Ex Machina (2014) Ending Explained: Why Did Ava Leave Caleb?

This post includes a brief plot description and an explanation about the ending of the film Ex Machina. Beware of spoilers.

ex machina ending explained

“Ex Machina”, written and directed by Alex Garland is simply one of the most original films that I’ve seen in a while! However, the ending got me a little bit “unsatisfied”. The story itself is very straightforward but the ending got me wondering: why did Ava leave Caleb?

The Premise Of Ex Machina

“Ex Machina” tells the story of Caleb, a computer programmer selected among his peers to visit Nathan, CEO of the world’s most popular search engine. No people, it’s not Google, that’s what we have. In the film’s fictionalized world, they call it Bluebook.

No doubt, that Nathan is a very intelligent character, but why would a CEO choose to live in a secluded facility and alone? For the sake of research and science? Hmm… it’s suspicious to say the least. In addition, bedrooms with no windows? If I were Caleb, I would have said “no, no, no” like Amy Winehouse when they told her to go to rehab.

Everything was sort of running smoothly for Caleb until he meets Ava, played by the beautiful Alicia Vikander. In my opinion, she was the perfect casting voice: beautiful face, sultry voice… A shallow argument perhaps? I think not. What if Ava looked like a plain Jane? Would Caleb still develop feelings for her? Oh yeah, the poor man was smitten.  Caleb became the ultimate cliché when he fell for “the damsel in distress”.

Heavy On Emotions, Light On Special Effects

For a sci-fi film, “Ex Machina” doesn’t have a lot of action scenes or special effects as one would expect and I’m not saying it as a negative point. Actually, I thought the film was pretty engaging without all the fancy stuff. What did I love about the film? The characters. They are complex and deceiving. It’s hard to interpret their actions. Everything seemed pretty obvious to me in the beginning, there was: a bad guy, a victim and a white knight. By the time I finished watching the story, I didn’t know who was who any more. Having said that, if you’re looking for films are easy to “digest”, do not watch this one.

The film brings up a very interesting question: how should “sentient” robots be treated? When Nathan created Ava, she was built with a “consciousness”. Does that give Ava the freedom to make her own choices?

Now, let’s talk about that ambiguous ending.

Ex Machina’s Ending: Why Did Ava Leave Caleb?

So, when Ava left Caleb I felt “betrayed” because as viewer I was rooting for those two. Suddenly, Ava was no longer a helpless robot waiting for someone to help her. No, she had become at this point, a femme fatale. However, is that statement really true? Let’s go back a little bit. Why did Caleb help Ava escape? Did he do it out of good intentions? Or did he want something in return? Her “attention”, perhaps? That got me thinking: maybe Caleb is not as innocent as he seems.

Let’s say, they both managed to escape. Now, imagine that those two eventually get together. Can you image the power dynamics of that relationship? You see, Ava cannot reveal herself to the world. Technically, she’s been living in a bubble and the outside world is not ready for her yet. So, whoever knows about her “secret” holds a lot of power against her. At the moment, Caleb is very “nice” to her. However, what will happen when she no longer needs him? Will he use that information against her? Suddenly, things aren’t that clear any more. In addition, Ava is in a survival mode. She has only one goal in mind: escape the facility.

Did she use Caleb to escape? Yes. Did she use Kyoko to kill Nathan? Yes. Despite of her manipulative tactics, she didn’t do it out of malice. Ava just wanted to get herself out of that facility and experience life as a “human”. In order to do that, she needed Caleb out of the picture. Now that everyone is “gone”, no one really knows who she is. No loose ends.

I’ll finish this post, with one of my favourite scenes from the film:

For more technical details about the film, click here.