“Human emotion, it can contain illogical conflict.” ~Paul Bettany as Max Waters
Johnny Depp is amazing as the scientific genius Dr. Will Caster. Despite spending most of his screen time on a computer monitor, Depp gives an outstanding performance. He is subtle when it comes to human emotion, a task that is difficult for his character. He is a supercomputer, after all. However, I kept asking myself why he chose this particular film. It’s not exactly his kind of movie. I mean we could see his real face. It wasn’t covered in ridiculous clown makeup as usual. Despite my questioning his logic behind booking this project, I thought he did a great job.
Paul Bettany, seemingly the only British actor allowed to use his accent, was spectacular. Bettany who plays Max Waters, Will and Evelyn’s best friend, performed with surprising emotion. I say surprising because his character immediately despises his creation. It reminds me of Frankenstein, except with the use of real electricity. He realizes that uploading Will’s consciousness to this computer was the worst mistake of mankind since the Holocaust. While his performance was believable, I felt he held back a little. Or maybe he wanted to let Depp be the star for once.
Rebecca Hall, who plays Evelyn, Will’s wife, probably gave the best performance out of everyone. Her subtle reactions to the craziness around her was outstanding. You kind of get the sense that she went a little crazy, having a replica of her husband on every surface of her new apartment, which was unrealistically built five stories underground in the middle of nowhere, in the course of a few months. She builds a lab where Will can grow and experiment. Big problem: a computer has no conscience. Can you see where this is going?
A semi-minor character Joseph Tagger, played by Morgan Freeman, was subtly present. Of course Freeman has a presence on screen no matter how long he is in a movie for; this one was no different. He probably had all of 30 minutes screen time, but they were spectacular for a lack of a better term.
Keep your eyes peeled for the two minor characters that give the film added color and realism; Cillian Murphy (Agent Buchannan) and Kate Mara (Bree). The two are at opposite ends of the spectrum, technologically speaking. I mean, one is an FBI agent and the other is a terrorist. You can’t get much different than that, can you?
On a deeper level, the film questions what it means to be human. What is a soul? What would happen if we could upload our consciousness into a computer? Would you still be human? Does a computer have the capacity to think and feel and be self sustaining? What would the world be like without the internet? All these question come to a sweet crescendo by the end. If these questions intrigue you, then “Transcendence” is a safe bet.
The setting at the beginning and end paints a chilling future for our world without electricity. Even scarier is that this technology, the PINN computer, is only about 30 years off. If this movie came to fruition, we would be looking at a new dark age. There would be no food, no way of preserving food and no entertainment. It looks bleak. I think it goes without saying that a world without creature comforts is scary; so let’s not be in a hurry to mess up these heavy questions. Unless, of course, the super computer has the face of Mr. Depp, then I’m all for it.