Wally Pfister made a name for himself as the cinematographer for a ton of big time Hollywood blockbusters, including just about every film that The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan has ever helmed. In just a few weeks we’ll get to see what Pfister can do on his own as he makes his directorial debut with the sci-fi thriller Transcendence. The movie doesn’t open until April 17, but now Warner Bros. has unleashed a featurette, two viral videos, and a massive gallery of more than 30 new photos to keep us occupied for a few weeks.
Watching this feature is something like watching an annotated trailer. The video doesn’t do much more than lay out the basic premise of the movie, with actors popping in for a few seconds here and there to add their two cents. The plot follows Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp), a pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence. When an anti-technology group attempts to assassinate him, his wife (Rebecca Hall) and best friend (Paul Bettany) upload his mind into a super computer. Now free from the bonds of mortality, Will gets increasingly powerful and out of control, you know, like Lawnmower Man, and very simply, the situation gets out of hand.
When Morgan Freeman talks about the prospect of AI growing and evolving, it sounds serene, almost soothing. On the other hand, when Depp’s character tells an auditorium full of eager faces that it will eventually be greater than the sum total intellect of every human ever born, ever, it’s terrifying enough to give you Terminator-esque nightmares.
The group that tries to kill Will is called Radical Independence From Technology, or RIFT for short, and this is the first of two new viral videos Warner released from their perspective. What here can easily be passed off as simple sloganeering, what with their “Humans are born, not programmed” motto, takes on a decidedly more dire tone in this next video.
This video is more targeted than the first, and is a call to arms for the more primitivist-leaning members of the populace (though how radically anti-technology can they be if the use of such Internet-specific videos form a key part of their program? We’ll have to wait and see). Here RIFT calls out Caster by name, making him known as an enemy of the continued existence of the human race.
Not having seen the movie at this point, I can’t say exactly where any of these photos come from, but you get the impression there’s a little bit of everything. All the main actors are featured here, including Kate Mara and Cillian Murphy. There are images of Will very much alive and human, which you assume come from a time before his body dies and he becomes a computer. You also get glimpses at various labs and scientific facilities, but eventually you come to a time where it looks like things have gotten pretty bad, like Cillian-Murphy-in-body-armor, tooling-up-for-large-scale-combat bad. If nothing else, all of these videos and photos make Transcendence look like an exciting, thought-provoking bit of science fiction, which is always welcome.