Transcendence is another term used for the Technological Singularity, a time when technological advancement will become so rapid that the rate of change cannot be measured in human terms. On a graph, the slope of change turns into a vertical line, shooting straight up and off the page. Many believe that day will be when the first super artificial intelligent computer wakes up. Some, such as Ray Kurzweil, predict that to be within the next 20 to 30 years. Others place it more distant, but not so far that it will not affect your children.
The movie, Transcendence, is about that moment. Folded in on itself, it paints a faintly dystopian look at the idea. I say, “faintly,” because it is not wholly dark, on the order of Terminator. Instead, it is a bit ambiguous. While the transcendent machine is perceived as an abomination, the movie does point out all the good that it did do, and could have done. Perhaps that was the idea, to provide the average movie goer with the villain it expects, as well as to provide a glimpse into the possibilities.
Again, keeping within the framework of the movie, it follows its own logic and emotional path. Deep questions face us about the future. It is coming. It cannot be stopped. The Singularity will happen, one way or another. We can ask those deep questions and seek for answers, guiding the future, or we can sit back and allow someone else to make the choices. To find those answers the populace, even the average movie goer, need to be faced with those brain burners. We should explore the possibilities as a whole. Instead, the movie glances by the issues, focusing more on a love story of sorts.
Is the machine self aware? That is a tough question. Are you self aware? Can you prove it? This is about as deep as the movie goes, and while that is a deep question, there is no attempt to explore the possible answers. The premise of the movie is about a time that will come and that will touch every living soul. It is a wonderful salad. I would have liked a side of meat as well.
The actors do well. Johnny Depp finally plays a person and not a character, even through the machine. The direction, cinematography and editing are good, though there were a few out of place moments, such a super-slow-mo as a tire splashes a puddle. It was only out of the ordinary because that stylistic approach was used only once. The soundtrack and score were well done, though I have to wonder, why do the big, bad computers always have to throb.
All negatives aside, it is worth the ticket. Do not expect revelations or unique qualities, but you will be entertained.