real old days, science fiction was about trips to the moon and space
travel (Flash Gordon & Buck Rogers). Then it became loony with
ridiculous superheroes like Superman and Batman. Unfortunately, we are
still burdened by those preposterous tales.
Recently, however, artificial intelligence has reared its ugly head.
This resulted in the truly idiotic film, Her, last year and now
this one, which is akin to Her in that we are asked to believe
that a disembodied “intelligence” lives inside a computer that can think
and feel and reason.
Directed by first timer Wally Pfister and written by first timer Jack
Paglen, this is yet another film with Johnny Depp in which we are asked
to accept that he is a superstar in the mold of Cary Grant or Paul
Newman. But I can’t for the life of me think of any film that he’s been
in that I enjoyed enough to want to watch again. Those Pirates of the
Caribbean movies are so bad as to be unwatchable even once. He keeps
showing up in things like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and
Alice in Wonderland but do any of those films ever make anyone’s
list of best 1,000 films?
isn’t even asked to display any range whatsoever as he is basically an
unemotional face on a computer screen. In fact, I would suggest that
another actor might have been able to do it much better because Johnny
adds absolutely nothing to a film that does contain fine performances by
Rebecca Hall as his wife and Paul Bettany as a good friend.
story, that Johnny’s intelligence and ability to reason and plan are
uploaded to a computer network before he dies and he basically takes
over the world, isn’t a new idea. A similar plot about artificial
intelligence taking over the world was first presented over 40 years ago
in 1970 in Colossus: The Forbin Project, a film that ended with
two supercomputers communicating with one another and then controlling
everything at fade out. The big difference between the two films is that
the two supercomputers had no personality or ability to carry on a
conversation with humans, whereas Depp’s existence in the computer is
like he is still alive. Colossus was much better and much more
believable than this one. Directed by Joseph Sargent, it made one leave
the theater uncomfortable about what had just been seen and continuing
to think about it, unlike Transcendence, which is just too
implausible. In this it is not unlike Inception (2010) in which
we were asked to believe that people could physically inhabit someone
else’s dreams and work together to accomplish something. Good science
fiction needs to have a modicum of believability to capture the fancy of
upside the cinematography (Jess Hall) is very good, as are the special
effects. But that doesn’t make up for the unconvincing story (even
though it does have a nice twist which is why I don’t give it a much
lower grade) and Depp’s wooden acting, although to cut Johnny some
slack, the role is extraordinarily one-dimensional.