The idea of artificial intelligence is not a new concept in cinema. The science fiction premise was brought to the forefront by Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 classic “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and other successful A.I. films such as the 1980’s smash hit “The Terminator,” and the 2001, adeptly named success “A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” have made the idea of melding man with machine very intriguing.
The newest venture in this science-fiction sub-genre is “Transcendence,” a film being led by first time director Wally Pfister. Ionian staff writer Jon Stanko interviewed director Wally Pfister to get insight on his first movie ‘Transcendance.’ The movie revolves around Dr. Will Caster played by Johnny Depp, a leading researcher in the field of artificial intelligence; and it is he who claims to have unparalleled research in regards to a sentient machine that combines immeasurable knowledge with the complexity of human emotions. As one can easily assume, such a radical idea is a dangerous concept, and as a result, conflicts arise in “Transcendence” that bring both entertaining, and thought-provoking concepts.
Having been a cinematographer for the majority of his movie career until this point, Pfister decided to make his directorial debut with this film for a simple reason.
“I thought it (the screenplay) was very original….and I really sorta loved what Jack (Paglen) had created with these characters and their emotional journey,” said Pfister.
What makes “Transcendence” unique in the eyes of the long time cinematographer is that his film does not try to make a statement about technology. He acknowledges the dangers of it, but Pfister believes the audience will find that there are no true “bad guys” in his project who paint the evils of technology that one would assume.
“People look for statements, and people also look for good guys and bad guys, and there are no defined good guys or bad guys in this film. I suppose R.I.F.T (an organization in the movie) would be considered the bad guys, but at the same time I think we can relate to some of their frustrations,” he said.
“Transcendence” holds promise for its original take on the idea of the A.I., and also from the fact that Pfister has learned the art of directing from one of the best in the business. The Academy Award winning cinematographer is renowned for his work with Christopher Nolan, who’s best known for bringing “The Dark Knight” trilogy to light, along with the mind-bending dream journey “Inception.” The two friends have worked together for fourteen years, and each holds the other in high esteem.
“Chris and I have worked together for a long time, and clearly for a reason,” Pfister said. “We both have a great respect for each other. And we had a great work relationship, and I think we did fantastic work together…It’s tricky to find people you work with well in this business, and when you do you kinda create a partnership that you hope benefits each other.”
“Transcendence,” stars the likes of Depp, Morgan Freeman, Paul Bettany and Kata Mara; so it’s safe to say the cast is great, the idea is unique, and if Pfister has even a fraction of the directing talent as his friend Nolan does, this artificial intelligence based story can be one of the best science-fiction films of the year.