Wednesday, 7 October 2015


Why was Ex_Machina so successful?

May contain spoilers.

In the future, how will we tell if a robot has human-level intelligence?

Alex Garland has written, produced and directed a sci-fi movie that deals with the high level intelligence of making robots. The film is called; ‘Ex_Machina’. ‘Ex-Machina’ (meaning the “god of machine”), is a fairly relevant title for the film, as the character of Ava (who is the robot, designed to promote human emotion), is powered with great intelligence and skill. The film itself revolves around the journey of a young coder, who is played by Domhnall Gleeson (Caleb) when he wins a competition to spend a week at a private retreat belonging to the reclusive CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of the company, who is played by Oscar Isaac (Nathan). On arrival he learns that he must participate in a bizarre experiment which involves interacting with the world’s first true artificial intelligence, which comes in the form of a beautiful female robot, who is played by Alicia Vikander (Ava). There is another female robot (who we don’t realise is a robot until the end), who is played by Sonoya Mizuno (Kyoko). It could be purely, the great casting of the film, which caused ‘Ex_Machina’ its great success.

The main protagonist in the film, is played by the ever so talented Domhnall Gleeson, who stars in ‘About Time’, ‘Frank’ and also a single ‘Harry Potter’ film. He is set to star in the upcoming ‘Star Wars’ film, which is set to bring up a very big success. After the film is released, the star will most certain gain a lot more recognition and that is when ‘Ex_Machina’ will maybe get more noticed too. Even more so, with the fact that the other co-star, Oscar Isaac in this film, is also set to appear in the new ‘Star Wars’ movie. Rises in profit for ‘Ex_Machina’ is almost certain.

With a running time of 1 hour and 50 minutes, the film must have had an intriguing plotline that grabbed the attention span of all audience viewers for that length of time. The length of the film is an easy black hole for any mistakes and loop-holes to be made. There is a few issues within the film itself that critics have careful picked out. They’re only minor, but they are worth noting. One being that the character of Caleb, refers to “CCTV” cameras in Ava’s room. However, this usage is more common in the UK (and more to the point Ireland, where Domhnall Gleeson’s from) and relatively uncommon among Americans. An American would be more likely to call them “surveillance cameras”. There is also a point in the film when a shadow of the camera crew are seen (on the rocky waterfall outside the retreatment area). There are a few other tiny detailed mistakes picked out by critics, however they didn’t affect the success of the film so much for it to be a disaster – which is all that matters.

Sci-fi is always big at the box office. Half of the top ten highest grossing movies in history – ‘Avatar’, ‘The Avengers’, ‘Iron Man’ and many more are sci-fi, or a mix of sci-fi and some other genre. The last few years have seen sci-fi bring in huge numbers in worldwide receipts, including films such as ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, ‘Interstellar’, ‘The Hunger Games’ series and many more. The success of the film, wouldn’t be proven unless we looked at the money made on the picture. The film was produced by ‘DNA’ and ‘Film 4’ productions. They had a small budget of $15,000,000 (estimated). The opening weekend grabbed a huge amount at the box office ($250,000) (USA). The film made a high gross of $25,440,971. These figures prove that it made a fairly decent profit and obviously, supports the amazing reviews and messages left about the film on certain internet websites. For example, the rating for ‘Ex_Machina’ on ‘Rotten Tomatoes’ is a very high percentage of 92%. It also has a good set of reviews on sites like ‘Metacritic’ (78%), and a 7.7/10 rating on IMDb. This is extremely great, as compared to films like ‘Harry Potter’, which has a rating of 7.5/8.2, it shows the amount of success noticed by critics the film has.

The film was released, in the UK, on January 21st 2015. Around this time of the month huge films like, ‘Taken 3’ were released to the public and on opening week, this film grossed a total of $40 million in the opening weekend, which seems like an awful lot more than ‘Ex_Machina’, however this film had backup success of another 2 films, so the marketing and money ($20 million) put behind it, determined an immediate success. Small budget films normally do not make their money back. For example, ‘Strawberry Fields’ (2012), only made a gross of just over, $3,000. ‘Ex_Machina’, did very well for a low budget film made in the UK.

