All of us seem to have a love/hate relationship with technology. It makes our lives easier, but is accessible 24/7. If the The Terminator films in the early 80s taught us anything it confirmed humanities deepest suspicions with technology – that it would one day take over the world.
Transcendence takes the love/hate relationship with technology just one step further. It stars Johnny Depp as Dr Will Caster, an artificial intelligence researcher who is struck down by Sarah Connor-like protestors before being brought back to life as an digital version of his former self. Caster’s wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and best friend Max (Paul Bettany), must quickly decide whether to switch off Caster as he starts to take over the internet. Their worst fears are realized as Will’s thirst for knowledge evolves into a seemingly omnipresent quest for power, to what end ultimately unknown. The only thing that is becoming terrifyingly clear is there may be no way to stop him.
This is one of those films where nothing is black and white, only varying shades of grey. There is no real villain. Do we sympathise with a need to heal the environment using nano technology or do we become technology luddites, resisting change and advancement. As Will is able to manipulate the very environment he is able to affect change for the better. But as Max says, “humans are more complex than machines, they are not logical – they can love and hate – something a machine can never understand.”
These dilemmas are shot through a screenplay that asks many more questions about humans thirst for knowledge than a Hollywood blockbuster can ever really answer adequately.
Will humans ever really be comfortable with machines running our lives? What is the nature of the human soul – can it be uploaded into a digital environment? All worthy of discussion in this tech-hungry world we live in.
Adrian Drayton is the Director of Reel Dialogue. A film buff and critic for 20 years, he believes in the power of cinema and the power of God to start conversations.
He is also a massive Star Wars nerd.