I'm hearing all this praise for "Ex Machina" as a sci-fi masterpiece. “Ex Machina” is barely even a Sci-fi film, let alone a sci-fi masterpeice. It’s more akin to a creaky gothic maiden-in-distress horror story than a glimpse into the future. William Gibson must be turning over in his hard drive over the praise this lightweight, android-version of “The Story of O” is receiving.
There was a time when the future looked quite bright, indeed, and that was from behind the black shades of ‘Sixties Ray Bans. Trips to the moon were actually taking place instead of being debunked on the internet. And in the sci-fi classic, “The Tenth Victim,” Ursula Andress writhing in a miniskirt to the abstract jazz of Piero Piccioni promised even sex in the future would be better, too, at least much more interesting.
Then suddenly came along HAL9000 — the archly wheedling, we-hope-you-enjoy-your-trip steward of “2001: A Space Odyssey” — and dark-minded Stanley Kubrick prophesied that maybe trekking in all those gleaming spaceships might just prove as dull as a cross-country Greyhound excursion and that those data-spewing Univacs may not have in mind handing over the Meaning of Life, but delivering the final blow to ours.
Maybe that’s when we should have started pulling the plugs.
But then a generation fell hopeless and inextricably in love with technology. There was social networking, YouTube, underage sexting, and funny pre-made memes to express their most profound thoughts for them — all without the tiresome honing of skills of self-expression. And that is why — despite the warnings of a few somewhat tech-savvy folk like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk — the near-presence of the Singularity, the moment when machines finally step up to the plate as the next-big thing, is seen by some more like the arrival of a new iPhone than the sudden devaluation of organic life — including our own.
Who knows? Maybe they’re right. Maybe the Singularity will be cool. Awesome, even. Maybe the Baby Boomers are just too damn cynical after “Colossus: the Forbin Project,” “Soylent Green,” “Blade Runner,” Three Mile Island and, now, the NSA. Maybe they’re missing out on the new Space Race enthusiasm this generation has for One Planet, Under Google.
Or maybe they haven’t had their HAL moment yet.
Unlike Mr. Gibson's thoughtful exploration of life being the circuit board, "Ex Machina's" sci-fi is as hoary as any bodice ripper I’ve ever come across.
A slightly mad (and hungover) scientist creates a Bluebeard’s boudoir of female automatons and keeps them prisoner in his isolated castle. And the young visitor who knocks innocently on his door — like a young traveler from a Poe tale, or foolish Jonathan Harker — suddenly finds himself inexplicable drawn to this eerie, yet comely young maiden who may or may not be a prisoner. There is scarcely a fresh idea in the film and only a few thrown-about lines concerning artificial intelligence and nods to Google-esque wealth modernize it. Most mismanaged of all is a heavy handed dose of pyscho-sexual malaise and gleaming artificial flesh which makes “Ex Machina’ seem less like a visionary exploration of the 21st Century’s scariest possibility — the singularity — than a peek into a binder of inappropriate Victoriana. The transcendence of artificial intelligence and it’s implications are hardly touched upon and instead “Ex Machina” focuses on a tacky story of misplaced lust, which felt equally awkward when it was explored in 1881 in “The Tales of Hoffman” and that protagonist’s self-deception over falling for the mechanical doll, Olympia. It feels less Golden Age sci-fi than vintage Red Shoes Diary. As far as the films direction, it's middling at best. A stylistic rehash of trendy soft-focus shots ala an Apple commerical.
There’s always been a kind of thoughtfulness and restraint that accompanies classic science fiction. It’s both clinical as a white lab coat — asking that you listen intently, lest you flub your notes on the theory being sermonized — and sweetly respectable as the tweed coat-fitted professor you’re supposed to bestow awe on for his erudite meanderings.
I admit I was anxious to sign up for the lecture “Ex Machina” promised, as it dangled the fascinating subject of AI and the singularity as it core but, instead, “Ex Machina” plays out less like Asimov than servo-driven de Sade.
That’s why as I science fiction purist, I felt myself increasingly pulling away from “Ex Machina.” There’s a tawdriness that permeates the film and the story of the sweet-faced female robot being held prisoner by her Google-Age Dr. Frankenstein. About 20 minutes into the movie my hopes sank for seeing a smart little sci-fi film, when realized I wasn’t going to be treated to speculation, but titillation.
So will “Ex Machina” be the film that challenges a generation over the error of its ways in so blindly falling for technology? Unfortunately not. No one is going to be leaving the theater desperately texting: “Hey, dude, turn off your freaking computer now!”
Which is a shame, because that’s the stuff of great sci-fi.
Has anyone ever actually constructed a Fuckedness Index? Ever since reading the line in Spook Country, I have been trying to apply it to my perception particularly of Vienna fashion, but feel like I need some more precise quantification instruments.
I would be very thankful for tips about interesting work that may have already been done in this direction.
As token of friendliness, accept this sparrow enclosed in the Vienna airport.
Some of these won't make any sense to you, and a few of them make very little sense to me...
For some reason, I imagined Daedra as an older version of Miley Cyrus,
Burton resembled Bradley Cooper, in his role as Chris Kyle in `American Sniper' [physically and mentally, but with a different face],
Griff looked like Neil Gaiman, to me,
Flynn's peripheral, unoccupied, was one of the personal trainers at Gym2. Actually a very present, intelligent, nice person, she looks nothing like The Man's physical description of the peri either. I think maybe it's because her form, working out, is perfect; steady pace, unhurried but not at all slow, surgically precise without any of the tension a word like `precise' implies. Her [usually friendly] responses to people also lack hesitation or guile,
I couldn't help but imagine the `Pavel' peripheral as one of the trainers at Gym1, probably because he'd mentioned his family coming from Ukraine. Actually *not* a douchebag, although he does have a competitive streak, a sort of arms-length quality to his personality [or maybe just with me], a preference for cut-and-dried opinions, and a sort of Neo-esque blankness about him [actually Keanu Reeves-esque; he's had that same slightly blank quality in every role I've seen him in, if for slightly different reasons from character to character],
So I guess it's no surprise that the younger Clovis would resemble Kate Moss [as Trinity],
Netherton was a fairly nondescript middle-aged English dude, hard to describe. Some blown capillaries in his face, but not a full-on Rudolph red nose,
Flynn was just Flynn; again, a face that didn't seem to be referenced from some other source. Some of my mental image of the peripheral [above] bled-over into her, but not much.
No, not a brand of shoes. Sad Puppies are a group of SF writers who in the last few years have been campaigning for a ''change'' in what they see as trends in the SF Hugo awards.
There is a recent post at IO9 about this-
''The new slate of Hugo Awards nominees were just announced, and you can read the list at the link. Suffice to say, the nominees in pretty much every category (other than Best Novel) come pretty much exclusively from a fan campaign called Sad Puppies, organized by Brad R. Torgersen and Larry Correia. Last year, Correia organized a campaign which successfully placed one item in each category on the Hugo slate...''