Holland 7 Theatre 4, 1:50pm, 2×$6.75
Transcendence is a beautiful movie about... well, it's not really about AI, is it? It's about uploading a human mind into the structure of an AI. And with the much greater processing speed, storage ability, connectivity and ability to multitask -- is what remains still human? Or a shadow? Or just some run-of-the-mill AI?
We've seen movies about computers that have been self-aware, everything from Colossus: The Forbin Project and Saturn 3 to Star Trek: The Motion Picture. But PINN, the original AI in this movie, isn't so much the issue as Johnny Depp.
We've seen this rumpled but good looking Johnny Depp character -- complete with glasses -- before. But this time it suits the movie. This is not Tony Stark grandstanding before his adoring fans. Yes, Depp's character has fans in this movie, but he hates the dog-and-pony show. But wife and research partner Rebecca Hall drags him out One Last Time (except Depp knows it isn't) to try to secure funding for the next five years. Memo to Depp -- check with Sam Neill about the dangers of fundraising with technology on the cusp of human ethics. Hall reminds me of Scarlett Johansson a bit -- it's the mouth and the set of the jaw, especially when she looks determined. I did a double-take early on and wondered if Johansson was in Yet Another Movie this year, but quickly decided No. And Kate Mara, she of the glaring looks and furrowed furry eyebrows, is rapidly becoming another Edward Norton -- if you see her enter a room, go the other way and don't look back. (grin)
Alas, Cillian Murphy always looks like Scarecrow from one of the Batman reboots. I could divorce any resemblance of Hall to Johannson and get back to the film, but Murphy sets off alarm bells. He's unlike Jimmy Stewart, who could play many characters while playing the same tall, hangdog guy, yet we believed him. And Morgan Freeman, allowed to let his hair go white in this film, is wonderful with his voice and his expressions as always -- especially for a few seconds after the birthday party starts without him -- but ultimately this isn't his film and we don't get much of him or his gravitas. His job here, I think, is to react, not act. Fortunately, this isn't a problem, other than wasting a perfectly good opportunity to listen to Morgan Freeman.
It's no secret that things End Up Badly, as the film opens Five Years In The Future and we are reduced to using a computer keyboard as a doorstop. I _TOLD_ everybody that Windows 8 wasn't a good idea. So all we have to do is set up the pieces and let the drama unfold. And for two hours, it unfolds very nicely. We had a nice discussion on the way home about what exactly happened in the last scene, but that's good for a movie like this. But as dystopian futures go, Transcendence isn't a Divergent, IMHO. It might not be SO bad, though I'd be shit-out-of-luck for something to do, so maybe we should keep the Internet and our computes going.
The computer graphics work, both as computer graphics and CGI movie effects is quite well done. There are some technological issues that I have quibbles with, all having to do with energy requirements and timing, but they are survivable and don't seriously throw you out of the story. Time compression is not only required in a movie, but you don't want to lose your audience in boredom for two hours. But seriously, guys, a satellite uplink is only just established and you can port your entire massive system somewhere else in less than thirteen seconds? Next you'll have me believing that a virus can be ported from a MacBook to an alien computer network you know absolutely nothing about.
The high tech facilities are gorgeous. Women and People of Color are shown doing intelligent things. Long white hallways thrown up practically overnight. Lots of glass walls -- really nice looking. Even the supercomputers, wisely not shown in detail, look sleek and convincing. And big. And suitably powerful. I want one! (grin)
Is he or isn't he the ghost in the machine? The question is a good one and you can easily vacillate on that one throughout the movie. The best part, though, is that they take time to set up the need for Depp to be scanned and loaded into a computer. In a lesser movie, this would take place in the first fifteen minutes. The original pilot for the Six Million Dollar Man always impressed me because it took time for Steve Austin to survive the X-24A lifting body crash, get recruited into the program and then connect the parts. He doesn't go from hospital bed to running at 60mph in the first act with time to get a refill on the popcorn, does he?
There's some lovely misdirection in a couple of scenes and we want to believe Depp's optimism, either as man or machine, yet we can't quite trust what's going on. There's been a lot of stuff written about the Singularity -- here Depp's character turns that around and talks about Transcendence. I think it seems more realistic at times.
Yes, things explode and people are chased and all, but it's much more cerebral that Just Another Summer Action Flick. Which is probably why it opened in mid-April instead of mid-June. I liked it a lot.
TRAILERS: Marvel Comics dominated, with two excellent looking trailers that were my first looks at them. Guardians of the Galaxy, I wasn't so sure when I saw a picture of a tree and a raccoon... -ish characters, but it looks like it would work and be a lot of fun. And the next X-Men movie, X-Men: Days of Future Past unites both the old and new casts, with Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen having to work together -- of course Wolverine is the only one who is played by the same character in both timelines. Think Skynet and Judgment Day, but with mutants instead of Terminators? For those of you who like cheese and explosions, we have The Expendables 3 -- I suppose someday I'll have to catch up on this not-so-serious action franchise. The premise of ALL these Big Name Actors -- Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Gibson, Strahan, etc. in one movie is hilarious. Another longer trailer for Edge of Tomorrow, which I WILL see when it opens. Maybe even IMAX. We both thought there was another trailer, for something that sounded awful, but since we're not likely to go to that -- who cares?
Good popcorn with this movie -- and it looks to be a terrific summer for movies and popcorn, too.
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