Movie Review: Transcendence by Jason Burleson

Transcendence 2It’s a resounding fact that the available technology of a certain age guides the development of that age. Another fact is that our technology is rapidly changing every day. Along with the advancement in technology, just exactly how this technology affects us is also changing.  In film, the hypothetical possibilities are endless.  Star Trek, Jurassic Park, and Planet of the Apes are all examples of technology as a strong influential force guiding our film-making ideas.  Just like in other recent films, the concept of tech outgrowing our own capabilities is not a new idea.  What happens when the technology that we build not only guides us to bigger and better things but leads us away from things that make us, us? Things like freedom, compassion, and humanity may diminish.  In the new film Transcendence we see exactly what this might be like.

Transcendence is an interesting film.  It’s a film founded on the principle that our technology might one day outgrow us.  It’s easy to imagine what this might be like.  Johnny Depp plays Will Caster whose imagination and intelligence lead him to pioneering artificial intelligence in computers.  Now if you’ve ever seen films like I Am Robot, Terminator, or Resident Evil, then you can imagine what a great idea that is.  For some reason, everyone wants a smarter computer.  All I want is to stop tripping over my vacuum cleaner at night but that’s never going to happen.  I digress.  While Caster is leading the race to downloading our souls to Skynet, another group of people are trying to eliminate technology all together, some sort of social dependence vendetta.  I immediately thought these people were idiots but I don’t write movies, I just say mean things about them.

Transcendence 5Soon after, the Amish people decide Caster is bad, they do the predictable. They decide to kill him with radiation. Yes, the anti-tech people use tech to stop tech.  Can you say irony?  Immediately Caster’s clinger of a wife decides she needs to download his brain so she doesn’t have to live without him.  Basically, giving unlimited intelligence to a computer program that thinks he’s in love with a crazy person.  While this seems like a halfway decent plot device, soon after, the film kind of lost me.  After a few obligatory scenes of Caster’s wife evading the tech police, she connects Caster to the internet in order for him to obtain ultimate power and rule the world!! Just kidding, that doesn’t happen.  They do however decide to set up shop in the middle of nowhere and establish an underground base in order to build the technology he’s been trying to build his entire life.

Ultimately, watching this film it was just hard to stay interested.  It didn’t take long for Depp’s character to establish what appeared to be magical nanotechnology that could essentially create any kind of material.  It is just too easy. Whether that is human flesh or metal, he could do whatever he wanted. He somehow still meets obstacles he couldn’t compute an answer to.  Not only that but he couldn’t keep the woman who couldn’t live without him interested. He could use nano tech to change the way a man looked after a horrible accident and heal people who couldn’t walk or see before, but he couldn’t create an avatar that looked like him so she had something to sleep next to.

Transcendence 7A lot of the script seemed forced to me, like the writers had a goal in mind but didn’t know how to achieve it.  Suddenly, the calm and quiet demeanor of a scientific explorer becomes the struggling, cold voice of a robot.  It just didn’t make any sense.  Originally, he wanted to help, then his struggle slowly becomes about power.

Eventually, and probably the most difficult part for me to come to terms with, was when he begins to assimilate a collective group, using the internet to become attached to every person with whom the nanotech was used on.  This way he could control them, see through them, and essentially become them at will.  This combined with super strength and abilities, the people around him become extremely reminiscent of a certain BORG quality.  I did not like this, and combined with the sudden sounds, blurry visuals, and the monotone voice of his program, I ended up not liking this movie very much.

In the end, I felt there were a lot of things they could have done differently to make Transcendence.  Originality can go a long way but you can’t rely on it to make a film work on its own.  Johnny Depp, you failed me as well as your acting was also horrible.  Definitely wait for this film to come out on DVD if you need to see it.  If not, don’t see it at all.

I give Transcendence 2 out of 5.

by Jason Burleson

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