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Preview: Transcendence

Sarah looks ahead to the directorial début of noted cinematographer of The Dark Knight trilogy, Wally Pfister


Cinematographer Wally Pfister has been realizing the worlds of director Christopher Nolan since Memento in 2000, having also collaborated with the director on his Batman trilogy and 2002’s Insomnia. Sci-fi thriller Transcendence will open in the UK on April 25th, and will mark Pfister’s directorial debut, with Christopher Nolan taking a back seat in the role of executive producer.

The film stars Johnny Depp as Dr. Will Caster, an artificial intelligence researcher who hopes to create a machine that possesses technological singularity, or greater-than-human intelligence. Caster calls this goal ‘transcendence.’ A group of extremists who oppose technological advancement, known as ‘RIFT,’ target him, but their actions merely drive him closer toward his goal. After his attack, Caster uploads his consciousness to a computer system, although his wife Evelyn Caster ( Rebecca Hall ) and best friend Max Waters ( Paul Bettany ) question the wisdom of this move. Caster’s goal to acquire superior knowledge becomes one to acquire power, and he seems to be unstoppable.

In Transcendence, artificial intelligence is viewed with suspicion, and depicted as a threat to humanity. The film explores the human desire to transcend the limitations of the body and its mortality, and what the consequences would be if this were to be achieved. An interesting idea, but an idea that has been revisited many times by Hollywood and has perhaps become a bit tired. An apocalyptic vision of the future where the capabilities of machines come to surpass the capabilities of man has been explored in Hollywood features such as The Matrix and The Terminator. The image of a sinister-faced Johnny Depp that stares out at us from the poster for Transcendence, with a multitude of wires attached to his naked scalp, even recalls the image of Neo in The Matrix when he ‘wakes up’ to realize that he is plugged into a simulated reality. However, when the film opens in April, it will perhaps prove to have greater originality than the trailer suggests.

If the trailer is anything to go by, Christopher Nolan has certainly left his distinctive marks on this feature. The dark and foreboding tone of the soundtrack by Mychael Danna recalls the feel of Hans Zimmer’s atmospheric score for the Batman trilogy. Transcendence even includes key members of the Batman cast, such as Morgan Freeman and Cillian Murphy. The trailer introduces a strong and talented cast, which will perhaps make up for the lack of originality in theme. Regardless, the trailer promises a thrilling viewing experience (would we expect any less from Nolan?) and a potentially thought-provoking film.