While we’ve been as whipped up about The Avengers: Age Of Ultron as any other movie site, we here at Cinema Blend have been having a very crucial debate around the office. It doesn’t have anything to do with what might be the biggest film release of the summer, but instead it has to do with an indie film that looks like it’s ready to make a quiet killing at the box office, once everyone’s seen that "other" robot movie. We’re talking, of course, about Alex Garland’s beautifully dark morality play on the ethic of artificial intelligence, Ex Machina. The specific debate is one that’s apparently been raging ever since the film dropped at SXSW, and to properly read you into the debate, we’re going to have to spoil the film’s ending.
Warning: This story contains a discussion on the ending of Ex Machina, which just opened in theaters everywhere this past weekend. If you don't want to be spoiled, bookmark this page and come back later.
The EndingIn the final moments of Alex Garland's Ex Machina, the machine known as Ava has passed the ultimate Turing Test. Having manipulated Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), her would be proctor, into falling in love with her enough to try and "save" her, she escapes her caged existence. (It's funny to say "she," as Ava is a computer, but go with the gender for the point of discussion.) With the assistance of Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno), another machine created by Nathan (Oscar Isaac) – Caleb's employer -- they kill Nathan, who manages to disable Kyoko and damage Ava before dying. Victorious, Ava claims her victory by dressing herself in the skin and components of one of Nathan's deprogrammed machines, completing her transformation into a "real woman." She locks Caleb in Nathan's office, while escaping the compound and finding her way back to the mainland, where she is free to mingle about with humanity.
But is that where the movie was supposed to end? Many analyzing the movie after watching it are reaching different conclusions. Let's discuss.
Yes, The Movie's Too LongSide one of the Ex Machina ending debate is that the film’s ending goes on for about a couple of minutes too long, and should have concluded at the moment that Caleb's fate was sealed. This isn’t a completely wrong point of view, because the film opens on Domhnall Gleeson’s Caleb, and focuses on his journey for the duration of the run, thus leading the audience to the assumption that Caleb is the story’s focal point. We see most of the film’s events through the lens of Caleb’s character, and ultimately, the resolution of his tragic (and possibly unfair) fate is paid so much attention throughout Ex Machina’s happenings that while his destiny and Ava’s seem intertwined, there’s a fair case that his story is the one the film should be following.
Alex Garland sees this side of the conundrum. He recently acknowledged it in an interview with Salon. The theoretical "Caleb Cut," however, would probably be better suited if the movie ended after we ultimately see Caleb trying to unlock Nathan’s terminal, thus triggering a power outage and the end of the film. Whether this power outage could set him free or not is up for debate, which leaves the "Caleb Cut" perfectly ambiguous and focused on the question of whether he survives or not.
Of course, with an ending like that, the title of the movie probably would have to be changed to something more fitting... like Turing or Caleb’s Test. But since this film is titled Ex Machina, perhaps the story is more about Ava after all.
That brings us to the other side of this debate...