Saturday, November 1, 2014

Transcendence (2014)

Director: Wally Pfister
Writer:    Jack Paglen
Cast:       Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Morgan Freeman, Paul Bettany


A scientist's drive for artificial intelligence, takes on dangerous implications when his consciousness is uploaded into one such program.

Most of the critics had panned the film but BBC critic, Mark Kermode, found the film to to be quite underrated. I decided to watch it after listening to Dan Carlin's recent Common Sense podcast which discussed among other things, his concerns about artificial intelligence. Apparently Google's recent acquisition, DeepMind, has developed a computer that mimics human short term memory (http://www.geek.com/science/googles-deepmind-creates-a-computer-that-mimics-human-short-term-memory-1608244/). Elon Musk described AI as his biggest fear and he makes a single frame appearance in the film. Wally Pfister, who is making his directorial debut, is a frequent collaborator with Christopher Nolan who served as an executive producer for the film. 

In the film, the title Transcendence refers to the point when the AI machine surpasses the collective knowledge of all humans which is described as a technological singularity. Then, we as humans won't be capable of predicting what is going to happen next and this is exactly the fear around AI. As they put in the film, we fear things that we don't understand. While the film is handling a theme that is very relevant to the times, it comes across as a bit propaganda like. Johnny Depp seems like an actor whose heart is not in it anymore these days. The entire cast seems not too sure about the project and it turns out to be a drab cinematic experience. Better off watching 2001:A Space Odyssey again, which also deals with an AI that has got a bit of self-awareness, and it was made in the fucking 1960s.

Rating: 2.5/5