director Wally Pfister
Longtime cinematographer and Christopher Nolan collaborator, Wally Pfister’s first feature film as director, Transcendence, is part of a newer wave of artificial intelligence/intelligence ascendancy. This one is about Johnny Depp, Berkeley, CA supergenius in developing artificial intelligence, who has pissed off the wrong radical group who sees the future of intelligent machines as the end of humanity and who back up their rhetoric with massive killing violence, including his own assassination.
But Depp and his gal, Rebecca West and best bud Paul Bettany manage to upload his “consciousness” into his computer of AI, transferring him into the machine just before he dies. Only maybe the radicals were right because the moment he’s in there, the freedom from phsyciality and endless reach of interconnected computing, he suddenly achieves heights of knowledge and ability, like curing the sick or dying, building an entire world for beyond the human flesh. But is it really him or a facsimile? An emotionless, conscience-less entity?
I won’t spoil it for you partially because I don’t know that I totally got what the film was trying to say in the end. Were the radicals right? Or was her really still a good guy in there after all.
The film does offer the real horror post-apocalytic vision that we all would dread (or otherwise embrace): a world without the internet. Because that is how the film starts and ends. Talk about a new economy.
The film is somber, taking some tonal cues from Nolan, perhaps. It’s a slower, more serious approach to the sci-fi action film. Big ideas, big emotions, but not really that great of a movie. I was actually not all that interested in the movie myself, but Clara thought it looked interesting in trailers, and then the connection to a couple other movies ideas lately had me go ahead and queue it up.
The two connections that come to mind are recent sci-fi films too. Spike Jonze’s Her (2013) and Luc Besson’s Lucy (2014) are the two movies I’m thinking of here. In Her, we have artificial intelligence so successfully created that we not only fall in love with it, but when it decides to grow and grow and reach some transcendence, it doesn’t try to destroy the world but does kill all our PDA’s. In Lucy, the artificial intelligence is more organic. It’s infused into the brain of our heroine, but eventually she connects to the internet and goes all supernova transcendent too.
Really the parallels are just there. In some ways, from a sci-fi technology outlook, they all reach the same ending, an infinite intelligence too grand for the physical world. Of these films, Spike Jonze’s Her is only truly excellent film. These others are more typical genre works and pockmarked with shortcomings all over the place. But it’s always an interesting aside when you see a convergence of subject matter, the way that Hollywood manages to crystallize a concept by regular reworking and play.