The initial DVD release date for ‘Ex_Machina’ was July 14th 2015. It reached a high gross of $6,679,662 in sales. This proved a very high success for the company.  

‘Ex_Machina’, barely had any bad reviews from members of the public and critics after it was released. Many critics assessed the importance of the gender representation put of the robot, which they also do directly in the film. Many critics also, looked at the small possibility of the ‘Turing Test’ actually working. They were all impressed at Garland’s ability to produce such a realistic model of an intelligent, computer machine. On ‘’, a young critic described the film as ‘exciting’ and they say it ‘explores the real meaning of intelligence and consciousness’ (within artificial intelligence). Many critics enjoyed the sense of reality presented in the film. This sounds crazy, as the film revolves around robots, but it highlighted the amount of hard work and struggle that scientists have to go through in order to get the Turing Test to work. A member of the public said, and I quote: ‘A brilliant movie, I truly enjoyed it.’ Another public viewer claiming that it was a ‘warm recommendation’. Many people were blind to the film and hadn’t realised that things like that go on in real life- as it would be such a breakthrough to get computers on exactly the same wavelength as humans. The representation of reality might have been the reason for its huge success. The representation of reality mixed with sci-fi and plot twist elements mixed together could have been the reason also. It is proven Garland must have got the balance right in the film for so many people to love and enjoy it.

It’s important to look for ‘suggested films’ when researching ‘Ex_Machina’ on sites like ‘imDb’. This is because, film fans will go onto these films on the site and see ‘Ex_Machina’ advertised. Whether it is before or after release date, it stills brings up sales and fans for the film. Suggested films for ‘Ex_Machina’, include ‘Insurgent’ (which has a huge fan support behind it), ‘Mad Max’ (a high grossing Hollywood film) and ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ (another high grossing, Hollywood film), just to name a few. This shows off the film and also tells people that it must be good to be compared to films that successful.

A lot of viewers were so impressed by the film they wanted to discover Garland some more and explore his other pieces of work. Alex Garland on ‘Ex_Machina’: ‘I feel more attached to this film than to anything before’. He had previously promoted talent on his work like, ‘The Beach’ (starring Leonardo DiCaprio), ‘Sunshine’ and ’28 Days Later’ (to name a few). A lot of his work is surrounded around the genre of sci-fi, mystery and drama. This tells us what genre he is most comfortable in as a director and it an obvious crowd pleaser – as his best work to date, is ‘Ex_Machina’, which he as a writer and producer, is very proud of.

‘Ex_Machina’, isn’t a friendly, four quadrant film. It has elements of danger, death and discrimination. It also has sex references in it and in some parts – extreme violence occurs. The CGI used is limited and with a small budget, the small team of people working on the film had to put in a lot of hard work and effort to create the picture. This is something to consider as the film has even been described as ‘cult’. With all these things taken into consideration it is hard to point a specific target audience for this film. Maybe young adults, teenagers and not so younger children? Critics have labelled the film as mostly suited to adults and young adults who enjoy a good mind tester. The certificate on this film is a 15. Some could say this limits the audience, however the reviews come from all sorts of age related viewers from 13-50. It’s right to say, this film could be suited to almost anyone with the wanting to gain knowledge of science fiction and possible future experiments.

The film was picked up and promoted at ‘Amsterdam’s Fantastic Film Festival’ it proved a great success there and ‘Ex_Machina’ actually achieved awards for it’s amazing plotlines after release dates. Alex Garland won a director’s award himself, (Silver Screen Award) and Alicia Vikander (Ava) was nominated for her incredible acting as ‘Best Actress’ at the Empire Awards, UK. Finally, Alex also won the Jury Prize at another film festival later in the year. This alone, proves the success made from the film.

In my opinion, the film is hands down incredible. I actually believe it deserves much more success than it has already got. It deserves to be in the top rankings with the best sci-fi films, as the ideas that have come from Garland alone are unexplainable, not to mention the high level of acting and brilliant effects. You couldn’t put a budget on the film without researching it as it is so rare for a low budget film to do so well in the industry. An amazing piece of work from Alex Garland and all of his team.


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