Facebook

Twitter

iTunes

RSS

 

« Movie Review: "Heaven Is for Real" | Main | Donnie Wahlberg Helped Design Jenny McCarthy's 10-Carat Engagement Ring »
Friday
Apr182014

Movie Review: “Transcendence”

Warner Bros.(NEW YORK) -- Johnny Depp’s Dr. Will Caster and his wife, Evelyn (Rebecca Hall), want to change the world through artificial intelligence. But Caster is an intellectual hermit: instead of going out into the world and raising money for his research, he’d rather spend his life at home with his beautiful wife, taking care of their garden while creating complex algorithms.  That type of lifestyle just isn’t possible for him because, as indicated by his face on the cover of popular tech magazine WIRED, Will is a tech community rock star.
 
The culmination of Will’s research is PINN (Physically Independent Neural Network), an artificially intelligent computer whose only major flaw is that it’s not self-aware -- a plot point seemingly created only to create conflict later in the movie.
 
Shortly after Will reluctantly delivers a speech about his research and the convergence of artificial intelligence and human intelligence -- which he calls “transcendence” -- an anti-technology zealot attempts to assassinate him.  It’s all part of a coordinated attack on computer labs around the country that support Caster’s research, fearing it will lead to the downfall of society as we know it.
 
Will survives the attack, but not for long.  The bullet he took was laced with a radioactive isotope, leaving him with only weeks to live.
 
Evelyn thinks she can save Will, or at least his mind, by employing PINN tech to essentially upload Will’s brain into cyberspace, where he can live forever.  She’s going to need help, and that’s where their good friend and business partner, Max (Paul Bettany), comes in.  Max helped Will develop the PINN software, and also apparently has some surgical skills -- a convenient plot point which, like so many other aspects of Transcendence, is never explained.
 
The gamble works, but Max soon realizes that the A.I. version of Will may not be Will at all.  It grows more powerful and intelligent by the second, becoming -- ironically -- the very thing the terrorists who tried to kill Will feared, and alarming the government as well.
 
Transcendence feels less like a film title and more like a mission statement, with the filmmakers hoping the movie would transcend its faults and become a fully realized story with fleshed-out characters (Kate Mara from House of Cards is particularly underutilized as the terrorist leader) and intellectually stimulating conversations.  In fairness, there are a few tense moments, but there are also plenty of other moments where you wish the projectionist would stop the movie and throw on Spike Jonze’s Her, a much more subtle and entertaining meditation on a somewhat similar theme.  Transcendence aspires to be a philosophical rumination about the future of artificial intelligence, but it’s really just an exercise in superficial intelligence.
 
Two-and-a-half out of five stars.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio