This British/American/Chinese techno-thriller depicts a scenario in which a technical singularity reaches a point of no return and the events following this crucial moment. The technical singularity in this case is that of a quasi-sentient computer uploaded with the intelligence and experience of a man who subsequently dies but is able to interface with his dying wife. But does he really die? Does she?l Let’s not indulge in spoilers!
The man in question is Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp), an expert on artificial intelligence interested in unlocking the secrets of the universe. His devoted wife is Evelyn (Rebecca Hall), who wishes to save the planet from anthropogenic dystopia. Paul Bettany plays the role of the couple’s best friend who is willing to risk his life for them but is also tempted to run away. Morgan Freeman plays the role of an apparent antagonist to the main protagonists and Kate Mara leads a pod of techno-terrorists who turn out not to be so evil after all. The cast includes a huge field of solar energy screens and some humble sunflowers. More about the sunflowers anon.
I watched this film during its very first screening on Easter Sunday in a Chicago suburb. The theatre was almost desolate except for a couple of stray visitors who left early. My companion and I were tempted to do likewise, but we stayed riveted to our seats. We were horrified with the verisimilitude of the film’s premise but truly curious about the outcome. At first sight, the message was a bit confusing, but on hindsight we realized that the story line was as complex as it was plausible: Transcendence is a futuristic projection of today’s virtual reality.
The film opens with a woman lovingly tending to her sunflowers while her partner inside crunches numbers on a computer screen. They smile at each other across the glass door. It ends five years down the road in the same garden with more sunflowers rising pristine from contaminated soil. Whatever happens, if humanity messes things up, nature will ultimately take over.