Tag Archives: fear

How/Why “Transcendence” is a good film

“…of course there are people who say that progress is dangerous…” IRON MAN 3

I put a truncated version of this on Forbes.com…I don’t like that I had to leave out things like Kata Mara’s awesome role as head of RIFT (her story about the monkey was quite compelling) …there’s some spoilers in here but I tried to keep it subtle…

 

SIDE A: AGREE “TRANSCENDENCE” COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER


[1] The “be scared of technology” theme is a personal favorite of mine and The Lawnmower Man was one of the most exciting movies I snuck into back when I was however old I was when it was in the theatre. All that I have to say about the connection to the Stephen King short story is that there is none except for the “Birdbath.” SO. “Transcendence” picks up where Lawnmower Man – should have mentioned that was also an underrated movie – left off but it didn’t stick with how society would react to such an advance in technology except for the heavy handed dialogue, “people won’t understand at first; they’ll be afraid”…which wasn’t bad, just executed with some “mmmm” obviousness. I don’t think it was Depp’s performance that hurt this movie.


[2] I didn’t like that it took so long to get Johnny Depp ‘digitalized’…the love story and friendships (ties to ‘being human’) could have been laid out faster

[3] I feel like Rebecca Hall was the real star of this movie and didn’t get enough credit, enough praise and the cut that showed in the theatre – hoping for an extended unrated cut on blu-ray – definitely didn’t have room for her to really flex her ability as an actor, even though she was onscreen a lot. I’ve seen her in a few films and I know she has an edge; one that is a perfect blade for this film but she was kinda reduced to an obvious ‘anchor’ for Depp (an overly-over-the-top half of the love story) but I must say that the scene where Paul Bettany finds their bodies was a bad ass poignant moment…definitely felt the throat tighten up a bit. Probably the most “Pfister-via-Nolan” image from the whole movie


[4] Pfister was Director of Photography for Christopher Nolan’s films, making them visual feasts (that tilting hallway fight with Joseph Gordon-Levitt from Inception; Heath Ledger taking of his mask in the opening sequence of The Dark Knight…) that left me wanting more. If what I’ve read is accurate, a big part of Nolan’s style is that he supervises all the footage that gets used – Pfister may have shot the stuff but Nolan was supervising. And that worked out Awesome. But here, I was disappointed with the lack of ‘whoa…!’ visuals…however, Pfister was no doubt occupied with handling all other duties that come with being a director – yet, this point does bother me


[5] Whoever said that “there are no original stories left” – well, that may or may not be true but a lot of my favorite movies found a cool way of mixing and matching story threads and characters I was familiar with in a way that was Cool. All the familiar elements were exactly that in this film.

[6] I would have absolutely injected more large-scale military action: if Depp has access/control over anything connected to a network? I would have used drones, tanks, satellites…RIFT would have been tracked and destroyed, behavior patterns would have been predicted and countered…

That being said…

SIDE B: “TRANSCENDENCE” WAS REALLY GOOD


[1] RIFT – anti-science-flat-earthers (perhaps modeled after the Right-To-Lifers who murdered Dr. Gunn)


[2] Showing the promise of advances in technology – especially Nanotechnology – and then flipping it with the ‘network’ aspect


[3] That moment where the repaired Martin first speaks as Depp…goosebumps and tightening of the jaw


[4] Cillian Murphy has been integral to several of my favorite films – “Sunshine” “Tron: Legacy” “The Dark Knight trilogy”…same goes here, he was great


[5] Morgan Freeman has a dignified air of his own and it was well placed and of the quality I have come to expect from him in this film


[6] Paul Bettany was great


[7] Rebecca Hall…she was razor sharp – one moment I will always remember is when she reads the note from Morgan Freeman’s character


[8] Kata Mara KATE MARA!!! Forget the question of “is she an antagonist or protagonist?”…she has a cause that she has total faith in and she is set in it. She and Depp are the same thing, just the opposite sides of each other. Her scene with Paul Bettany, about the monkey’s brain (nod to the Monkey’s Paw…?) was awesome. I hope to see more of her around. Also, I like her with blonde hair. (I don’t count American Horror Story; she’s better than that)

[9] Paul Bettany’s character arc


[10] The initial attacks against Castor’s ‘hive-nest’ even though they were predictably futile – they served their purpose well, delivering the promise of some large scale action sequences


[11] So much detail: Depp’s simulation of the sounds of knife and fork on plate, that Turing nod at the hotel, the love-is-blinding aspect of Hall’s character, “PINN”…that was almost as funny as the character named RAM in the original Tron


[12] Great attention to the differences and similarities of human and machine…a nearly invisible reminder of so many tech-quotes: () “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” () “The best way to predict the future is to create it”


[13] Wraparound to Hall’s idealized concept of technology being used to improve life as we know it; in Iron Man 3, she had a great moment when she talked with Gweneth Paltrow about Wernher von Braun’s rocket (“the rocket performed perfectly – it just landed on the wrong planet.”…would probably be appropriate to mention Einstein and Oppenheimer here as well

Three last thoughts:

-1- Endlessly amusing that Bettany voices Tony Stark’s AI, JARVIS…and if Age of Ultron plays out the way I think it will – well, it’s official that Bettany is not just doing voice work for Avengers 2, right?

