I think therefore I am. To be or not to be … okay. How far are we going to go with this? That is the question! Hello moviegoers, Johnny Depp stars in “Transcendence” as Dr. Will Caster an (AI) Artificial Intelligence researcher who keynotes a presentation lead by his wife Evelyn played by (Rebecca Hall) that ends with the ‘God’ question coming from an attendee in the audience. Will’s response to the question is in effect “isn’t that what man has always strived towards?”
‘Transcendence’ (3 sweet potatoes out of four) Stars: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Cillian Murphy, Kate Mara, Morgan Freeman; Director: Wally Pfister; Genre: Sci-Fi; Rated: PG-13; Runtime: 120 minutes; Opens: Friday, April 18, 2014.
A series of coordinated attacks on AI labs across the country by an anti-AI group results in Will being shot with a polonium-laced bullet. Even though he survives the attack, the poison bullet ensures Will’s demise. With only weeks to live, desperation sets in for Evelyn. She leans on experimental technology, and enlists the help of their close friend and fellow Dr. Max Waters who’s played with concerned skepticism by (Paul Bettany).
Without any assurances that Will or any part of Will would actually survive the experiment, they upload his consciousness to the internet. Will’s work was aimed at achieving transcendence or as it is better known Singularity, that moment when computers will have surpassed the intellectual capacity of the human brain. No sooner than Will is uploaded, his new quantum computing, transcended self develops a veracious appetite for power and wants to go shopping on Wall Street.
The setup to the movie is fine, and what comes in the final two-thirds of the film is speculative interpretation. Much like Spike Jonze ‘Her’ from late 2013 which is about a man who falls in love with his operating system, ‘Transcendence’ too is a love story but with much larger implications. Will this technology be content healing the planet and making the blind see, or will its continual evolution only ‘see’ what’s available to it as means to whatever the end might be?
This leads to the establishing of a solar powered outpost where Will and Evelyn continue to experiment with Will’s (Depp) expanding abilities. They invite fellow researcher Joseph Tagger (Morgan Freeman) and federal agent Buchanan (Cillian Murphy) for a tour of their Utopian outpost, that’s complete with a growing number evolved super humans.
Evelyn (Hall) is too close to the situation to see the potential threat that lies ahead, but not the anti-AI group that is led by Bree played by Kate Mara. She is ironically processed from her hair to her cadence, but it works. Her group and the authorities will find themselves allies working to corral this experiment before it’s too late to have any influence on it.
Director Wally Pfister better known as the principal cinematographer for the Christopher Nolan Batman franchise, offers a provocative Sci-Fi composition. While not as articulate as the aforementioned ‘Her’, this movie does ask some big question. And like the ‘Her’, this movie also updates the subject matter to reflect advances in technology in a more serious if not applicable way. I give ‘Transcendence’ 3 sweet potatoes out of four.
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