‘Ex Machina’ Review: Gorgeous Futurism, But Flawed Gender Depictions


“Ex Machina,” the sci-fi directorial debut of writer Alex Garland, is lonely, gorgeous and mind-twisting. It’s one of the most thought-provoking movies I’ve seen this year, brilliantly skewering our current technological conundrums. And it’s set in what has become my new favorite setting for science fiction: the near-future.

However, like a lot of other sci-fi movies, it has some serious problems with how it presents our gendered future. Namely: all of the humans we meet in “Ex Machina” are men, and all of the robots appear as women. In a movie like this, it’s easy to be aggravated at the further feminization of technology.

Ava, the robot star of the film, and one of only four characters in this “one-room” thriller, could easily be seen as another addition to the list of subservient bots in the tradition of Siri and Samantha — a machine that exists to tend to man’s every need, and read him driving directions without challenging his masculinity. But if you push past the frustration, “Ex Machina” brings to the fore the idea that technology is as imperfect as its creators, and its mirror can provide a useful reflection. (Warning: spoilers ahead.)

At the film’s outset, Caleb, a programmer at the world’s largest Internet search company, wins a trip to spend a week with his reclusive boss Nathan at a location that can only be reached by helicopter. As Caleb drudges through the wilderness, we recognize early that he is unprepared for what lies ahead.

Nathan, played brilliantly by Oscar Isaac, is a spectacular asshole. If the beard has become the newest measure of masculine hubris, then Nathan’s beard was perfectly cast. He is charming, casual in his entitlement, and trapped in his own perfect mind, which he takes leave of via bottles of clear liquor every evening. After requiring Caleb —> Read More