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A technology reporter gets a week of exclusive access to the world's first perfect artificial intelligence. When the reporter begins a relationship with the scientist who created it, the A.I. begins to exhibit startling and unnerving emergent behavior. Written by
That Matthew Leutwyler's sci-fi chamber piece "Uncanny" was made 3 years before Alex Garland's "Ex Machina" is interesting. That Leutwyler made his film for a fraction of Garland's budget is admirable. That Leutwyler's plot doesn't make a lick of sense is a shame.
Seriously, what was the point?
"Uncanny" and "Ex Machina" share similar story lines: an outsider is invited into the high-security lair of a reclusive genius in order to interact with and evaluate a new form of artificial intelligence. In each case, the outsider and the AI are of different genders and the reclusive genius has an agenda. Predictable consequences ensue. But where "Ex Machina" follows these events to their logical conclusion, "Uncanny" gives up on logic entirely for the sake of a surprise ending that a) isn't much of a surprise and b) negates almost everything that happened over the preceding 80 minutes.
On paper, the movie was probably conceived to be an insightful meditation on what makes humans humane and robots less so. Thrown in for good measure are some thoughts on what can and can't be controlled in sentient beings and whether we as a race are innovating and engineering ourselves right into obsolescence. There's also a bit about masters and servants and which are which. All big, important ideas that Garland's film handles with much more style and intelligence.
Still, it wasn't "Ex Machina" I thought about as I watched the film. What came to mind more was "Frankenstein." The book, not the movie. In the book, there's a relationship between the creator and his creation. They're in this together in the name of science and discovery. But that relationship sours when Dr. Frankenstein rejects the monster to be with his fiancée. I'm paraphrasing here, but that's the gist. "Uncanny" seemed to be moving in a similar direction. Actually, the movie was moving in exactly that direction. There was even the interesting possibility that roles were being reversed.
Then came the final cryptic ten minutes and it all turned out to be a huge waste of time. Adding insult to injury, there's an end-credits scene so nonsensical it's laugh-out-loud funny. Not, I'm guessing, what the filmmakers intended.
"Uncanny" isn't a bad movie, it's a bad story. The cinematography is fine (though the lingering shots of Shiva, the Destroyer, are a bit overly), the acting is adequate (if you don't mind watching Rainn Wilson, in a mercifully short cameo, chew scenery), and events move along at a fairly brisk pace.
It's just that those events simply don't add up when you get to the end.
Note: One question bothered me as I watched both "Uncanny" and "Ex Machina". Why, why, whyif you're going to build a creature and make it both smarter and stronger than yourselfwhy wouldn't you include an "off" switch?
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