Transcendence

Finally I got a chance to watch one of the most anticipated movies of the year (for me anyways) and I wasn’t exactly disappointed. Transcendence is a 2014 science fiction film directed by cinematographer Wally Pfister in his directorial debut, with Christopher Nolan as executive producer and written by Jack Paglen. The film stars Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Cillian Murphy, Paul Bettany, and Morgan Freeman.

What is the movie about? I’ll spare you the scientific & technological slangs and stuff that even I, a staunch science fiction buff, find hard to grasp but let’s just stick to the framework of the story. Dr. Will Caster, a brilliant scientist who is motivated by curiosity about the working of the universe, is the head of a team, which includes his wife Evelyn, that is creating a fully sentient computer. He hopes that such a computer can create a hypothetical moment in time when artificial intelligence, human biological enhancement, or brain-computer interfaces will have progressed to the point of a greater-than-human intelligence, radically changing civilization, and perhaps human nature aka a technological singularity or “transcendence”. However a group of revolutionaries, RIFT, who are scared of evolution aided by technology shoot him with a radiation affected bullet and also poison almost all the staff working on the AI projects.

A dying Will has but weeks to live and in desperation Evelyn comes up with a plan to upload his consciousness into the quantum computer and gets Will’s best friend & fellow researcher Max Peters to help her. Although he has his doubts about the wisdom of this decision, Max helps and it works. Will’s likeness survives his body’s death and requests that he will be connected to the Internet so as to grow in capability and knowledge. Max panics, insisting that the computer intelligence is not Will. Evelyn forcibly asks Max to get out from the building and connects the computer intelligence to the Internet via satellite. Max is kidnapped by RIFT and questioned by their leader, a former admirer of Caster, Bree and eventually over time he joins them. Evelyn meanwhile leaves for a small town in the desert named Brightwood and together they build a technological utopia in the middle of the place. Over the next two years Will spearheads revolutionary advancements in nanotechnology, medicine, energy & biology – even being able to heal blindness and fatal wounds. However Evelyn begins to feel fear when as a sideffect of the process Will is able to remotely connect to and control all the people who have the nano-particles in them.

The government has been keeping a close eye on things and plan an attack, aided by the fact that the terrorists are also trying to infiltrate Brightwood. RIFT has created a virus that once uploaded into Will’s network will kill Will’s source code but will also erase him and as a catastrophic side effect will also wipe out all technology. Evelyn who was contacted by government researcher and friend Joseph Tagger who is with FBI agent Donald Buchanan is told to run from the place but she goes back in. Later on seeing more treated humans acting like assimilated being, she joins Bree, Max, Tagger, Evelyn, and has the virus injected into her blood as she is forced to choose between uploading the virus or risking assimilation into Will’s Transcendence, which holds the promise of ending pollution, disease, and human mortality. On returning back to the Brightwood she is shocked to find Will in a newly created organic body identical to his old one. The FBI and the activists of R.I.F.T. attack the base with mortars, fatally wounding Evelyn.

In order to save her, Will, knowing that the virus is in her, chooses to upload her mind as she did his and is instantly affected by the virus. All the technological devices and even buildings that have the nano-particles in them dissolve into the air as Brightwood is destroyed but the humans infected with the nano-particles retain their previous state. As Will is dying, he explains to Evelyn that he did what he did for her: saving the planet was her wish, to learn the secrets of the universe was his. Then, the virus kills both Will and Evelyn, and a global technology collapse and blackout ensues. 3 years pass by and with the world still in a technological blackout, Max visits the former home of the Casters and finds sunflowers blooming under a Faraday cage that Will has setup in their backyard. He also realizes that a sample of Will’s nano-particles have survived under the cage with possibly Will’s & Evelyn’s consciousness surviving in that, which will give the world another chance at transcendence – perhaps when it is ready.

Ok, so that does very techy and geeky but I like the idea a lot although the execution wasn’t as good as needed to pull of the movie successfully. Made on a $100 million budget the film flopped just about making the money back. I can understand why as it is a hard film to connect to and the characters aren’t ones that you can relate to either. I still will give the movie a 7.5 outta 10!

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