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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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Gregory VII: The 10th century and the first half of the 11th were dark days for the Church, partly because the papacy was the pawn of various Roman families. In 1049, things began to change when Pope Leo IX, a reformer, was elected. He brought a young monk named Hildebrand to Rome as his counselor and special representative on important missions. He was to become Gregory VII. 
<p>Three evils plagued the Church then: simony (the buying and selling of sacred offices and things), the unlawful marriage of the clergy and lay investiture (kings and nobles controlling the appointment of Church officials). To all of these Hildebrand directed his reformer’s attention, first as counselor to the popes and later (1073-1085) as pope himself. </p><p>Gregory’s papal letters stress the role of bishop of Rome as the vicar of Christ and the visible center of unity in the Church. He is well known for his long dispute with Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV over who should control the selection of bishops and abbots. </p><p>Gregory fiercely resisted any attack on the liberty of the Church. For this he suffered and finally died in exile. He said, “I have loved justice and hated iniquity; therefore I die in exile.” Thirty years later the Church finally won its struggle against lay investiture.</p> American Catholic Blog In Christ, true God and true man, our humanity was taken to God. Christ opened the path to us. If we entrust our life to him, if we let ourselves be guided by him, we are certain to be in safe hands, in the hands of our Savior.

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