Ex Machina – Themes and Structure

I did a little writing exercise to reverse engineer a plot of a favorite movie. Here’s the result of it where I break down the movie, Ex Machina – but if you havent seen the movie, please know that these are major SPOILERS:

Opening (Orginary World)

The main character (MC) is a guy in his mid/late twenties, single and living a not so exciting life.

The Call to Adventure (Inciting Incident / Catalyst)

The MC “wins” a contest of sorts to work with the company’s enigmatic boss. He is actually selected by the boss to participate in a top secret project.

At this point, the audience asks – why was he selected? where is he going?

There’s the Helicopter ride to a remote place- why so isolated? There’s a contrast to the natural beauty of the place to life in the city.

Meeting the boss (the Mentor) – who is this guy? why is he so weird? Wouldn’t a normal boss be much older and proper? Why is he all sweaty (having just worked out) and drunk so early?

His boss is being casual, and the rooms are all so high tech / gated, which adds to the feeling that this is an underground vault.

Refusal of the Call – though not explicittly refusing, the MC hesitates because all of this is sooo weird. His boss makes him sign a nondisclosure, and he protests “shouldnt I have a lawyer?”

And the boss responds, if you dont like it, you can go back.

Ava Session 1 – First Greetings – how smart is AVA?
He meets Ava…beautiful and enchanting.

The protagonist chooses not to refuse because he is in awe of the idea that his boss has cracked the code when in comes to fully sentient artificial intelligence.

End of Act1 (Lock) / First Threshold / Plot Point 1?

While in bed, the energy shutsdown and the MC is anxious (and curious). Like the audience, we ask, what is going on? Then he sees/watches Ava in her room. He begins to have feelings?

He manages to go to the main room and tries to make a phone call. Then his boss startles him – why is he always drunk?

That morning, the MC is startled by a japanese AI freely walking. She’s dressed almost like a geisha and acts more like a robot.

This was like a WTF moment. Why is she there? So out of place and sick…

Ava Session 2 – Flirting – why does she flirt?

The MC is taken aback – why is Ava so interested in him now?

All of the sudden the power goes out again, and Ava tells the MC that the boss is a liar: dont trust him!

We then have to ask, who is the boss, really? What is the secret

The boss mentions that “Sex” is possible with the AI; and the MC aks why does it need to be gendered?

At Dinner – Boss asks MC what Ava said – he decides not to say anything (The MC lies!)

Ava Session 3 – Ava shows the MC a picture of what she’s draw; she suggests an equilibrium – to learn more about him; asks if he is a good guy (hero); then she reveals it’s her who shuts down the power. Her desire is to see the world.

Montage – we see that Boss tears up the picture ~ AI has emotions
Interacting with the Japanese bot, who is a sex slave and also a dancer

Boss shows MC Ava’s brain & body

Japanese bot shows MC what she looks like – and MC cuts himself; doubts if he’s really human.

I think above is the Midpoint of Plot Point 2: The protagonist is fully changed after these revalations. He trusts Ava more than his own species and now decides to help her / learn the truth. He becomes passive to active.

Outside again, the MC keeps offering his boss drinks. The boss hints at the ending – that AI will rule over humans one day.

The MC gets soo drunk. MC grabs the card key and goes to the forbidden room, watching all the videos of Ava’s sisters – the failed experiments.

We see how sick this man is – how he created an Asian woman, all naked, and she screams in her bad accent, why wont you let me leave?

Many other trapped women destroy themselves in the process of trying to escape – it gets very disturbing here

The boss wakes up

The MC walks out safe, pretends he found his card on the floor.

Next day – Ava session, MC tells her the plan. He needs to get the boss drunk, then she will deactivate the power.

Boss doesnt drink – but says it’s the MC’s last day tomorrow – MC tries again, then the boss confronts him.

Full disclosure now – the boss chose him because he is a good guy and made Ava’s face based on his porn habits. He says she’s deceived him well, but they deceived him.

I think this may be the lowpoint – when thhe boss knocks him out, and Ava finally escapes. Ava now becomes the protagonist and struggles against her maker.

She and the japanese bot kill their maker.

The MC is still trapped in the room while he watches Ava dress up as a human being.

Ava wears the skin and dress of her sisters

Ava escapes and leaves MC

Helicopter ride (Magic flight escape?)

She blends in society

The end, full circle.


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