Tag Archives: Ex Machina

My Thoughts on: Men (2022)

*Note: this review was originally published for subscribers on Patreon in May

*minor spoilers below*

Well, it was bound to happen sometime. After seeing over ten movies in theaters (so far) this year, I’ve finally seen a movie that completely disappointed me and that is Alex Garland’s Men

What really hurts about this is I was genuinely excited, if slightly nervous, about seeing this movie. I’ve been a fan of Garland’s directorial work since his debut with Ex Machina. I also saw Annihilation in theaters and I liked that film quite a bit (though Ex Machina remains his best work). Based on that history, it seemed reasonable to assume that I would enjoy Men to some degree as well.

Well….that didn’t happen.

The biggest issue is, I sat through the entire movie and I still can’t tell you what Men is supposed to be about. This didn’t bother me for most of the runtime, because I figured a last act twist was coming that would explain everything. Well, there were some last act twists all right, but they did absolutely nothing to explain what the BLEEP was going on in that movie. I don’t mind when movies don’t completely spell everything out for you (Garland’s first film Ex Machina is a prime example) but Men doesn’t come close to explaining what is happening or why.

An equally grievous fault is that Men is trying way too hard to be clever about its subject matter (whatever that is). It’s almost like Garland thought that by filling the movie with lewd, disgusting men who are *minor spoiler alert* ultimately defeated by a woman, that he would find a receptive audience. But, if anything, the male characters in this film were a complete turnoff for me. Perhaps if Garland had done a better job explaining what was going on in the story, it might have been more palatable. But as it is, we were subjected to a litany of offensive comments that at times had the audience commenting out loud about how offensive they were (especially when the priest character tried to justify the spousal abuse that the main character suffered). That moment disgusted me and in hindsight I probably should’ve walked out at that point.

For a time, it almost seemed like the film had an interesting premise going. It seemed to me that our heroine was encountering the manifestation of an ancient pagan god (depicted on an ancient basin used as a baptismal font in the village church) who was interested in acquiring a mate because, well, that’s what fertility gods do. But then, as I alluded to earlier, there was a last act twist that not only blew that theory to ribbons, it also completely confused me because it seemed to come completely out of left field.

I will say this much for the film: Rory Kinnear puts on the performance of a lifetime in this movie. I lost count of all the characters he played, but there’s such a wide variety it’s stunning to think that he pulled them all off himself. I also enjoyed Jesse Buckley’s performance as Harper, especially in the latter half of the film when the action starts ramping up.

The only other detail of this film that I thoroughly enjoyed was the music. As with Garland’s previous films, the music was composed by Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow and it is superbly done. Indeed, had the music been not so good I don’t think I could’ve made it through the film.

I can’t in good conscience recommend going to see Men. It was overall a complete disappointment for me and it is far from Alex Garland’s best work.

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Film Reviews

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Ex Machina “Ava”

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Compared to other films, Ex Machina features a fairly light score (light as in there’s not much music to listen to). But what IS there…ahhh, that’s what really drew me in when I watched the movie the first time. Very often the simplest film score is one of the best, and this is true in Ex Machina.

The music was composed by the duo of Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow (they’d previously collaborated on Dredd (2012)) and though I love the entire soundtrack, my favorite piece by far is “Ava,” the theme of the robot played by Alicia Vikander (she should’ve gotten an Oscar for that performance, just saying).

The theme of “Ava” first appears when Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) sees Ava for the first time. It begins the moment Ava steps into view. The melody is simple, and most likely played on a metallophone (think of a xylophone but with metal bars). And if the music sounds familiar…there’s a very good reason.

Ex Machina – Meet Ava

Remember the famous 5 tone theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)? If that doesn’t ring a bell, look it up, give it a listen, then come back to “Ava” and listen to that again.

…….

Do you hear it? I nearly fell over when I recognized “Ava” contained the 5 tone theme (slightly modified, but recognizable). The question I want to answer now is….why did the composers choose THAT particular theme to insert into Ava’s theme? I’m not sure yet, but it’ll be fun to find out why!

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A 21st-century Pygmalion in Ex Machina

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*poster image is the property of Universal Pictures

A 21st-century Pygmalion in Ex Machina

This post is a part of the Movie Scientist Blogathon hosted by Silver Screenings and Christina Wehner

The plot of the 2015 film Ex Machina is set in motion when Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) wins the opportunity to spend a week at the estate of Nathan (Oscar Isaac, aka Poe Dameron), the inventor of Bluebook (the largest search engine in the world). I was originally going to place Nathan in the “mad scientist” category, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized he really belongs in the “lonely” category (though he is crazy regardless).

 

As soon as you see Nathan, you know there is something…off… about him (his estate is set in the midst of hundreds of miles of pristine wilderness, for example). His personality is so blunt it borders on the abrasive, and his wit is razor sharp. He quickly reveals to Caleb that he has been working on something exciting: Artificial Intelligence. He isn’t just working on it, he’s already made one: Ava (Alicia Vikander), a gynoid with a human face and hands, but exposed metal mesh for limbs and a torso.

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Ava

Nathan, to put it bluntly, has a God complex. Everything in this house is ordered to his exact specifications. This is his empire, his word is absolute law (and once Caleb arrives he is subject to this law). Caleb mentions a line of “If you’ve created artificial intelligence, that’s not the work of a man, that’s the work of gods.” And Nathan happily turns this around and suggests that Caleb is calling him a god, when Caleb meant no such thing.

Nathan makes it seem like Ava is the first prototype, but Caleb eventually discovers that this is not true. There were at least FIVE predecessors to Ava (we see the names of Lily, Jade and Jasmine), and they were all female. Clearly, Nathan is attempting to build the “perfect” woman, and that is why I dub him a 21st-century Pygmalion.

In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Pygmalion was a sculptor who created a statue of a woman out of ivory. Over time, he fell in love with his creation and Aphrodite brought the statue to life so they could be together. Today, some scholars interpret this story as a very early example of artificial life, and therefore a precursor to robot stories.

So back to Nathan. He’s tried several times to create the “perfect” woman, just as Pygmalion did. This implies that deep down under all of his insane bravado, he is a very lonely man, maybe he feels that the only woman fit for him is one he creates. Only, unlike Galatea (who happily lived with her creator) none of these robots are meeting Nathan’s insanely high standards, not to mention they have all tried to escape (one even put cracks in a glass wall). (Based on his behavior, Nathan expects and wants a woman that is totally submissive to HIS needs, I think that’s why Kyoko (who is, spoiler alert, also a robot) cannot talk (Nathan says that she can’t understand English, but I believe that she can, she just can’t say anything). So thus far, as each one fails the tests, Nathan destroys that model, downloads the information, and tries again. He implies to Caleb that he’s about to do the same thing to Ava. But Nathan does not realize that introducing Caleb into the equation will lead to his permanent downfall. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but if you haven’t seen Ex Machina, I highly recommend getting a copy and checking it out.

On a side note, besides being a 21st-century Pygmalion, Nathan is also a modern-day Bluebeard. For those unfamiliar with the fairy tale, Bluebeard was a wealthy man who had married multiple times. His latest wife is given all of the keys to the house but is told to not enter the last room at the end of the hall. Eventually, curiosity wins out and the wife goes in…only to discover the dead bodies of Bluebeard’s previous wives (Bluebeard’s secret is that he is a serial murderer). In Nathan’s bedroom, Caleb discovers a series of closets containing the broken down bodies of Ava’s predecessors a la Bluebeard. Nathan also tells Caleb that “not all of these rooms are for you.”

I hope you enjoyed this look at Nathan from Ex Machina 🙂

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Ex Machina “Ava”

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