When science reaches the point of making a god-like machine, will people accept it or rebel against it?
Review (with Spoilers)
It feels like ages since I have watched a movie with sci-fi elements that wasn’t a comic book adaptation, so with the coming of Transcendence, I was quite happy. Add on Johnny Depp, Morgan Freeman, Kate Mara and Cillian Murphy, even the cast made the film like something worth seeing. But, perhaps this setup was just made to lure you in before they took your money and ran?
Characters & Story
Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) is a well-known, and seemingly quite popular, scientist who has for most of his life worked on creating an Artificial Intelligence similar to what could be seen in video games like Mass Effect. However, like many stereotypical scientists, he isn’t that fond of crowds, and that is when his wife Evelyn Caster (Rebecca Hall) comes in. A scientist in her own right, and seemingly the one who makes sure Will stays well-funded.
But, with the creation of a P.I.N.N., an A.I. Will has created which is seemingly aware of its environment, but is limited in how much information it can collect, there is a slow rise in people worrying what A.I., in the future, could be capable of. One of those people include Will’s best friend Max (Paul Bettany), a fellow scientist, who isn’t for making a pseudo-God machine, like Will, but more so into nanotechnology.
However, as Will becomes the victim of a terrorist attack against his advances, as well as essential colleagues, it is decided, mostly by Evelyn, that combining Will’s mind with the programming of P.I.N.N. maybe the only way to save him and all the work he has done up to now. But, when you combine the human mind with the vast capabilities of a computer, there is the question of how will man use such capabilities? Now, many fear he will seek to take over the world, while he shows he wants to use his powers mostly for medical reasons like giving sight to the blind through nanotechnology or restoring the Earth. But, with Max, former peer Joseph (Morgan Freeman), Bree (Kate Mara) and her terrorist group named R.I.F.T. considering him more of a threat than an ally to humanity, it becomes a battle between man and machine.
The concept of the film is, naturally, its best asset. After all, nanotechnology, and a more mechanized human body, is pretty much our next evolution. No more will the human body be imposed the limit of around a century for body parts will be replaced, regenerated, or perhaps not needed for we may do as Will did and transport our existence into data. And perhaps that is truly the coolest bit of the movie, considering how close, or maybe far, we are from actual A.I. roaming about and surpassing what we see in Apple’s Siri or Google Now.
But, focusing on the film specifically, I must admit, perhaps the coolest part were the special effects when it comes to nanotechnology. Be it watching people’s skin repair in real time, seeing solar panels regenerate, or other things such as that, it makes for quite an interesting visual experience. Also, the overall story idea I found quite intriguing.
The execution, however, was boring. Being that Johnny Depp uses his usual mumbling way of speaking in the film, it makes it so his monotone voice quickly puts you to sleep whenever he goes on for a good length of time. But, the real issue to me is the film doesn’t succeed in either entertaining or really trying to get a point across, in terms of man’s evolution with machinery being either detrimental or an aide. To me, it instead takes a shallow, maybe even dumbed down approach, in which the story focuses more so on the love between Will and Evelyn, and the complications of being in love with an AI, over the seeming central conflict dealing with the possibility of one A.I. gaining a god complex.
Mind you, I am a sucker for a good love story, but considering the lack of time and effort into establishing Will and Evelyn as a couple, they seem more like two people married because it is convenient, and good for business than because they are passionately in love with one another. And be it I have a limited view of what love is, or Depp and Hall genuinely don’t have that much chemistry, it made their love being the center of everything just a bit odd. Add on the fact that Will as an A.I. didn’t make you feel conflicted and unable to choose sides on the issue, and it really did just make for a film which may suck you in with the trailer, but fails to give you a good pay off when you see the actual movie.
Overall: TV Viewing
Transcendence is by no means horrible and is far from Depp’s worse movie, but at the same time it doesn’t stand out really at all. And while there are a few jokes here and there, good special effects, and a basic story, it just seems like the movie could have been better. For while it has a decent romantic plot, and the science end can be intriguing, neither is good enough to say this is worth getting a ticket too immediately. So, I say this is worth watching on TV, or on your electronic device, at your leisure, whenever it becomes available.