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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Transcendence

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall and Paul Bettany star in a scene from the movie "Transcendence."
Despite its lofty title, the muddled sci-fi drama "Transcendence" (Warner Bros.) sinks rather than rises.

Among the burdens weighing it down are a host of misguided notions—either embedded in the action or expressed in the dialogue—that might be menacing to the impressionable if they were any more coherent.

Consider the premise on which the whole film rests: Fatally wounded in an assassination bid by a band of Luddite extremists called RIFT (Revolutionary Independence From Technology), Will Caster (Johnny Depp), the world's leading expert on artificial intelligence, manages to upload his entire consciousness to a super-computer before dying.

Will is aided in this project by his devoted wife and respected colleague, Evelyn (Rebecca Hall), as well as by his best friend, Max Waters (Paul Bettany), another esteemed tech guru.

Max begins to have his doubts about the wisdom of what they've done soon after the transfer is complete. But Evelyn is a true believer, grateful that Will survives, if only through his voice and as an image on the screen.

The next step is for cyber-Will to go online and acquire all the factual knowledge available throughout the Internet. His head thus swelled, however—physically deceased but intellectually flourishing—Will begins to veer between benevolence and megalomania.

Since Will's murder was part of a larger conspiracy that claimed several other victims, the FBI is on the case in the person of Agent Buchanan (Cillian Murphy). Buchanan teams with another of Will's pals, outstanding researcher Joseph Tagger (Morgan Freeman), to hunt RIFT and its leader, disenchanted lab assistant Bree (Kate Mara).

Once the threat to society's future posed by Will's outsized ambition becomes apparent, though, Buchanan and Tagger begin to wonder whom they should really be trying to stop.

Philosophical confusion reigns in director Wally Pfister's meandering movie, beginning with the implicit idea that all human mental functions are purely physical and ending with virtual reality somehow permeating the world of nature. And there's a dollop of irreverently expressed disbelief in the divine to go along with all the other off-kilter concepts.

Early on, an as-yet-unfelled Will is seen giving a lecture to a generally rapt audience. But question time finds him challenged by a RIFT type who's also obviously meant to come across as some kind of religious fanatic. When the latter asks if he isn't trying to create his own God by imparting self-awareness to computers, Will answers smugly: "Isn't that what man has always done?"

Still, mature viewers are likely to be too bored by the slack proceedings to be much misled by the fast-and-loose—or downright nutty—concepts underlying them.

The film contains complex themes, including atheism, some violence and gore, a brief nongraphic marital bedroom scene as well as a couple of uses of profanity and of crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.





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Sharbel Makhluf: Although this saint never traveled far from the Lebanese village of Beka-Kafra, where he was born, his influence has spread widely. 
<p>Joseph Zaroun Makluf was raised by an uncle because his father, a mule driver, died when Joseph was only three. At the age of 23, Joseph joined the Monastery of St. Maron at Annaya, Lebanon, and took the name Sharbel in honor of a second-century martyr. He professed his final vows in 1853 and was ordained six years later. </p><p>Following the example of the fifth-century St. Maron, Sharbel lived as a hermit from 1875 until his death. His reputation for holiness prompted people to seek him to receive a blessing and to be remembered in his prayers. He followed a strict fast and was very devoted to the Blessed Sacrament. When his superiors occasionally asked him to administer the sacraments to nearby villages, Sharbel did so gladly. </p><p>He died in the late afternoon on Christmas Eve. Christians and non-Christians soon made his tomb a place of pilgrimage and of cures. Pope Paul VI beatified him in 1965 and canonized him 12 years later.</p> American Catholic Blog Bluntly put, children are amateur and immature observers. In the short term, they aren’t always attracted to even the best of examples. Only as they move beyond childhood do they come to fully appreciate and emulate their parents’ ways. Much of good parenting doesn’t make its mark until years later.

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