Today’s movie breaks major ground in film history. Not because of any great storyline or because of visionary directing, but because Johnny Depp gets to play a character other than Captain Jack Sparrow.
Transcendence tells the story of a scientist who gets his brain saved to a computer and begins to grow power-hungry. Is it worth clicking on, or should we delete it from our memory? Well, let’s take a look at the trailer and find out. (To follow along, click here.)
So who stars in this movie? As I said before, Johnny Depp is in the lead role as Dr. Will Caster; previous movies include the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Edward Scissorhands, and The Lone Ranger. His wife, Evelyn, is played by Rebecca Hall of The Prestige, Vicky Christina Barcelona, and Iron Man 3. Other actors include Iron Man’s Paul Bettany, Oblivion’s Morgan Freeman, and Batman Begins’s Cillian Murphy. Wally Pfister makes his directorial debut with this film; until now, he’s been director of photography for Christopher Nolan films like The Dark Knight trilogy, Inception, and The Prestige. Whatever else we can say about this film, we know it’s going to look good.
The trailer begins with Dr. Caster at a science conference, telling his audience that his quest to build a super-intelligence requires him to unlock “the fundamental secrets of the universe.” You know, things like why they sell hot dogs in packs of ten and buns in packs of eight. “Intelligent machines will soon allow us to conquer our most intractable challenges,” another presenter tells us. These challenges apparently include growing ferns for impatient people. Ironically, Bettany’s character agrees that artificial intelligence will save lives. Nepotism much, JARVIS? Caster adds that the super-computer will be smarter than everyone ever born put together. They can’t bring it online until it stops answering every question with the number 42, though.
But a group of technophobic terrorists called RIFT (Revolutionary Independence From Technology) takes out artificial intelligence labs across the country and shoots Dr. Caster. It seems Y2K is making up for being so late by bringing lots of guns to the party. Caster is dying, but his wife has apparently seen the Doctor Who episode “Silence in the Library” and decides to upload his consciousness into the computer. JARVIS is reluctant, but Evelyn goes through the process anyway. Then the computer screen asks, “Is anyone there?” After which I assume it adds, “Wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper too?” (Short Circuit reference? Anyone? No? Okay, never mind.)
Caster revels in his newfound intelligence, demanding more power. JARVIS sees the scientist turning into the next Skynet, but Evelyn still sees her husband and refuses to shut him down. She connects him to the Internet, asking where he’s going. “Everywhere,” Caster replies. He’s going to Reno, Chicago, Fargo, Minnesota, Buffalo, Toronto, Winslow, Sarasota … well, you get the idea. But RIFT warns JARVIS of the dangers of letting Caster loose, claiming he’ll make copies of himself to make himself an unstoppable army and so he can be dancin’ with himself. Caster claims he’s helping the evolutionary process along, but Morgan Freeman says, “This isn’t evolution; it’s an abomination.” Hey, Johnny Depp is no stranger to abominations (looking at you, Tonto).
Caster does his best to be helpful by using weird metal particles to “fix” people, but some people aren’t happy about the new and improved humans as a fight breaks out between a normal human and a new human in the bed of a moving truck. Things start blowing up, which causes Evelyn to try to talk her husband out of turning everyone into computer people. “I don’t understand,” says Caster. “This is the future.” “This isn’t our future!” Evelyn replies. “You’re not here with me.” He died from a gunshot wound, Evelyn. Were you planning on watching late night TV with his corpse for the next forty years? Caster claims she’s changed (remember, this is the guy with a computer for a brain saying this) and asks if she’s fallen out of love with him, but doesn’t find her “no” very convincing. And the trailer ends as solar panels rebuild themselves and Morgan Freeman predicts “the end of mankind as we know it.” But don’t worry, he’s having Steve Carell build an ark just in case.
So based on the trailer, do I recommend this movie? I’d say so, yes. It has an intriguing storyline (at least in concept) and talented actors. While I’m not sure how much acting range a computer is going to require of Johnny Depp, at least he can give the drunken pirate a rest. It does feel as though the trailer has given away most of the movie, and the film itself does feel fairly predictable, but who knows? It may still have a few twists waiting in the wings. Will I see the film? Probably not in theaters, but I’ll probably check it out once it’s released on DVD.
In the meantime, I’m going to make sure my antivirus is up to date so no one’s dead uncle copies himself to my hard drive.
Transcendence is owned by Warner Bros.