Alex Garland has an extensive history as a screenwriter, crafting scripts for the likes of Sunshine, 28 Days Later, and Dredd, but his directorial debut, the robotics thriller Ex Machina, looks as promising as any of those. Though it won’t premiere in the U.S. for a few more months, a U.K. release waits just around the corner next month, and we reap the benefit of all the advance hype, including this new featurette, “When Humans Become Gods.”
Ex Machina revolves around Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson), a programmer at a Google-like internet search company. When he wins a chance to spend some time at the isolated mountain retreat of the company’s CEO, Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac), he thinks they’re going to hang out, bond, and maybe talk about a promotion. As it turns out, however, Caleb has been recruited to be the human component in a Turing Test, designed to evaluate the consciousness of Nathan’s latest invention, an artificially intelligent robot named Ava (Alicia Vikander), who is much more than meets the eye.
This featurette opens the door to the movie just a wee bit. We don’t really encounter anything we didn’t already know, but you see a touch more in some new footage, and the actors and Garland into a touch more depth about the themes and ideas. You glimpse the idea of the singularity, of men playing god, and of course the moral and ethical questions inherent in creating a machine that thinks and feels. It deals with how we think, what it means to be human, and brings up the idea that maybe we just created our own replacement. This is certainly fertile ground to explore and dig into.
Though he’s proven himself time and again as a writer, it’s looking more and more like Garland has a keen visual eye to go with that already evident skill set. Ex Machina only has three real characters—Caleb, Nathan, and Ava—he’s going to have to put all of his abilities to good use. From the sweeping exteriors to the intricate framing of the interiors and the use of unusual lighting strategies, there’s a lot happening on that side of things, at least from what we can see. And there’s also that haunting, synth heavy score that seems appropriate for the subject matter of the film.
Ex Machina opens in the U.S. on April 10, 2015, but we expect reports from any of you in the U.K. who have the chance to see this.