Movie Review: Transcendence

Transendence Movie Poster

After being poisoned, Dr. Will Caster has only a month to live. His life’s work has been pursuing what we call “Artificial Intelligence” or, creating computers with personality, emotion, and self awareness. In order to save his work… his mind. His wife decides to put his consciousness, into the AI system Will has developed.

The transfer completes. Will’s body dies, and for a moment… nothing. Then, on the screen, he asks… “Are you there?”.

But is it Will caught up in Transcendence? Or it it a computer so smart, that it itself has become a living thing?

Things I Liked

In a conference, a man asks in regards to a computer system that is self sustaining and problem solving “So you want to create a god?” Professor Will responds, “That’s a good question. Isn’t that what man has always done?” One prevailing theme in this movie is “How far is to far?” What lines are there that man simply should not create machines to do? This point is best illustrated in the idealist mindset of creating computers which will solve ALL of our problems. Something we will trust in completely. A god. In many ways, it is a scary testimony to the way electricity and technology already demand and have gained our trust and dependence. We are reminded that trust in these things is not as wise or as good as usually presented.

The early partnership between Will and his wife is a precious one. We see Will making a garden for his wife, to separate them from all the troubles of their jobs. Even when Will is dying, he chooses to live the last of his life in a lab hooked to computers so that his wife may have peace in her pursuits. Their motivations in working together both are selfless and beautiful to watch. Which is important, in understanding why one wants to preserve the other, and vice versa so much.

This movie explores core questions to humanity. It makes more of Man’s soul, and less of our technology. Max, an associate, confesses to a person, and us, that the soul, our existence is more than just synapses and neurons. There’s an unexplainable quality which we will never understand. We are shown that while a machine may be able to do a great many things, it never will be able to truly feel. Something we don’t and never will understand fully.

While the power of technology is great, we are shown dangers of crossing lines which are unnatural. We see regeneration of physically dead bodies, nanotechnology creating humans with powers of superman, etc. We are shown the computers to monitor how someone is emotionally through certain hormones. All of this is shown to be unnatural and completely revolting… Even if it does make the lives of some better.

Many people take a stand against the Transcendence, even though they don’t know how. They know it is wrong and has to be destroyed, and in doing so risk their lives for, essentially, humankind who is not yet infected with the Transcendence.

Things I Didn’t Like

God’s name is profaned half a dozen times, and there were two-three other swear words.

RIFT, a terrorist organization against the Artificial Intelligence technology, kills many professors through poison, bombs, and guns. One attacker kills himself after shooting a professor. Transcendence defends itself from government agents through people it has joined with. People are shot, but not killed due to nanotechnology. One is caught and blocked from signal. RIFT lets him die so they they can learn a weakness about the transcendence. Cars are tossed by the Transcendence when people are in them. Mortars hit a person and they are shown with immense amounts of blood.

Evelyn has disturbing dreams and nightmares about Will as the Transcendence. We see her kissing her (now dead) husband and then him exploding into black technological veins when he begins to force his way upon her.

Closing Thoughts

While my partner may want to change the world, I simply just want to understand it. ~Will Caster~

What is the soul? What is self awareness? What is individuality? What makes us… Us? What makes humans… Human? These are questions people have wrestled with for thousands of years. With good reason too, because to know these answers, is to know humanity. Philosophers have addressed this through forums and “isms” and “ists”. Religions have addressed this through divinations and books. Writers, have addressed this through Science Fiction. Where anything is possible, because in Fiction- no rules apply.

Transcendence addresses these questions through the idea of the name. A human, with its soul wrapped in electric synapses and systems. After all, isn’t that all the brain is? An organic computer system? We are walked, with beautiful cinematography, through this idea. The idea of a computer system having the knowledge of a man… Or a man having the power of unlimited computer access. The two are made to seem one and the same, but the further we are led the further we are shown how different the two are.

This film isn’t about providing answers. Because that’s not the point of true science fiction. It serves as an exploration of humanity as it truly is through means which in the real world, are impossible. The point is that you, the watcher, ask these questions of yourself. To reflect upon what the soul is. To seek out answers in this real world. It isn’t about “How was this done?” Nor even about “Why was this done?” No, the question this movie asks over, and over, and over is this- “What is man’s Soul?”

We are given a partial glimpse that while a machine may imitate, even duplicate a person, their experiences, their speaking patterns, and even their emotional reactions… It can’t replicate the soul. Because the soul cannot be replicated. We are shown that part of our humanity does indeed transcend any technological creation or advancement. Perhaps, with this in mind, we can point to a God who created this soul. And then show through the Son, and a Sacrifice, we already posses the perfect unexplainable capability of eternal Transcendence.

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