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Behind the Making of ‘Transcendence’

The controversial Artificial Intelligence versus human intelligence debate is on full display in the new sci-fi feature film, "Transcendence."

The controversial Artificial Intelligence versus human intelligence debate is on full display in the new sci-fi feature film, Transcendence, starring Morgan Freeman, Johnny Depp, and Rebecca Hall.

Dr. Will Caster (Depp) plays a highly touted, world renowned science researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence and has dedicated the majority of his life to the advancement and creation of an all-powerful machine that is hyper-intelligent as well as sentient, self-aware and equipped with a full range of human emotions—an unprecedented achievement. Dr. Caster’s technological feats, while enormous in stride, also make him a top target for anti-Artificial Intelligence extremists who go to severe lengths to destroy him, his colleagues and their work in the sphere of science in hopes of preserving humanity.

In true dramatic form, Will, his wife Evelyn (Hall) and best friend Max Waters (Paul Bettany) are propelled into a whirlwind of danger when they are forced to save Will’s life by “uploading” him online, making him the first ever human participant in his own transcendence. Initially successful in this state, Will’s appetite for knowledge and power expands at a terrifyingly exponential rate and his wife and colleagues are faced with the grim task of containing him.

At a press conference for the film hosted at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons in Los Angeles, Bettany explained during his research at the California Institute of Technology for the role of his character Max, he learned that society might not be that far off from the extreme form of Artificial Intelligence depicted in the film. One professor told him that society is “30 years away from being able to upload a human consciousness, feelings and thoughts in detail” on to a computer.

“There is to me the question of the chemistry of life itself that doesn’t seem to be considered in this whole equation,” said Freeman, who plays researcher Joseph Tagger in the film. “You talk about looking into the eyes of a beautiful woman and falling in love. What happens if you’re uploaded? You no longer have the chemistry of life, you have something else. What do you have?”

Motifs of morality, humanity and love are abundant in one of the most intellectually stimulating and aesthetically pleasing films that we’ve seen so far this year thanks in huge part to first time screenwriter Jack Paglen and Oscar-winning cinematographer Wally Pfister in his major directorial debut.

Transcendence hits theaters on Friday, April 18.

About Marissa Wallace

Marissa Wallace

Marissa Wallace is a Los Angeles-based freelance journalist who delves into the multifaceted and rich fabric of Black arts and culture. Follow her happenings on Twitter @MarsWall_ for more.