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Transcendence looks at A.I.


The internet has made many of our lives so much easier. The newest movie to hit the big screen, Transcendence, discusses the role technology should play in our lives. Does our humanity make us flawed? Absolutely. Does that make artificial intelligence superior to our imperfections? Absolutely not.

Movie Title: Transcendence
PG-13, 1 hour 59 minutes

Grade: B

In a Nutshell: This was a really interesting movie about awareness: both computers’ ability to become self-aware, as well as humans’ struggle to truly understand what’s inside each other’s hearts.

Dr. Will Castor (Johnny Depp) explains in the beginning of the movie at a technology conference: “For one hundred and thirty thousand years, our capacity to reason has remained unchanged. The combined intellect of the neuroscientists, mathematicians and engineers pales in comparison to the most basic A. I. Once online, a sentient machine will quickly overcome the limits of biology; in a short time, its analytic power will become greater than the collective intelligence of every person born in the history of the world. Some scientists refer to this as the Singularity. I call it Transcendence.”

The film addresses the haunting “unavoidable collision between mankind and technology.” The overall feeling of the movie is, ironically, a bit artificial, but I still enjoyed it. This is the first directorial effort from Wally Pfister, who is receiving some negative reviews for a few of the film’s clunky issues, but his cinematography experience (The Dark Knight trilogy) shows through and elevates the movie.

Uplifting theme: The movie tries to preach two simultaneous, yet opposing messages: Humanity is more important than technology; technology can help us heal the world.

Things I liked:
• I adore Paul Bettany in any movie and who can’t say the same thing about Johnny Depp? My kids laugh that Morgan Freeman is in every movie ever made; sure enough, he’s in this one too.
• I loved the small twist at the end. (No spoiler alert) The entire spark that sets off this artificial intelligence conundrum is the perfect love between two imperfect humans.

Things I didn’t like:
• Some of the scenes are ridiculous with plenty of holes and uninspiring dialogue.

Things to notice:
• Preppers will get a kick out of seeing the items listed as being in demand on the store door after all the power goes off the grid.
• Someone hangs a computer motherboard of sorts on to a dream catcher.

Interesting lines:
• An audience member listening to Dr. Castor’s presentation asks him “You want to create a god? Your own god?” Dr. Castor answers “That’s a very good question. Isn’t that what man has always done?”

• “I don’t want to change the world. I just want to understand it.” - Dr. Castor
• They’re short on logic, but there’s no shortage of irony.” - Dr. Castor
• “The internet was supposed to make the world a smaller place. It feels smaller without it.” - Max
• “Artificial intelligence is an unnatural abomination and threat to humanity.” – R.I.F.T.
• Evelyn asks her husband “Where are you going?” He answers “Everywhere.”
• Dr. Caster says to Evelyn “I can upload you. I can protect you from them.” A suspicious Evelyn replies: “I’m not afraid of…them.”
• Evelyn worries about one of her employees who has become “transcended” and asks the anti-technology fanatics who beat him up “What did you do?” Max responds “We gave him back his mortality.”
• “Human emotion…it can contain illogical conflict.” - Max

Tips for parents:
Any parent who has watched their kids get sucked into their cell phones or other electronic devices will question how well technology is serving humanity. The film has very little bad language, but some violence. Young children may get bored, but older children could be guided into an interesting conversation about the role technology should play in their lives.

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Content copyright © 2014 by Trina Boice. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Trina Boice. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Trina Boice for details.

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