Friday, April 18, 2014

Transcendence [Movie Review]

First let me apologize for no blog update on Wednesday. I cut my finger, right across the tip, and it is very painful to type. It still hurts right now, but I must review this movie. It is not very often I feel like yelling at a film in the theater. I really really wanted to... very very much.

A TED talk in a movie?! Excllent.
The preview for this movie told me that I'd likely be displeased with it. However the subject matter was such a fascinating one. Anyone who has read books like Snow Crash or Wyrm should have a fascination for Transhumanism. Of course, I've read both of those books.

1.5 out of 5 stars.
Careful! You are being watched!

To quote Alonso Duralde from The Wrap, "Transcendence is a sleek, smart techno-thriller loaded with interesting ideas — until it stops being any of those things."

I wish we had as many solar arrays for power... he has lots.
This movie suffers from so many problems, I've been generous in giving it one and half stars. It gets those simply because there is sort of a message hidden in the movie. It is not the movie's message, or at least not the one it wants to send. You have to piece it together from scraps. Secondly, it does look awesome.Also, Johnny Depp, he alone adds something to the film. Not enough to salvage it... but he adds something. I thought about giving the movie 2 full stars, but after working through this post, I came to the realization that 2 stars was far too generous. I often err on the side of being too kind to the media I am reviewing. Not this time. I might be a touch harsh, but I think this movie deserves my scorn. 

There in lies one of the biggest sins of the movie. Bad characterization. Bad motivation. Characters rapidly switch sides, change their views, or change their character almost entirely.  There is some silly bad science as well... and it is replete with unending examples of hypocrisy (which I hope, hope with all my being was intentional).

There will be some minor spoilers below, but not anything major that you should not have seen from the trailer. But you have been warned, I might stray beyond that threshold. I mean the movie starts off by spoiling the end. 
White wall sci-fi cliche! We've got em!

You see there is this terrorist organization called RIFT (Revolutionary Independence From Technology), who by the way use technology to plan their anti-technology attacks. They have lap tops, cell phones, internet... they are the worst Luddites in the history of Luddites. And yet they are the most successful... I suppose that is because they use technology to fight technology. See... hypocritical. I hope that was intentional... if not... well, it was a bad movie. 

We're trying to find the plot! Help!
More than one character is swayed to the Luddites (I will not refer to them as RIFT because that sounds cool, and they were not) side quicker than you can say 'Stockholm's Syndrome.' It's almost as if the writer needed them to turn, so their characterization really didn't matter. 'I'm a scientist who specializes in using technology to save people, I know, I'll do the exact opposite!'
Bad movie!

Then there is the problem with Nanotechnology. Our Hero, Dr. Caster (Johnny Depp), rapidly has access to ultra efficient, super controllable nano-machines. They can heal and improve people, they can disassemble weapons, they can repair solar arrays. By giving him access to such an immense power, everything that comes after seems like it was shoe horned in. At one point someone is threatened with being shot. We've already seen many many people get shot and be repaired by the nano-machines, so it should not be a threat at all... and yet somehow we're expected to take it seriously? No, I think not.
This is the legacy of humanity...
Of course in the end, or the beginning, since the movie is treated like a flashback, humanity is left bereft of technology. This was all claimed to be in the salvation of mankind... but we're not treated to the realistic aftermath. The millions or even billions dead that would have come about. The diseases that would run rampant, the planes that would fall from the sky, the end of sewage treatment and desalination, the starvation... imagine taking away all electronic technology from the planet, and then imagine the death toll. We never even see this covered... while we did see Johnny Depp solve pollution and regrow forests...

Ok, maybe that was more spoiler-ish than intended... but it irked me. There was no repercussion for destroying modern civilization. Those responsible do not even seem to pay for it... maybe some mild guilt... but that is it. No repercussions.

The fact that neither of these two died at the end pisses me off.
There is of course a sad truth to this movie. If you did not read about it already, A Third of American's Think Technology is Going to Ruin Their Lives. With the anti-tech movement in San Fransisco, people being attacked for wearing Google Glass, and other insanity around the globe, there appears to be a rising trend of Luddites. Combined with people who fail to understand evolution, gravity, The Laws of Thermodynamics, or even how a sunset works... we are raising a generation of scientifically illiterate Luddites. This does not bode well for the future... 

Anyways. I cannot in good conscience recommend seeing this movie. It was bad, or at the very least it was not good. Do not go and see it... but if you do go see it, if you must see it, do not expect to enjoy it. Do not expect it to make sense. Expect to feel the desire to scream at the screen... try it, the scream might be wonderfully cathartic.

1 comment:

  1. It is sad to see that you do not understand this movies' motive, or at least the biblical references to religion, ''supposedly'' god. There are a few messages presented in this movie, which not all, of course relate to religion, but to this very society itself.