TRAILER BREAKDOWN: EX MACHINA
These are the DROIDS we’re looking for.
written by Audy Elliott
Ex Machina or the “Great Machine” is a super naturalistic hyper sci-fi movie that preys on your heart as much as it does on Domnhall’s little cubicle trapped program engineer. The movie, written and directed by Alex Garland (writer for 28 Days Later), is predatory like a titanium razor-sharp hug from a beta tested C-3P-OH MY, Audrey Toutou looking robot. The teaser trailer for this sci-fi film is a socratic, scientific art of war like gesture, where one keeps his robot friends close, and the little mobster guy from Drive closer. There is a predominant motive apparent in the trailer where Gleeson is, in his own way, being controlled either by Oscar Isaac’s brilliant but eccentric robot “whose-a-was-it” creator Nathan, and the coy, angelic “Fritz Langian” Ava, played convincingly by Alicia Vikander, whose come-hither programmed look is convincingly enticing to our young pip. If this was Dickens' “Great Expectations” Gleeson’s Caleb character would be off to bigger and better ascendency to life (as he is called up his entry level techno-silicon valley like droning from a contest getting “the golden ticket” to have face to face time with C.E.O. Nathan) and like Pip in Great Expectations, he is chosen to attain a better wealth (of knowledge), a better shine (attention, study with the big secluded boss), but still couldn’t possess the one thing he wanted: Estella (Ava and her natty wig). You can clearly tell Caleb is not only fascinated with Ava, but also entranced by her needing to be seen by him. He can’t, for all intents and purposes carry a relationship with her even though they are both chained to the same endemic trapped circumstance.
You can see that for a sci-fi thriller this trailer is made out of some good things: Oscar Isaac, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors, to a claustrophobic, scenic environment where things are not as attractive as they seem, in Nathan’s mono-chromatic fortress of solitude/Resident Evil “Umbrella” research lab. But the main draw is Ava. She is the oil tin-can woman wild card to this movie. The more she becomes “real” and enticing, the more we are perplexed and awed. Clearly, it’s established that manipulation is going to be a precursor to Gleeson’s character before, during and possibly after all of the shrapnel of metallic bullshit resides. He cannot determine, if he is being manipulated by Nathan or Ava or both. Maybe, it’s the trailer that is manipulating us. Isaac looks as he is continuing to string together quality roles that show him off to people without shoving him into the lime light. This movie also comes together with the anticipation, of two principal actors for the upcoming Star Wars Episode 7. I feel it’s a nice added bonus in which I can see if they have chemistry or not, and how that might (probably will) translate to Abrams over-agreeable franchise operatic hypebeast. Isaac, who is small in stature, comes across like a whopping Teddy Roosevelt bull-like intensity that may be good natured, but is more than likely insincere, or again, this is what an impressive teaser trailer is showing us. Gleeson in contrast, plays the same character he did in the wildly off-beat Frank as a young, impressionable but likable kid that is the right combination of “gee whiz” and “oh gosh” with a little of his father’s acidic reactionary wit.
Now, at the end of the teaser trailer there is a perceived slip in the last scene. I won’t ruin it here, as I hope you will take a look for yourself. It’s atrocious, if I think it's the twist of the movie. I’m hoping I’m wrong, and it’s a dream sequence, and I’m not a smart as I think I am – like Caleb. There is a lot of fascinating imagery, that strengthens the notion this movie intends to fuck you up not only on a conceptual scientific, man vs. robots quandary, but also as a mad scientist futuristic horror. Ava, at many parts in the trailer, walks, talks, and evokes a placidity in her characterization that harkens, not as a typical A.I., but lends a tragedy, a yearning to be accepted in an elementary manner like Edith Scob’s portrayal of Christiane in Franju’s Eyes Without a Face. When the movie gives Ava nothing but time and opportunity, her impact of us and on Caleb is heightened to where the movie is not questioning the fundamental exploration of something programmed having free will, in a “do androids dream of electric sleep” sort of way, as if Philip K. Dick himself gave me a glass of warm milk, and sent me to bed where I think everything is what it appears but still question what’s real? There are heavy Blade Runner traces in this movie. Mainly, Caleb attached more to Ava the A.I., whereas Rick Deckart was attached in a seemingly romantically intentioned way with Sean Young’s Rachel. Furthermore, there was always the question, upon the initial release of the movie, was Deckart himself a “replicant” – hunting down his own, like the possiblity that Caleb is also a fully formed A.I., detailed out with his perfectly combed hair, his own bright eye explorative wonderment, to the way he stands perfect, erect with no fallibility in posture as both arms are shooting straight down to a feeling of nothingness. Is it this quality that makes him immediately gravitate towards Ava, or is he really a human being that won the weird-ass robot powerball lottery, serving as the fascinated company man that quite possibly is not even a “man.” This is all conjecture here. I have neither evidence, nor any knowledge that what I’m saying is truth – I’m just saying it could possibly be the truth.
Questions are delivered all through the trailer, curious, analytic, psychological questions fireballed at Caleb, that are being asked to be planted in his head or is a decadent way of trivializing what is his existence in the house is to begin with. Either way, for me this is the first movie of the upcoming year that I’m graciously anticipating. This is the movie William Eubank’s under achieving The Signal should have been and there are sci-fi thriller tropes from that movie in this and vice-versa but in a completely coincidental way. There is a perverted titillation with this movie in terms of seeing two different characters form a uncontrollable bond that goes beyond logic – the very bread and butter law, that needs to be broken to have a compelling sci-fi movie. It’s a code that is held to the highest of standards, like in assassin/hitman thrillers, where the main guy has one last hit, fails to kill the target, either protects that target, and now becomes the new target, with the caveat being it’s his last job and then out of the game. Sci-fi does that too, and within this trailer we need that in order to derive our tension or struggle to effectively become part of the message Ava is saying, with an empty breath.
0:49 | First look at Ava, a machine with slender and feminine sensibility, down to her sweet, yet ominous sounding "hello."
0:57 | Insane amount of post-its on walls = cray cray.
1:05 | A close-up of Ava's face, bringing the viewer into an extremely intimate space, urging us to feel sensitive to Ava and her possible plight... aaaaand then suggestions of a sexual nature begin.
1:27 | Red lighting portion of the trailer adding to the haunting and uneasy feeling.
1:37 | And then you add Oscar Isaac dancing kinda kooky crazy-like, you know something more than what we're allowed to see is at play.
1:41 | Who's that pounding on the door in a fast forward time-lapse edit?!
1:43 | This was the scene I mentioned could be a slip.