As technology continues to develop at breakneck speeds, many of us are left wondering what effects these advancements will have on our society. A popular viral video at the moment features kids from toddlers to teenagers marveling at an unknown device called a cassette player and how merely 20 years ago we had to carry around such clunky devices. Transcendence has chosen to take on this ambitious topic to only slightly successful results.
Johnny Depp headlines as Dr. Will Caster, one of the foremost researchers in the field of Artificial Intelligence, along with best friend Max Waters (Paul Bettany), wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall), and colleague Joseph Tagger (Morgan Freeman). In Will's search to create a self-aware AI, he becomes incredibly famous but gains many enemies"”most notably an anti-technology extremist group who believes his work is morally corrupt to the point where they execute terrorist attacks to take out all the lead researchers. While Will only barely survives the attack, it leads him and Evelyn to finally put together the pieces to create a self-aware AI and for Will to reach "transcendence".
The concept of the film is interesting and ambitious but not surprising considering this film is the directorial debut of Wally Pfister, Christopher Nolan's cinematographer. Focusing the story on an omnipotent intelligence opens up so many opportunities and allows them to explore many different implications of having such a system. So many elements are introduced that the movie struggles to adequately address them all. At the heart of the film is the relationship between Will and Evelyn, which does a good job instilling the film with some humanity. While not all of the technological advancements made in the film seem plausible, the effects and action scenes were well done, also not surprising.
As much as I enjoyed watching the film, it felt incredibly overstuffed. With a runtime of 120 minutes, it's clear they had a lot to say. So much time was spent on the introduction and exposition that by the time we got to the climax of the film it felt rushed. Transcendence also hit a pet peeve of mine"”they gave away the ending at the beginning of the film. How am I supposed to care about the conflict if I know how it ends? While it was fun to see how they got to that ending, it would have been much more thrilling had I not known the fate of the characters from the first five minutes.
Transcendence feels very much in the same vein as Inception. While it's a fun and entertaining ride, it needs a shorter runtime and higher stakes.