Transcendence (2014) is a futuristic film set in a time when scientists are working to create self-aware technology. Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) is at the head of this effort, along with his wife Evelyn Caster (Rebecca Hall) and colleague Max Waters (Paul Bettany). Will wants to challenge himself to produce software that “transcends” the human mind. He has research teams all over the United States whose specific purpose is to pinpoint the areas where their computers and a human mind differ, all with the idea of eventually closing that gap.
A reactionary group springs up in opposition to Will’s efforts, trying to stop him through terroristic means. The group is not only successful in destroying computer labs across the country, but they also shoot Will after he finishes a lecture. Though he survives the bullet wound, he finds out later that the bullet was laced with an isotope and he now has radiation poisoning. His wife, frantic to keep him alive, implants a microchip in his brain, and starts to record his brain activity until he dies. When he passes, his brain takes over the machine, becoming an omniscient force that can control the world. Evelyn desires only to make the effort bigger, while other scientists realize that the machine must be destroyed.
Conceptually, the film is very relevant to society today. As our technology continues and continues to advance, the question that constantly arises is, “How much further?” In addition, the idea that we as a people will not have control over the ultimate decision is the most unnerving thought. It is certainly a good point to consider and though this film demonstrates an extreme example, it provokes thought and even fear over where we could be headed.
The actual script itself feels disjointed at parts. Constantly, the film keeps saying how all Will wants is to spend his days with Evelyn, when in fact the film never really shows this desire of his in a strong way. As a result, this note rings false. Visually, it is also disjointed. The small town where Evelyn begins to build her new science lab not only looks fake, but appears to be a set on a Hollywood backlot. The casting is also disjointed. Though the men of the film seem to fit in their roles, the women, specifically Rebecca Hall and Kate Mara are miscast. If the execution of this film had been spot on, it could have been very disturbing.