Okay so first off lets look at the title. Ex Machina. Ex. Machina. Ring any bells?.
In Ex Machina we have three characters (from left to right): The lonely and empathetic coder in our film worlds equivalent to Google, Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson); the focal point of the entire film, the AI, Ava (Alicia Vikander); and the isolated, alcoholic, and obsessive creator of the company, Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac).
Throughout the film you see a power dynamic between Caleb and Nathan. The former has been flown to the isolated island retreat of the latter where he has been doing...what exactly? The premise is this: An AI has been created and Caleb is the one who must perform the Turing Test on Ava, our AI. However, we find that in reality a problem has been presented to Ava by Nathan which she must solve.
ENOUGH WITH THE PLOT SUMMARY, RIGHT!? RIGHT! LETS GET IN TO ALL THE QUESTIONS ASKED OF US BY ALEX GARLAND. (Remember how awesome 28 Days Later was? Yeah, he wrote that and this is his directorial debut).
Everybody knows how Her centers around relationships and what it means to be conscious and have qualities of humanity. Well, Ex Machina deals with that a bit too but with a slightly different focus. At a key moment in the film Nathan is asked why he has included sexuality as a function of his AI, to which his response is that everything is motivated by sexuality, and that to become singular it must have some sort of sexual nature. In order to pass the test, there must be sexuality. What is being said by the fact that Nathan is only creating female AI and making them inherently sexual?
HEY! YOU! SPOILERS INCOMING!
I've seen and read some feminist critiques of this film and I think the people bashing it as an indictment of women are very, very wrong. Yes, there is the sexualization of the AI and the treating them as sub-human, but it goes beyond that. The film shows Nathan as the macho-coder with a god complex, and Caleb as the sympathetic person with a savior complex. Yes, the one other character in the film (also an AI and a women) is subservient and used for sexual pleasure by Nathan. But lets look at the fates of these three characters: dead, trapped at the facility, and destroyed. In the above screenshot there is a scene which develops sexual tension between the two female AI. However, Ava ultimately retreats from this and prevents her own degradation as a "pleasure model" (Blade Runner, yo) and retains a sense of self-worth and independence which Nathan and Caleb attempt to remove.
All that's left is Ava, and she manages to escape and further enhance her appearance as human. The only strong female character in the entire film is the one who succeeds, Ava is the character that the audience is supposed to support throughout the entire film, and Ex Machina ultimately shows a violent end to a struggle for feminine equality, self-worth, and a fight for basic equality and representation in humanity.
I've never wrote something like this so it's probably not very good.