Transcendence Eclipses Human Biology In Seven Clips

By Brent McKnight | Published

This article is more than 2 years old

Wally Pfister’s artificial intelligence adventure Transcendence is less than two weeks away, and the closer we get, the more information we’re getting. There have been posters, viral videos, and photos galore, and while yesterday brought us a new TV spot, today we have seven, yes seven new clips from the film.

Pfister’s directorial debut follows Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) as he tries to advance AI to a point where it will eclipse all human intellect. That’s a terrifying prospect, to be sure—how many times have we seen such technology run amok on TV and in movies—and there are, understandably, segments of the population that are less than enthusiastic about what others view as progress in this arena. When a radical anti-tech group attempts to assassinate Will in order to stop his research, his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and best friend Max (Paul Bettany) upload his consciousness into a super computer. Once inside, his intellect and power grows exponentially, until he’s on the verge of taking over, like Lawnmower Man, but hopefully with better special effects.

These clips appear to come from all over in the film, and this first video shows Agent Buchanan (Cillian Murphy) and Morgan Freeman’s Joseph Tagger as they encounter Will in his artificial state for the first time. Creepy, overly sterile hallways five-stories below ground are always a little unsettling, and when you’re meeting the disembodied incarnation of someone you used to know, that’s straight-up horrifying.

In clip number two, you get to see Will’s server farm, and includes Buchanan meeting more technology for the first time. This encounter is with PINN, Will’s baby, also known as a Physically Independent Neural Network. That also has to be unnerving, talking to a machine that can respond like an actual person.

The group responsible for the attack on Will is called RIFT, or Radical Independence From Technology. Transcendence is big on acronyms, and there’s a certain similarity between RIFT and PINN, so you have to expect to see some thematic parallels drawn between the two. Here you get a kind of primer on their stance on the disconnect between humanity and technology, as well as learn a bit of their strategy. Apparently they’re a patient bunch, picking targets, infiltrating, and getting close before they strike.

This clip shows the length RIFT is willing to go to, capturing Max, pumping him for information.

I have the same problem Max does in this clip: atrocious handwriting. Like him, I don’t write much by hand anymore, and when I do, sometimes I can’t even decipher it myself, let alone expect anyone else to. This video indicates a changing tide, that Max and others have come to realize the true scale of the problem they face. You can’t even drive a car with power locks anymore, or Will can take it over.

Movie scientists are obsessed with the idea of machines eclipsing the limits of human biology. As we’ve seen before, that rarely works out well for the rest of us. In this speech, Will explains what transcendence, or the singularity, actually entails.

With Will wasting away, Evelyn and Max are desperate to save him, and in doing so, they may rush into something they don’t fully understand. Max is more concerned, laying out the potential risks. If they miss anything, even some small, hazy childhood memory, it could have a disastrous, unpredictable impact.

Transcendence opens on April 17.