Transcendence confused me. The questions the film explores has confused all the greatest thinkers. What is it to be a sentient being? What is consciousness? What separates the living from mere machine?
There’s no quick and easy answer to these questions, but on the surface Transcendence would seem to be arguing that though there may be a fine line between what separates man and machine, there is a line. To cross it is a bad thing. Or maybe not.
While the story does flop back and forth between the different sides, ultimately leaving the viewer to answer, that’s not the really confusing part. The story’s internal logic is what’s confusing. Like any number of bad sci fi stories, Transcendence paints itself into a wall very quickly with the awesome power it unleashes. Then, without any realistic way to get itself out of the jam, it makes for the cool special effects and hopes the audience isn’t paying attention to it’s sleight-of-hand trick.
Actually, there’s very easy way it could have avoided all the problems, not have them happen. Even the thickest village idiot knows not to go into the cellar to investigate weird sounds with only the aid of a lighter to illuminate the way. So, too, Dr. Will Caster, the smartest man in the history of forever, would have known what he was doing would end horribly. Yet, like every dumb-ass teenager in every horror movie, back into the darkness he goes.
As for the special effects, they fail their own logic, too. Namely, if something is completely fixed, healed, built, whatever, by some amazing technological advance, if said technology is shut down the things altered (fixed, healed, built) don’t revert back to their previous state. If something is physically changed, replaced, enhanced, that’s it. Case closed. Case in point (mild, but not really a spoiler): a blind man, from birth, is healed. As soon as the nanotechnology gets shutdown back to darkness.
Ultimately, my biggest gripe is Johnny Depp and Morgan Freeman should have known better. Or maybe I’m expecting too much from them. Depp does have a personal island he has to finance. That can’t be cheap. Freeman is in everything that Samuel L. Jackson isn’t, and as Jackson was working on Captain America… Eh. Whatever.
In the end Transcendence is what it is, which isn’t much.