Contains some mild/implied spoilers
I’m a huge fan of writer-director Alex Garland, whose Ex Machina was one of my favourite films of 2014. So I was a bit irked to find that I’d missed his follow-up offering Annihilation which for the life of me I couldn’t remember doing the rounds at the local cinema.
I was somewhat mollified to find out that in fact the film apparently bypassed a theatrical release in the UK and was offered here instead exclusively via Netflix. Since I’m not a subscriber to that particular streaming service, I would have had to wait for its release on old fashioned DVD and Blu-ray home media in any case, which it turned out happened to be earlier this month.
The film, based on a novel by Jeff VanderMeer, features Natalie Portman as Lena, a former US Army soldier who is now a leading cellular-biology professor. She’s in mourning for her husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) who left on a top secret covert military mission a year ago and hasn’t been heard of again since. Except now he turns up, a shell of the man she remembers and also seriously ill. Lena sets out to find out what happened to him in the hope that she can find a cure, and her search takes her into a strangely warped area of Florida land in which the natural laws of reality no longer apply after a meteorite impacted the shoreline three years previously. Read the rest of this entry »
In Ex Machina, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is a young worker drone at Bluebook (think: fictional version of a naughty Google without the threat of reprisal lawsuits) who wins the opportunity to spend a week with his reclusive boss, billionaire eccentric genius Nathan (Oscar Isaac), at his remote hi-tech home. But when Caleb gets there he finds he’s actually been selected for a completely different purpose – to help Nathan test a revolutionary new prototype artificial intelligence.
The standard way of determining whether an AI has truly achieved sentience is to administer the Turing Test, in essence a lengthy conversation with a human at the end of which the AI is deemed to have passed if the human cannot say with any degree of certainty whether they have been interacting with another real life person or a machine. That’s easier said than done however, and it’s soon clear that the test is in any case far too simplistic for Nathan’s requirements. What, then, can the two men come up with to determine whether or not Ava (Alicia Vikander) has genuine self-awareness or is just very good at mimicking and faking certain characteristics? Read the rest of this entry »