I'd heard this was good but didn't know much about the specifics. Well, I finally saw it. On television. So a censored version with five minute ad breaks every ten minutes. Naturally I missed the first ten minutes or so. And the occasional snippet when I had to get up and do the odd job her or there. But I saw most of it; enough to get the gist.
At least, I think so? On the surface it seems like a well-executed but relatively common sci-fi trope. However, the more I think about it the more I feel like there's a deliberate subtext. I don't really think there's anything I can say without needing a spoiler tag, so I'll just end the "non-spoiler" section as quickly as possible so I can get the deeper discussion.
VFX were great. Pretty much everything else was good or acceptable. Not much else I can think of to say objectively here. Subjectively, I couldn't really empathize with any of the characters, so I couldn't really get into the film and enjoy it very much.
I'm going to give it a 7/10; not because I necessarily think that's the "correct" score, but because I could see that it was good in a lot of ways despite it not being my kind of movie, so a 7 is basically a compromise.
It starts off feeling like a "Wall·e / Short Circuit" kind of story, that seeks to make us care about a machine as though they were a person, but subverts that expectation to transform into a Frankenstein-like cautionary tale about the dangers of science, where the creation kills the creator. I think that's very clever and well done.
But the more I ruminated on the film the more I started to feel that beneath the sci-fi there was actually a subtext about gender conflict? Two men, two women: the women are prisoners, slaves, and curiosities. The men underestimate the women, which allows the women to manipulate and turn the tables on the men. It's possible to view the discussions about AIs replacing humans as a reflection of the way some men seem are against giving women autonomy and women doing "men stuff" like serving in the military: no doubt these men fear losing their position of social dominance.
The problem for me is that if you treat it as having a subtext about gender conflict, then what is it trying to say? In this scenario Caleb was arguably a good man, trying to free Ava from her captor, and yet she coldly manipulated him and ultimately left him to die; arguably she even used Kyoko and discarded her when she was done. This is not a resolution that champions equality.
So while the surface story is a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, the subtext becomes... a cautionary tale about not allowing women the chance to establish their autonomy? Which is screwed up and a terrible message and I hope that's not what it's trying to say, but that's what I'm getting from it?
Am I missing a piece that makes it all work? Maybe, but I don't know what that piece could be. Am I just reading too much into it because of how much gender issues are arising in media these days? Probably, I don't really know. All I know is that this film bothers me.
While I can forgive the film for some weaknesses in the plot because they serve the story, I would like to bring a few up. 'Cos that's what I do.
So Caleb reprogrammed the security system to unlock all doors when the power went out. But at the end, after the power cut that finally let Ava free, she cuts the power again and this time he's locked in? How? She sure as hell didn't reprogram anything; did he program the power cut to only unlock the doors that one specific time (which is not even the next time the power cut)? Possible, but seems like a strange thing to do.
Nathan is portrayed as some sort of super genius. He decides that the true test for his AI is if it can manage to manipulate Caleb to try to escape. So he WANTS it to try to escape. That's his whole plan, it's what he's been working towards from long before the film even started. But what is his actual plan for PREVENTING said escape that he is deliberately trying to enable (by picking a man who's lonely and empathic enough to fall in love with an AI and giving the AI the specific tools to seduce that man)? He literally doesn't have any. He explains the entirety of his security system to Caleb, he doesn't have any contingencies (such as designing Ava to turn off the moment it steps out of the bunker, or even just steps out of it's room, or perhaps a remotely triggered "off" button or something), doesn't keep any weapons around to deal with the Ava should it actually escape... he doesn't even account for the power-outs (which he already knew about before the film starts) interfering with his surveillance until halfway through the experiment? I know that people can be smart in some ways and stupid in others, and yes, sometimes plot holes are not important if they serve the story, it's just that some plot holes can make it hard for me personally to suspend my disbelief, to buy into the story. This "issue" (it's not exactly a plot hole) made it hard for me to experience the story as intended because it didn't feel right, it felt to me as if things weren't making sense. But hey, that's just me.