Alex Garland’s debut directorial feature, Ex Machina, had its U.S. premiere over the weekend at SXSW in Austin, Texas. The film has garnered great reviews—we called it an early frontrunner for the best film of 2015—but they also engaged in an ingenious bit of guerilla marketing and had a little bit of fun at the expense of those looking for love at the festival.
According to Adweek, people using the dating app Tinder in Austin on Saturday encountered the profile of a lovely 25-year-old woman named Ava. When they made a match with this individual and began interacting with her, however, they discovered she was not what she initially appeared to be. She asked probing questions that are not your usual Tinder fare, like "Have you ever been in love?" and "What makes you human?" Those of you familiar with Ex Machina will likely recognize that Ava is actually Swedish actress Alicia Vikander, who plays an artificially intelligent robot, named Ava, in the film.
There are bound to be some mixed feelings about this approach. I think it’s clever and kind of brilliant. While the interactions may be somewhat unusual, they aren’t so outlandish that you immediately know someone is messing with you, and the whole thing ties thematically into the movie, which is about the nature of consciousness, what makes us human, and people playing god. That said, it’s also easy to imagine some bruised egos and wounded feelings being involved, and people getting upset, even though it doesn’t appear to go all that far or get too Catfish-y.
The plot of the movie revolves around a young programmer, Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson), who wins the chance hang out with Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac), the reclusive CEO of a Google-like internet giant, at his remote mountain estate. When Caleb arrives, he learns that the true purpose of his journey is to serve as the human component of a Turing Test to determine the level of consciousness of Nathan’s newest creation, the stunning AI, Ava.
This whole feeling out process is very reminiscent of how Deckard roots out replicants in Blade Runner, and Ava’s questions to Tinder users reflect those her character fields in the film. At the end of the interaction, however, she directed potential paramours to her Instagram account, which is populated by two Ex Machina promo videos and a link to the film’s official website.
Garland has a long history as a screenwriter, with titles like 28 Days Later, Sunshine, and Dredd under his belt. While Ex Machina is his first time at the helm of a movie, from all accounts, it’s one to keep an eye on. The film opened in the U.K. back in January, and A24 will release it in the U.S. on April 10.