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IN SHORT: "Johnny Depp" is now officially a genre.
By that we mean that the films made by Mr. Depp are always going to interest an audience; they will always have a quirkiness to them that makes (us) want to plant our butts in a movie theater seat and, even when they don't knock our socks off, there is still enough "stuff" in the film to keep us entertained.
Transcendence fall into the back end of the previous paragraph. No one in our audience cheered when the screening was done. Everyone we talked with afterwards said, it was Depp who delivered a reason to watch. That is the very definition of a "movie star." Even if the overriding genre is humans vs. machines for dominance of the Earth, which has pretty much been done to death. Seriously. Tell us if you've heard something like this before: A genius inventor (Johnny Depp as Dr. Will Caster) and his equally genius researcher wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) break the wall between human and computer intelligence. Depp's character will co-create a machine that, given just a bit of time, will hold or surpass the combined intelligence of every being on planet Earth. Said computer, called PINN (Physically Independent Neural Network), could then use the Internet to assume a position equivalent to God. It would control all computer networks everywhere, and thus the Earth. At least, that's what could happen if PINN were run by hands that weren't clean. Dr. Caster believes that, once computer intelligence reaches the point of sentience, miraculous things will happen as they start "thinking." And Caster, of course, believes that his hands are "clean."
Only neurobiologist Max Waters (Paul Bettany), former co-programming partner to doctor Caster, and a lunatic blonde named Bree (Kate Mara), are left to battle to save the planet. Bree leads a force of revolutionary terrorists called RIFT -- Revolutionary Independence From Technology -- who are, of course, the bad guys of this story because Johnny Depp is a flat out movie star. RIFT are the Luddites of this world (google it) and believe said world would be a far better place without technology like the Internet and the computer networks that help drive it.
Which means that the agents of RIFT carry guns and stuff happens to Depp's character that you probably already know, but we won't tell you. Then again, giving hints as to his character's story arc could flat out spoil the movie for you. So, be warned . . .
SPOILER ALERT: The Messrs. Waters, Caster are the only persons on the planet that have any idea how to program a computer to think like a human. One has serious reservations about unleashing such a computer on mankind. One gets shot with a poisoned bullet and uses what little time he has left to copy his mind into the sole working copy of the aforementioned supercomputer called PINN. The other is Stockholm Syndrome'd into working with the enemy (that would be RIFT) to locate a second, well hidden supercomputer that will be created and maintained by the widow Caster.
That's all we will tell you. Frankly that's all we can tell you. If we were interested in spoiling the story for everyone, we couldn't. For once the basics were in place the story left us so far behind that we were utterly lost by everything else that happened in Transcendence.
Of course, we knew that going in so we brought our niece. She's half our age and she explained it all to (us). You know -- Humans bad until they're good. Machines good until they're not and even then one may be the god-like creature one of the humans supposed (it) could be. Hell if we know. We were utterly baffled.
So we let the proper demographic target do our dirty work . . .
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Transcendence, he would have paid . . .
Transcendence would have made the $6 "dateflick" cut except that the niece wasn't all that impressed with the whole thing. Kind of like what her unca Cranky was thinking, too.
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