Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

Crabby Movie Reviews

Monday, June 6th, 2016

I used to come down with nasty head colds fairly often, but for the past many years it’s been rare. I’d like to credit an improved immune system for that, but logically, it’s mostly because I no longer have small children in the house.

Alas, I’ve finally been struck low again. I was supposed to spend the past three nights in the backcountry cabins of Haleakala Crater, but I bowed out when I felt a cold coming on. Neither brain nor body wanted to work on the novel, so instead I did some reading and watched two popular movies that I’d never seen before. Here are some brief, spoiler-filled thoughts on the latter:

Ex Machina
Given that I write science fiction about artificial intelligence, you’d think I would have been one of the first to watch this movie, but from the trailer it was pretty clear that Ex Machina was a bulls-eye hit on one of my pet peeves: men building pretty sex dolls. This goes back to the first Stepford Wives movie. I remember very little about the specifics of it, beyond the basic idea that actual women just aren’t good enough, or are too challenging, or not compliant enough, or something. It’s irritating.

And of course this is exactly what Ex Machina is about. It’s not about artificial intelligence. It’s about misogyny. It’s about women being possessed and controlled and refined towards some sort of ideal, compliant doll … until “womanly wiles” are used to deliver a comeuppance.

That said, I thought the movie was extremely well done – well written, gorgeously filmed, and well acted. I would just much rather see a film where the women start from a baseline of equal standing and go forth to do awesome things. For example, Ripley in Alien, Sarah Connor in Terminator, Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road.

The Wolf of Wall Street
Debauchery, addiction, vast fortunes, exploitation, and very accomplished film making—these are some parallels with Ex Machina, although this is a very different movie. With The Wolf of Wall Street, it’s the dark comedic voice that makes the movie so entertaining. Knowing that it’s based on a true story makes it appalling, but there you go. I’m glad I saw it, but I won’t be watching it a second time.