Transcendence, Blu-ray (2014)Cast: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Morgan Freeman Director: Wally Pfister Studio: Alcon/ Warner Home Video (7/22/14) Blu-ray+DVD+UV (2 discs) Video: 1.77:1 for 16:9 1080p HD color Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1, Dolby 2.0, also French or Spanish DD 5.1 Extras: What is Transcendence?, Wally Pfister: A Singular Vision, Guarding the Threat, The Promise of A.I., “It’s Me” video, Singularity, R.I.F.T., trailers Length: 119 minutes Rating: ***
This feature got a lot of bad reviews from critics for its loopy plot lines and big questions that it opened up and then dropped. However, altho it’s far from the perfect sci-fi film, it will get many deep discussions going among most viewers, and the cinematography, audio and special effects are excellent. Even the acting is very good, except for Depp seeming to Skype in his part for most of the film, even before he is just an image on a monitor.
There are basically three groups in the film: One is worried that no matter how far Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) goes, the results will still lack emotions and it is not to be trusted. There is the second group (R.I.F.T.), who are radicals who believe man would be better without any technological advancement, and they are willing to use any means to stop even lowly computer users. The third group, represented mainly by the A.I. professor Caster, played by Depp, and his wife, believe that A.I. can be developed to the point it can heal the sick and save the planet, helping man to achieve a higher level of existence.
Caster is shot by a R.I.F.T. member but quickly recovers from the shooting. Then he begins to get really sick and it is discovered the bullet had Polonium in it and there is no cure for his radiation illness and he will die. Together with his wife and a somewhat cautious partner his brain is uploaded as he is dying. Both the wife and partner are amazed when Caster’s face appears on monitors and he can speak to them and continue to work on his A.I. projects.
A fantastic computer center is built out in the sticks mostly underground. and now connected to the Internet, two years later Caster’s brain has solved all sorts of health and related problems of mankind. He restores disabled people in the abandoned town to perfect health and even super-human strength, but also puts implants in them so he has a sort of army at his beck and call. Now the radicals have convinced the partner they kidnapped that Caster must be destroyed, and the partner has secured the assistance of the U.S. government and army.
With Caster’s center under attack, all hell breaks loose, and the already confusing plot now goes totally awry. The conclusion is a total mess. This is definitely a cerebral sci-fi film and will probably get some interesting discussions going in spite of its serious problems. [Spoiler alert!] At the very beginning and end the effects of turning off the Internet, which they finally do, (Is there a big switch somewhere?) have created a post-apocalyptic world similar to that in several other sci-fi movies. Certainly turning off the Internet would entail the deaths of many people, what with no more hospital gear, airport control tower communication, traffic lights, etc., but if the power stayed on, would it be such an Armegeddon?