Wally Pfister, cinematographer extraordinaire, responsible for the glorious picturisation of movies like Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, The Prestige and more, makes his directorial debut with the Johnny Depp starrer Transcendence. A sci-fi thriller, the film explores the issues that emerge with humanity’s increasing dependence on technology and the far reaching and quite possible implications of the existence of a more advanced artificial intelligence (AI).
Dr Will Caster (Johnny Depp) and his wife Evelyn Caster (Rebecca Hall) are scientists working in the field of AI. When a terrorist organisation that calls itself RIFT, hell bent on “disconnecting” humans and technology, instigates a round of co-ordinated attacks at leading science labs across America, Will Caster is one of the victims. A bullet laced with radioactive material that tears through his abdomen, leaves Caster with less than four weeks to live.
Fellow researchers, Evelyn and his best friend Max Waters (Paul Bettany), then put together a plan to upload Caster’s consciousness onto an advanced computer system, virtually turning him into the most advanced and self-aware intelligence system on the planet, even after his death.This basically puts into motion a series of events that could best be described as RIFT’s worst nightmare coming to life - a world taken over by an artificial intelligence that is as powerful as God himself.
There are very serious moral and scientific questions being asked here. But Pfister for some reason has no fun with the material at hand. There are some very strong moments, but they are few and far between. Transcendence simply struggles to reconcile its lofty themes with its restrictive plot development. It’s all too predictable and even the ending is a little too conventional. Coming at the heels of the critically acclaimed sci-fi film Her, Transcendence in comparison pales.
Verdict: The only redeeming quality of the film is the strong performances by the cast and the chemistry that Depp and Hall share.
Cast: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Max Waters, Morgan Freeman, Kate Mara
Director: Wally Pfister