Wally Pfister’s directorial debut, the sci-fi thriller Transcendence, has been an intriguing, if esoteric, project since we first heard about the film. We know the story revolves around a new form of cutting edge artificial intelligence, but the specifics have been blurry up to this point. As the April 18 release date approaches, a new feature, poster, and collection of photos from the film try to clear up the overall picture.
Johnny Depp plays Dr. Will Caster, who, along with his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and best friend Max (Paul Bettany), is on the verge of a new breakthrough with sentient computers. We meet PINN (Physically Independent Neural Network), who is suitably ominous and creepy in a detached, HAL 9000 kind of way. You just know that nothing good is going to come from this creation. As it turns out, a radical anti-technology group called RIFT (Revolutionary Independence From Technology) takes offense at their research, and tries to kill Will. With his body dying, Evelyn and Max upload his mind into their computer, and as you can see in this footage, much of it new, that has an adverse effect on the world at large.
That’s the basic plot we’ve been given, but this feature digs more into what it all means. According to these interviews, when they talk about “transcendence,” they’re talking about the actual uploading of a human consciousness into a supercomputer. Though Will’s body might wither, his mind is a series of electrical signals and impulses that lives on.
This combination of technology and biology is at the thematic center of Transcendence, presenting a kind of “just because we can, doesn’t mean that we should” debate. “Freed” from the bonds of his body, Will’s mind grows at an alarming rate, gathering unchecked power, essentially becoming immortal. The question that is at the forefront of everyone’s mind is how much can you merge with technology and still remain human? This is an especially pressing issue as we’re at the stage where we can envision this happening. According to these interviews, one scientist they talked to says we’re 30 years out from this, which isn’t all that long.
This new poster is similar to ones that we’ve already seen. Depp’s bald head, covered in electrodes, has played a central part in the marketing for the film thus far. But looking at this, you do have to ask yourself one question: given limitless knowledge and power, why the hell can’t they come up with a more original design than this? While not exactly like every other movie poster out there, it isn’t far off. The only thing that sets it apart is that instead of a full body shot of the main character with his back to you, this one only features the back of his head. Still, we’re arguing semantics at this point, it’s damn near identical.
These stills don’t reveal anything groundbreaking, but they take you through the progression of the film. You start with the possibilities of this new advance, with the ideas being presented. Then there are a couple from the middle, where we meet RIFT, personified here by Kate Mara, and where Will is dying, but still very much in his corporeal body. The final two images obviously come from an area of the film where they’re dealing with the fallout of the decision to upload Will. Evenly and Max don’t look terribly stoked on their decision.