and Vikander’s relationship evolve. This concept makes me wonder how we all will react to our first AI cybernetic being. By watching Gleeson’s character, I can imagine how I would react in the same situation. I’m expecting to go along for the ride, and feel his emotions alongside him. I’m expecting the same from Vikander’s robot.
I’m thinking of E.T. This was the first time I got mad at a movie. When the government came along and took E.T. from Elliot, I just had this overwhelming feeling of “It’s not fair!” I connected with their relationship 100% I never cried so much in a movie. And it was for a puppet alien. This sort of feeling comes along in movies with pets, or documentaries with animals, or something rare like the new PLANET OF THE APES. I’m worried that someone in MACHINA will tear apart our two friends because they don’t understand or share that empathetic relationship between a non-human.
If this film manages to build those sort of emotional bonds, MACHINA has a real chance to be one of the best genre films of the year. The trailer already promises really cool conceptual designs and stellar visuals. I hope the character are tended to with the same level of quality design.
This could very well be the cautionary tale we need to here today, with the Singularity not far off. With Garland behind the scenes, a super interesting concept, awesome sci-fi designs, and the impressive cast of rising stars I eagerly await the arrival of EX MACHINA.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.
Are you looking forward to Domnhall Gleeson in the lead?
What do you think of Alicia Vikander?
Are you a fan of Alex Garland? Do you think someone else should have directed MACHINA?
Are you intrigued to watch Oscar Isaac as a villain?
Did movies like TRANSCENDENCE burn you from watching any more stories about A.I.?
Do you want to see a character study with this subject matter?
Does the future of Artificial Intelligence worry you? Do we need another cautionary tale about robots who can think and feel?