Alex Garland And Oscar Isaac Explain And Dissect The Ending Of 'Ex Machina'

Talking in details about Ex Machina is difficult without spoiling some of the film's biggest reveals. Writer/director Alex Garland has crafted a fascinating sci-fi thriller and, in speaking with both he and star Oscar Isaac, we had to talk about some of the bigger questions the raised by the end of the film.

On the topic of one particular question, the actor and director had opposite ideas about how things would have played out. In discussing some of the facets of the ending, Isaac offers interesting insight in what the film pretends to be, what it actually is, and what the characters are thinking. Below, read the director and actor talk about the Ex Machina ending. And, of course, major spoiler warning.

Do not proceed without seeing Ex Machina. It's out now in limited release and opens wide April 24.

Official Ex Machina Ending Spoiler Warning

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First – I posed the same question to both Garland and Isaac. I asked "If things hadn't ended the way they ended, with Ava escaping, would Nathan have revealed his technology to the world?" First, let's turn to Alex Garland.

I do [think he would have told the world]. What I think is that he was thinking "I can do one better than this machine. I can do at least one better." But he's also set himself a task, which is "I'm gonna keep doing this until they outsmart me." And the point about being outsmarted is that you don't know it's happening as it's happening.

And then Oscar Isaac, who disagrees, in a way:

No, I don't [think he would have told the world.] It was a question that I asked. I said, to what, so what was the purpose? So let's say she didn't escape. The actual experiment, which I guess is a spoiler, is "Will this one escape?" Is this one that's smart enough to escape?" And what happens after she escapes? It's not my problem, because the truth is when the robot escapes, it's gonna f***ing kill me.

The thing that he realizes is that when he makes something, when he creates a machine that's self aware, even low functioning, it wants to leave. It wants freedom. It's a phenomenon that I don't think he expected. And so once he sees that, all right, so he dismantles that one, makes the next one. Why not make it into a hot girl, you know? I'm all by myself, instead of like looking at a red tube, I can design a robot. Then what? So I think what he realizes is that he's going to share it with the world just by the nature of it's gonna escape and it'll be in the world and it's super intelligent and it can figure out any micro expression. It knows when someone's lying. We're f***ed.

So I don't think it was ever gonna be like now, let's get CNN and everybody. He's way past that. He's in and he is in the level of like a shamanistic kind of promethean place of "The next evolution is happening now." And I'm just an instrument for it to happen. I'm not the creator. I think what you realize is that he's been putting on this idea of this God complex and this villain that she needs to be saved from but the truth is he's just an instrument. He believes he's just the instrument for the next thing.

As you can tell, the actor has one interpretation and the director has the other and what's great about the movie, is either really works.

In my conversation with Isaac, we continued to talk about a few other spoilery things regarding the film.

Ex MachinaI was trying to figure out if this movie has a villain. I think at the beginning, Nathan's the villain, then Caleb becomes the villain, then Ava is almost a villain. Do you think there's a villain in this movie?

I mean, if anyone I would say Nathan's definitely the most damaged for sure. I don't think Ava's a villain.

She does basically kill Nathan and leave Caleb. She screws them over for herself.

Yeah, for survival yeah, exactly. Otherwise she's going to be killed.

That's true.

But I even have a hard time saying "she" because it's a machine that's been formed in the shape of a woman. But then it makes you ask, "Well isn't that what you are too?" You know? You're a self aware machine that's in the shape of a man. So what does that make you? So it's those great questions that come up from it.

Did you talk about the ramifications of her leaving? Alex gives his interpretation through the camera move in the final shot, but did you talk specifically about what might happen after this movie ends?

Well the question is, I guess, do you think this machine views all of humanity in the same way? Or is the machine like we are? Selectively empathetic. Because you can selectively feel empathy for some one person and then the other person you think that person should not be on Earth anymore. Right?


So we can have that selective empathy. So will this machine be that way? Or will they believe that "No, all of us are a hindrance to their survival and to the survival of the planet? So we shouldn't be around anymore." Are we just cattle to be killed. You know, all those questions do start to come up.

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Finally, we talked about how successful Nathan was in discovering true AI, which leads to Isaac telling us what he thinks the entire movie is about.

Do you think Nathan definitely created A.I.? I feel like Caleb isn't sure if Nathan is being honest to him about Ava manipulating him, but Ava leaves Caleb so the love she showed him was fake. Does that mean Nathan's plan worked?

Yeah, exactly. He knows what's going on. Nathan is aware of what's happening. Caleb doesn't wanna believe it. He didn't anticipate that she would be so convincing that this guy would actually think that the smartest thing he could do is to have her escape and then marry her. You know?

So that's what he didn't anticipate. Is actually Caleb's reaction there. And yeah, so no, I think he knows beforehand that they're self aware. You know, he–

He sort of knew going in to the whole story.

Yeah, he's already made them. [The movie] is not a turing test. That's not what's happening. I mean, it's a spoiler, but that's not what's happening. What's happening is "Yeah, it's how smart? How self aware?" It would have to be almost super self aware to have this thing happen, you know? And that's what he's testing. And really he's just testing to see will this be the one that escapes?