The Horror Honeys: Computers Are People Too!

Computers Are People Too!

A Sci-Fi Honey Review by Jen

Transcendence (2014)

Transcendence was one of the top movies on my list of Sci-Fi films that I am excited to see this year. I’m a big Johnny Depp fan, I love Paul Bettany, and Morgan Freeman is always a treat to watch. So, Head Honey and I hit a matinee, and watched it with two annoying fucking Yappy-Faces sitting behind us. As an aside, I can’t stand people who talk through movies. I almost threw popcorn at them. If you’re a Yappy-Face Movie Watcher, stop it. Seriously. Don’t be a movie dick. I paid fifteen effing dollars to see this thing, fuck off and let me watch it in peace.

This has been a public service announcement by the Anti-Yappy-Face Foundation, preventing movie-related rage since 2014.

So, urge to punch the idiots aside, what did I think of Transcendence?

Basic Synopsis: Johnny Depp plays Dr. Will Caster, an Artificial Intelligence researcher who has been developing sentient technology, with the aim of creating a machine that knows everything there is to know and has a full range of human emotions. Basically Bill Nye the Science Guy with unlimited data. His wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and best friend Max Waters (Paul Bettany) aren’t as enthused about this, and question if a sentient machine would go all Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Their qualms are also felt by an extremist group of Neo-Luddites with the lame moniker Revolutionary Independence From Technology (R.I.F.T.). RIFT kills off a bunch of other A.I. Researchers and shoots Will with a toxic bullet that slowly kills him, giving Evelyn just enough time to download Will’s consciousness into the prototype A.I. system that Will has been working on. Will (or is it really Will?) hits the internet and expands, with the aim of fixing all of the world’s problems whether they like it or not. But is it really Will in there, or a crazy-ass computer megalomaniac without a conscience? 

I’ve had a couple of days to mull Transcendence over. I have to say, I liked it, despite some faults. The RIFT people were annoying, as I think they were meant to be? It’s very hard to be sympathetic to a group that thinks killing a bunch of people to achieve their ends is ok, even if I agree with their premise. They actually lock someone up in a cage as a prisoner for months in an attempt to get that person on their side to destroy the Will Computer, and it made me kinda root for Mecha-Johnny. I wanted the RIFT people to all die, even when Mecha-Johnny went rather off the rails.  Kate Mara’s character Bree, the leader of RIFT, was utterly unsympathetic and kind of vacant. I just wanted to punch her for the whole two hours. 

Hi, I'm annoying and lock people in cages to convert them to my way of thinking,
can I buy you a drink?

The ‘Will Takes Over the World’ angle actually wasn’t the part of the movie that made me like it. I thought throughout that it was less a ‘Technology Goes Awry’ movie and more of a relationship movie. I thought that the relationship between Will and Evelyn was extremely interesting and thought provoking and at times utterly heartbreaking. She downloaded him into the computer because she loved him so much she couldn’t bear for him to die, and his downloaded self spent the whole movie trying to show her how much he loves her. That’s what made the movie really creepy (in a good way) for me. You’re never sure if it’s really Will, or a sentient/semi-sentient computer trying (wanting?) to be him and love this person. Or, is it only pretending so that she does what he/it wants? Is it only being weird and semi-creepy because Will lacked social skills even as a living person?

For me, the action sequences were the weakest part of the film. Yeah, yeah, typical blow stuff up, car chase, awesome effects, dickhead military-like guy, bumbling FBI agents, blah blah blah. I thought that Transcendence did a fairly good job dealing with the issues of society being over-dependent on technology and screwing the environment up; I can’t think of a movie that has done a really great job dealing with those issues, off the top of my head. It’s hard to tackle those without sounding like a technophobic grandpa or being off-puttingly tree-huggy.  I thought Transcendence did a passable job that way.  The cinematography was great, sound was really good, and for me Paul Bettany was the highlight acting-wise. Johnny Depp as Will was good as usual, but realistically, Depp is in voice-over with a kind of avatar for most of the movie, and he’s better when you can see all of him and all of his facial expressions. Also, I didn’t feel that the viewer was given enough time at the beginning of the movie to get to know Will, and really invest in him. I wished that I knew him better so I could more easily tell if it was really him in the computer, but I suppose that would have ruined the suspense of wondering throughout if it was him or not. I also didn’t get to see enough of his and Evelyn’s relationship pre-Mecha-Johnny to see how much they loved each other either, I think that would have helped also - wedding flashbacks, poignant moments, y'know, mushy stuff.

Aww, awkward and rumpled geek romance!
Give me more!
Sci-Fi Honey Lowdown: I enjoyed Transcendence. The relationship between Will and Evelyn really made the movie for me, and I found the sci-fi content secondary. The technology aspect was just ok for me, as was the RIFT stuff. I wasn’t totally sold on how they managed to convert a main character onto their side. If I was locked in a fucking cage for several months, the first thing I’d do upon release would be to get Mecha-Johnny to vaporize them. That might just be vindictive ol’ me though.

I don't understand why you find my advances alarming.
Am I not Mecha-Johnny?
I thought they dealt with larger issues of technology and the environment pretty well, as well as other movies have anyway. The effects were good. Creepy Computer Romantic Will and his attempts to woo Evelyn were the high point for me, both in creepiness, and in ‘awwwww, that was SO SWEET in a weird way!! I want an All-Powerful Boyfriend too!!’ 

Sci-Fi Honey Rating: I give Transcendence 3.5 Super-Powered Maintenance Men out of 5. Creepily Romantic: Just the way I like it.