By Bonnie Anderson and Dan Webster
The title comes from a Latin phrase, deus ex machina, that referred to god from a machine and originated in Greek drama.
A computer search engine mogul (Oscar Isaac) is a computer whiz. He’s invited his top programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) to his secretive hideaway to evaluate a robot (Alicia Vikander) he’s created and how advanced its artificial intelligence is. It seems simple enough. Star Trek Next Generation fans will recall an episode (The Measure of a Man) that examined whether the humanoid robot named Data was a sentient being deserving of rights.
But ‘Ex Machina’ becomes a cross between ‘The Island of Lost Souls,’ ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau’ and ‘The Stepford Wives’. In ‘Ex’ the mad scientist is experimenting on machines instead of humans, but they’re all in female form and the images can be disturbing. The inventor tells his evaluator his latest model is physically capable of having sex.
His evaluator finds video files of experiments gone bad. There is one scene reminiscent of the video of pro football star Ray Rice dragging his then fiancée out of an elevator at an Atlantic City hotel. One could easily conclude this is the ultimate female objectification movie. Build a robot in female form to serve, and service, your needs.
It’s a shame because the questions of human consciousness – the ability to know that it knows or can feel emotion – get lost.
What does not get lost is the exquisite natural beauty of Norway, the shooting location of his robot research facility. That contrast was stark as we are continually reminded of the beauty of God’s creation vs. the ugliness of what human beings can do.
Bonnie Anderson is senior warden at All Saints-Pontiac, Michigan and the immediate past president of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church’s General Convention. Dan Webster is a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland and former broadcast news journalist.
They blog at faithreels.blogspot.com.