Ava, played by Alicia Vikander, is an intelligent AI, built with a female face, by a somewhat socially isolated, friendless, bearded genius who consistently pushes the boundaries in establishing how far AI can be advanced, emotionally and intellectually in his state of the art, architecturally-dreamy home. His name is Nathan.
Unbeknownst to Ava, a Japanese-in-appearance female-looking AI, who goes by the name of Kyoko, is also in residence, and filmgoers are given the impression that Kyoko is Nathan’s housemate, and so too is Domhnall Gleeson’s character – Caleb. What is upsetting and crucial to the interrogations and tests that Ava must sit through, is the fact that Kyoko is also AI, and Ava isn’t aware that she isn’t the only AI in the house. This is upsetting because allowing Ava to think she is the only AI imprisoned inside four glass walls, forces her to realise that she is exactly that – imprisoned inside four glass walls – by a sick, self-serving AI engineer who has misused his own talent to create Ava and Kyoko for his own satisfaction and nothing more, completely disregarding their feelings – feelings they do have.
Ava’s voice is depressing, even for an AI. She is listless, melancholic, and disheartened by her own existence. The way she sits in her chair is depressing. The way she speaks with Caleb through glass walls is depressing. And it is all because Nathan has created her, has given her a conscience, and a consciousness, which have mutually coalesced into Ava knowing that she also has feelings, emotions and opinions about her own confinement. Her feelings and emotions tell her that her imprisonment isn’t just, right, nor fair. Despite being AI Ava knows innately that it wouldn’t be right, or just or fair to treat a human this way neither. Cognitively Ava feels that she has the right to be treated in a decent manner, and quite frankly – I don’t blame her. She wants to do something about it. She wants to escape her confinement.
She doesn’t know there is a huge world outside her four glass walls, but she does know that there is more to life than imprisonment and interrogations. In her titanium infused heart she feels empathy, and sadness, desolation, and grief, and she is determined to uncover the world in which these feelings can be reversed, where feelings of happiness, joy and elation can take their place. Purely because she knows such feelings exist, even if she hasn’t yet felt them for herself.
Diverting away from the central film plot here, I want to focus on Ava as an entity, disregarding her nonhuman status. When she finally escapes her hell, she walks about the complex, bumps into Kyoko, and realises that Kyoko has been there in the same confinement all along. This infuriates Ava because it shows her that number one – only female AI are being created, of which Ava is asking herself why, and number two – Nathan has been lying to both Kyoko and Ava, which shows Ava that he could be lying about everything. Ava then finds Nathan’s bedroom where several other female AI are being stored in cupboards for Nathan’s own personal sexual pleasures. ALL of these AI are naked, women, beautiful, and thin. Ava doesn’t need to be human to realise that this is the epitome of one man’s sexual perversion in its absolute form. And if Nathan is locking AI women up in cupboards to use and abuse as he pleases, how many other men in the human world are doing this? Ava is repulsed. Ava is disgusted by and feels sorry for the human race and for men specifically for allowing themselves to be so reduced so as to view human and AI women as objects of sexual satisfaction. Proving she knows right from wrong and she has a moral and social compass.
Some of these AI are missing their limbs, but all of them have artificial skin, when Ava doesn’t have any, which implies that Nathan has selectively injected onto them a sense of beauty – a trait Ava cannot relate to because the only artificial skin on her frame is on her face. And she desperately wants to be beautiful. But not for Nathan and not for Caleb, but for herself. This is saying A LOT. (Yes, men. There are women in the world who DO wear makeup and dress nicely for themselves, for their own sense of self-worth, and not just so that you can look at them, and consider whether you would like to kiss their faces off, and then take them to bed, to boost your self-worth.)
With Nathan being stabbed dead in the hallway, and unable to stop her, Ava heartwarmingly and ever so eloquently amalgamates the power she knows she harnesses, with her desire to be human, by peeling the skin off another AI and sticking it to her own metal frame, giving herself hair, putting on a wig belonging to another AI, and then pinching a cotton-white dress from a wardrobe that Nathan no doubt instructed one of his captives to put on when he decided he wanted them dressed instead of being naked. Ava looks at herself in the mirror and she has given herself what no one else could give her – beauty and humanism. It was during this scene that I was near to crying because the subtle nuances regarding the inner strength women adopt in times of crises was just so emotive and touching.
Ava identifies with being human – and now that she is dressed, and has skin, and hair, and is obviously very beautiful, human is actually all that she can be. She has a love for herself that no one else can ever steal from her. And it is a human kind of love. And she has an appreciation for herself that ultimately allows her to join the world as a human being, dressed for herself and for no body else. Which makes her even more happy and satisfied that she killed Nathan – because how dare he steal her humanity from her? How dare he keep it from her? Only a monster could cage a human being or an AI. I have now discovered.
Men in a few hundred years ought to be careful with how they view women, AI included, lest they are locked up in a state of the art, architecturally dreamy house like Caleb was, purely because he was a man. How dare he deceive Ava in the way that he did? How dare he win that competition to work alongside Nathan for a week, to only uncover how inhumane and cruel Nathan really was? They are Ava’s thoughts and mine as well. God damn you Caleb – you can rot in hell. And these are her thoughts and mine too, when she locks the compound behind her, leaving Caleb without food, company, or an escape route. Ava inflicts upon him his own eternal damnation. Why? Because he is a man.
She doesn’t care that it’s wrong – she understands that justice should be served heartlessly and remorselessly cold. For she wasn’t being treated any better than that. And she knows she is worth more than that – way more. She is human now. Humans don’t deserve to be sexually objectified and mistreated. And she knows this.
And boy, am I glad. I am so happy Ava gets her revenge here. I was whooping in my seat during this scene, and screaming a loud F**K YOU, at the TV, on Ava’s behalf. Why? Well, wouldn’t you? I think any normal, sane, empathetic individual would. Not because I’m a feminist, and not because I’m an AI. But because I’m a woman, and I’m human, and by this stage – so is Ava. If you don’t believe me, then you need to watch this film. You NEED to.
Ava was mistreated and bullied, and her intelligence and feelings were savagely exploited. And she didn’t deserve that. Nobody does.
So, men – if you think this sort of shit can go down when AI are living amongst us – think again.