Watching Transcendence is a reminder that there are a finite number of stories swirling around in our subconscious. Not to say Wally Pfister’s Transcendence is boring or derivative. It has an excellent visual style. Pfister is a long-time collaborator of Christopher Nolan.
For his directorial debut, Pfister tells the story of Will Caster, an A.I. researcher who believes, “a sentient machine will quickly overcome the limits of biology.” A radical group fear the machines will become self-aware and attack A.I.labs across America — they forgot about the sweat shops in India? So they blow up labs and kill the scientists. Caster is shot with a radio active bullet and has a couple of weeks to live. He and his wife and fellow researcher, Evelyn, decide to download his brain to create a sentient machine.
Caster’s friend and colleague, Max Waters, has reservations about the scheme and once Caster dies, wants Evelyn to “shut it down.” Evelyn refuses because she insists it is Caster. Evelyn and Caster go off into the great unknown and build a brave new world where there is no disease or death and everything is connected. There is a price to pay of course and Max joins up with the radical chic and with help from the FBI saves the world.
The movie is fun for all the counter culture people and the conspiracy theorists. Scientists and A.I researchers which probably laugh hollowly at what is being shown but hey it is the movies and some amount of kooky science should be allowed. Some of the themes the movie addresses are plain creepy— invasion of privacy and can we really transcend our bodies are just some of them. There is the seduction of cheating death and decay but technology as we all know is good slave but not a very good master—see what happened to Skynet.
Of the cast, it is nice to see Johnny Depp play a regular guy for a bit before he goes off and becomes a programme. Paul Bettany as Max is the BFF we would all like to have—even if he is not naked. Rebecca Hall as Evelyn with her plump lips reminds one of Scarlett Johansson and that other romance with an OS, Her. Morgan Freeman lends the mandatory gravitas as Joseph Tagger, a mentor and friend of the Casters. Transcendence is an engaging, handsome movie asking desperately deep and meaningful questions that makes us feel all grown up, which is what going to the movies is also about.
Cast: Johnny Depp, Morgan Freeman, Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Cillian Murphy
Director: Wally Pfister
Story: A scientist pushes the boundaries of possibility
Bottomline: Hi-tech take on age old debates