Saturday, 19 April 2014

Film Review - Transcendence

The Mind, With Fear

Film: Transcendence
Cast: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Morgan Freeman
Directed by: Wally Pfister
Duration: 1 hr 59 mins
Rating: * * *

I can’t remember the last time I was so befuddled after watching a film, as I was after watching Transcendence. Sure the core idea of the film is a grand one, the story gives an impression that it has some higher purpose or a point to make but part of it gets diluted. It makes some extremely interesting points but the execution doesn’t translate them all that well, hence the bafflement, which is unfortunate because the premise had the potential to make it to the big league. 

Some of the concepts in science fiction films go beyond fiction and certainly beyond science, the latest case in point being Spike Jonze Her, which like some of the very good science fiction films of our time, tell a human story in a world of technology that doesn’t exist today, but could very well be a part of the future.

Directed by Wally Pfister (best known as the cinematographer for Christopher Nolan films), Will Caster (Johnny Depp) plays a scientist who is a genius of sorts. He specializes in Artificial Intelligence and is on the verge of making a breakthrough that will change lives. As a result, he gets targeted by a group of people who detest modern technology because it is taking our lives over.

Watching the teenagers in the theatre busy with their cell phones rather than concentrate on the film, I could completely sympathize with such a group.

But these bunch of people go to the very extreme, critically wounding Will and destroying almost all AI labs in the country. With very little time on hand, they go for the jugular with help from his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) who also knows a thing or two about his work. 

Before dying, his ‘consciousness’ is uploaded on a grand computer, thanks to a project which he was working on. Will continues to live (not physically though) and communicates with Evelyn even after death. Not only that, they move to a remote town where he starts taking control of everything and becomes more and more powerful.

The authorities (Cillian Murphy) and Will’s colleague (Morgan Freeman) realize the danger the he poses as he evolves even though primarily, he just helps the needy who need medical aid but then very soon he starts networking human minds turning them into hybrids.

Like the Theseus paradox, the question is, even though the mind and consciousness is his, is it the same Will Caster whom we knew, after he has been re-assembled?

Star Trek fans will remember an episode akin to this story (Where No Man Has Gone Before)

The finale takes the easy way out where a virus is uploaded to set things right but not before we see nanotechnology at work where just about everything manages to repair itself, including solar panels which again is a fine insight.

While the film doesn’t fail in making its point, you wish it would have done so with conviction instead of circumventing around with no purpose at times. 

While writing this review I am convinced that Transcendence gave enough food for thought though as a film it may not have been the most satisfying experience but it is still worth a shot.

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