-2- I have spoken with at least eight or nine people today who said they would wait until Transcendence is on blu-ray to check it out. I am not a film reviewer/critic but it’s difficult to put into words how much I wish this movie got more attention – and more Positive Attention

-3- Whether the opening weekend box office numbers are a reflection of poor marketing or the public’s fear of Artificial Intelligence and/or Nanotechnology, I believe this is a damn important film for people to see. I once said that when it comes time to educate kids about doing drugs, make them watch “Requiem for a Dream” … this is like that, only not nearly as grim and the point is awareness of tech

Do yourself – and potentially, all of us – a favor and See This Film.Image

Through the air trapped in the glass

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Life cycles and slows down and speeds up – until it doesn’t anymore. To think about dying is pretty much daydreaming. When it happens to someone close to you and their family, it hits something inside that simultaneously lets you know how far you’ve drifted from ‘reality’ and provides a path in that direction. Everything changes.

Cliches become truths. Light reveals more than it did before. The dark isn’t empty anymore, it’s teeming with truths that have been stripped and lacquered into directionless facts. There is nothing that can be said to make it any ‘better’…in fact, anything has the potential to prolong the process of processing what’s happened and what will happen next.

Fear of the dark is colder, closer and more horrifying because there IS a reason to be afraid of the dark. The most we can hope for is someone who will face it with us and be there for us whatever our reaction may be. For some, I think the darkness is a mirror, for others a window but whatever we see has already been within us for a while. Not all of us will have that someone but not all of us have this sickly awareness.

To be truly close to someone – it’s like Stannis Barratheon said: “hard truths cut both ways.” You want her to feel good not because it increases the likelihood of her reciprocating but because when she feels good, you feel good. And when she’s in pain, you are too. It seems like a rational thing, to strip life down to a series of facts but it isn’t like that, in my experience. No matter how deep you dig – or how far out you go – there is always more, just beyond reach.

Building “Blackline” (2 of 2)

The other element to the foundation of “Blackline” was Research. A mind melting quantity of it. All the tech was mind boggling for a guy who never finished high school, even though I was reading Stephen King in 2nd grade. School was just wasn’t my thing….but that’s for another time.

I owe many thanks to many many individuals and institutions…universities as far away as Oxford and as close as George Mason, private research divisions for which I had to sign papers to even get a potential return phone call let alone a meeting which may or may not have led to participation…

But I wanted to drop a few proverbial crumbs…
— BIOLOGICAL IMMORTALITY—
[] 1881 August Weismann proposes that worn out tissues (basically, aging) occur because cell division is finite and that is the primary cause of the decline in organ performance
[] 1921 Alexis Carrel – a Nobel Prize winning surgeon – argued that Weismann was wrong
[] 1965 Leonard Hayflick explains the ‘memory’ of frozen cells; one extrapolation from this argument became (in my opinion) the basis for what we now know as Cryonics…which plays a crucial role in “Blackline”
[] 1974 Macfarlane Burnett coins the term, “Hayflick Limit”….that each mitosis – division of cells – reduces the telomeres on the DNA of cells

So, that leads into the argument that the cells Carrel used were ‘young enough’ to contain pluripotent stem cells which, if supplied with a supporting Telomerase-activation nutrient, would have been capable of staving off replicative senescence – aging – or possibly, reversing it.

Those were a few of the key ingredients to the theory I used in “Blackline” so my characters – the privileged elite anyway – could achieve Biological Immortality. Bullets, disease and knives and getting blown up would still kill you but a Nanotech based formula could – COULD – slow the aging process. I called it “PDL7” … Ponce De Leon was the French dude looking for the fountain of youth. One of them anyway.

“Blackline” is absolutely an action-heavy series – and I wanted, above all, to put my characters through some rather horrific experiences which would – ideally – get the audience to ask themselves about the ethics of biotechnology we are starting to see emerge today. Forget drones and satellites. This is a LOT smaller and more insidious…and in my story, it forces my characters to evolve both emotionally and physically into entities that…well, it’ll be up to the audience to decide if they’re more or less human. Humanity as we know it today is obviously the ‘soapbox’ these questions are being hurled from but it isn’t who listens that matters…it’s what they do with it.

GAME OF THRONES; LORD VARYS: “the contents of a man’s letters are of far more value than the contents of his wallet.”

Is respect borne of fear ‘set’ to become resentment? Must such a conflict result in revolution?

Has our expanded awareness of ourselves as a species amounted to anything if we do nothing with it?

Last note: the ‘elevator pitch’ for “Blackline” is something like, “The Godfather II” meets “Ronin” in the world of “Blade Runner”…but there’s several love stories that are absolutely crucial to events moving forward and coalescing into the story’s progress.