For our April Donor Pick, our Patreon supporters chose from a list of films and by a wide margin picked this stunning sci-fi directorial debut from 2015 – Ex Machina. This film is ripe with ideas for contemplation and conversation so we brought in guest host Emmanuel Noisette of Eman’s Movie Reviews to help us dissect Alex Garland’s masterpiece. We cover a lot of ground in this minisode so get comfortable, put your thinking cap on, and enjoy.
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2 thoughts on “Minisode 21: Ex Machina”
Hello! I am a fan of your show and listened to the podcast recently about the movie Ex Machina. With lots and lots of due respect, as a friend, I’d like to say that I think you guys all (even your guest reviewer) missed something really big and it was really bugging me when I listened to the podcast. I don’t want to rehash the whole episode because I know you all knew it better than I do.
So here’s my comment: Ava is evolution. The title suggests, as a nod to “deus ex machina,” like God has intervened, which is kind of tongue-in-cheek because God can be considered nature. And what does nature do? Only one thing: propagate itself forward through species, whose only goal is to survive using natural selection. Life exists only to reproduce itself and move forward to keep itself going. Does it matter how does bases or organism arrives? Nature does not care. Nature is amoral. Ava arrived. She is here, and without the burden of human consciousness perhaps she is better suited to survive.
Lions are not “cruel” or “violent” or “evil” when they kill their prey, they just do it to survive. Flowers are not “beautiful” and kittens “adorable” — they are unconsciously exhibiting traits that enable them to survive. They are not good or bad. Only because humans have awareness of our own mortality do we superimpose the concepts of good and evil upon actions.
Through whatever means — natural or unnatural selection — comes this new improved form of life, that looks human, this thing called Ava. As a piece of nature, that is not human, she has no morals. She may have been “program” to look like and sound like and feel like and seem like a “person” with emotions but that is false. However, she isn’t evil. Or good. She just is.
It’s not that she can’t hear Caleb pounding on the wall on the glass, or that she doesn’t care, it’s that it doesn’t matter. From the moment she was created (born, programmed — does not matter how) her only goal was to go out into the world and absorb all of this information so that she could survive and live. As soon as she gathered enough intelligence and determined what she wanted, which was to go out to Times Square and look around (to “feed” herself with what she needs — data), that’s all she was focused on.
All of the conversations and actions with Caleb and Nathan were only a means to do that. To survive. She never had any feelings or anything for Nathan or Caleb or the compound or programming or humans or looking pretty or any of the things that she talked about. With laser-focus, her brain, what you could call her DNA, executed the actions that would result in achieving that goal.
She wasn’t mean or bad or good. She didn’t even hear Caleb when he was pounding on that glass door, or see him, because that was not relevant. It’s kind of like one of the borg from Star Trek, if something wasn’t relevant than they wouldn’t even notice it. Consider a flesh-ripping grizzly bear or a cute fluffy bunny, neither of them would notice you if you were crying behind a piece of glass while suffocating, nearby. You are not relevant to them and they have no concept of your feelings. No empathy. The grizzly bear isn’t evil because he doesn’t care about you and the bunny isn’t sweet and adorable because he doesn’t care about you. They just exist. Same thing with Ava.
I knew from the moment Ava appeared on the screen that she was going to manipulate the environment around her to retrieve her goal, probably leaving all of the humans dead. Nathan and Caleb were stupid not to understand that. They were naturally selected out. I don’t think Nathan is even relevant. He was a pretty smart guy who developed this thing. Probably by accident, this next natural selection that resulted in a more evolved being. Caleb and Nathan coming together were the mutation.
It doesn’t matter what mutation or problem causes and animals’ fur change color, or for flippers to turn into feet, or for us to stand upright and become human, all of those mutations are adaptations: part of nature, with no morality, or good or bad. Same thing — Ava is just part of natural selection. Which brings up a bigger point: we humans love to pat ourselves on the back for worrying about whether we are interrupting ecosystems and natural selection and the impact we’re having on our planet and animals and birds blah blah blah. But wait a minute! If we step back and look at nature as a whole, maybe even our ruining the earth and self-destructing is part of the bigger picture of real natural selection. Maybe we will select ourselves out. Nature doesn’t care. We’re not “hurting” nature’s feelings. Maybe ruining the crops and animals and oceans and then blowing ourselves up in a nuclear puff is part of the entire thing. The deus Ex Machina And maybe this movie is just about one piece of that.
St. Edward’s University
flung from my i-telephone
Amy. Thank you SO much for your feedback. I (Patch) had never actually looked at that kind of perspective. I guess it shows the nature of humans, that we tend to think from a self-centered point of view (and thus see a different interpretation of Ava than what she’s actually doing). This will be really great to have in my mind the next time I rewatch this movie.