Ex Machina: The Only AI You’ll Need

Ex Machina: The Only AI You’ll Need
Posted by on May 28, 2015

This review is a little behind the times but that’s life for ya. I had the extreme pleasure of going to see Ex Machina when it released just about a month ago. To say that I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement.

Let’s start with the actors. With three main leads in Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, and Alicia Vikander everyone was on point. Domhnall Gleeson (Caleb) continues to show that he is a rising star. We’ll see him later this year in The Force Awakens but in just about every role that he’s come into, he has fully enveloped it. This time is no different. Playing opposite him is Oscar Isaac (Nathan) who has been making waves himself. To put it bluntly, the moment he came on screen you immediately disliked him. Everything about his performance just resonated a smug jerkiness. It’s hard to explain but in the real world, he’s the guy that walks into a room and his smugness just instantly puts him on your shit list. You kinda just want to punch him in the face.

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Now between these two phenomenal performances was Alicia Vikander. A fairly new name to me but about the same level as Domhnall Gleeson in terms of celebrity awareness opinion. Out of the three performances, she blew the other two out of the water. With a serene ability to somehow be menacingly comforting, you’re left guessing just what her true intentions are until the end. Her performance was ethereal which worked sublimely for her AI character.

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Beyond the performances, there was something interesting going on with the directing choices. The directorial style reminded me of a documentary. It had title cards to differentiate the different sessions that Caleb participated in. Scenes of b-roll footage often were interspersed between the more traditional scripted sequences. While this film would lend itself to a documentary style, having the two styles often felt jarring. Sometimes it worked while other times I was just confused as to the director’s vision.

This being said, I have to congratulate the director on a truly chilling AI film. As I’ve already stated previously, you’re left guessing as to the true intentions of each character. Not really sure who’s good and who’s bad. Each story beat was masterfully told to keep the audience guessing and always wondering how it will turn out.

In terms of the ending, which I won’t spoil, it is not a happy ending. In fact, there is a moment where the director gives you a moment of hope just to bring you crashing down minutes later into the melancholic ending. After all, the ending is happier depending on whose perspective you choose from. Before I spoil anything, I’m just trying to say this isn’t the typical Hollywood happy ending.

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I would remiss if I didn’t take sometime to focus on the visual effects. Alicia Vikander’s robot has see-through arms, legs, and a mid-section which are largely visible for a majority of the film. I’m not a VFX expert but I feel like making see-through parts believable is somewhat difficult. The best part is that they still look realistic when seen against the flesh and blood humans. Again, something really hard to do.

All in all, this is a great film hands down, especially for sci-fi fans. It reminds me a lot of I, Robot, the book not the film adaptation. In a time where sci-fi is often synonymous with laser guns and explosions, it was refreshing to see a film that focuses on the intrigue and broader concepts found in classic sci-fi. Think Isaac Asimov meets Blade Runner. If you haven’t yet, go see Ex-Machina you won’t be disappointed.

What Happens After Age of Ultron?

What Happens After Age of Ultron?
Posted by on May 8, 2015

So this might be obvious but this article will be filled with numerous spoilers both for Age of Ultron as well as potential spoilers for the future of the MCU. Still with me? Good.

 

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First and foremost, Age of Ultron (AoU) is pretty fantastic. I won’t go as far to say that it is better than the first Avengers but it is different. The best way to put it is that AoU felt like the natural progression of where the story would go. There were some pacing issues that led to a somewhat overstuffed film. Nothing that’s enough to lower the quality of the film overall. What was very similar to the Avengers is the connection AoU had with the rest of the MCU. With the same Mcguffin, Loki’s spear, central to the plot but with a new villain we gained new insight into what’s happening in the MCU. For instance, while we knew about the upcoming Infinity War, our heroes are finally aware of the infinity stones. Thor even gives our heroes the lowdown on just how powerful they are and that someone *cough* Thanos *cough* has been manipulating them to bring them about.

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All this to say it seems the MCU is finally catching up to what we as the audience know what’s going to happen. What I felt was still missing was clarification on Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. It has not been confirmed that they are Inhumans or specifically how they got their powers. Just that they were experimented on by Baron von Strucker using Loki’s Scepter. What we learned later in the film is that Loki’s Scepter actually housed the Mind Infinity Stone. How this gave QS his speed and even SW’s power is unclear.

Now, SW has telepathic/telekinetic powers which actually makes sense if they came from the Mind stone. QS still has no explanation for his powers. My theory is that all the Infinity Stones are actually connected in some way. Like they are always pulled towards each other or something. Let’s just chalk it up to “science” at this point. Since Strucker had no idea what exactly he was dealing with, by experimenting he stumbled onto this connection. Thus gifting the Twins with powers associated with the other stones. Even SW who seemingly only has the powers of the Mind Stone. However, if you notice both SW and QS are the only ones with color themes attached to their powers. Every time SW uses her powers, there is a red aura similar to that of the Aether, or Reality Stone. For QS, there’s a blue aura much like the Tesseract or Space Stone. My theory is that SW actually has the powers of the Mind Stone and the Reality Stone. The Mind Stone explains her mind tricks while the Reality Stone explains here telekinesis. Especially when you see QS die and SW disintegrates the Ultron drones, which reminded me of the Aether dust in Thor: The Dark World. For QS, I would say he has the powers of the Space Stone and the Time Stone. After all, speed is measured by distance and time. I really have no solid proof of this but if this is true, it could be incredibly important for Infinity War.

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When all the Infinity Stones are assembled in the Infinity Gauntlet, the bearer has godlike powers. In the Infinity Gauntlet comic Thanos not only defeats all of Earth’s heroes but the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe without breaking a sweat. He was eventually defeated by his own hubris and basically by just giving up. However, if I’m correct Marvel could be going in a different direction for the MCU. Once Thanos has the gauntlet, how exactly could our heroes defeat him? Well if some of our heroes had a connection with some of the stones, they could potentially wrestle control of them from Thanos. This is a long shot but we won’t really know until we see Infinity War in theaters.

Another interesting tidbit is the revelation that their are two Infinity Gauntlets. One in Odin’s vault on Asgard and the other with Thanos. What could this mean? Possibly that Odin’s gauntlet will be able to wrestle the stones from Thanos’ gauntlet. Or it will be a way for Odin or someone else to force their influence on the stones. Really this is all speculation since nothing will be confirmed for a very long time.

Hopefully we’ll get some answers in Captain America: Civil War which will setup Infinity War more directly than even AoU. Maybe another stone winds up on Earth and that’s what kicks off the superhero war. Only time will tell. Until then, we at least have Ant-Man, AKA Jessica Jones and Agents of SHIELD to keep us satisfied.

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