This past Friday, April 18, Wally Pfister’s directorial debut Transcendence was released in theatres across North America. Pfister, a cinematographer by heart, is most known for his work with Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises, Inception). Directing was something he always wanted to try out.
“I think what you’ll find in life is that everything you do contributes to later on,” Pfister says. His years as a cinematographer were great for eliminating the fear of being on set. He’s used to that. “One of the great things that I got out of all those years on big budget features as a cinematographer was to have it be a little less intimidating on getting on the set for the first time as a director. You’re a little more used to the craziness of a movie set.”
Transcendence stars Johnny Depp and finds the beloved heartthrob playing a man whose brain is placed into a supercomputer, with the aim being to create a computer that thinks for itself. What sets Transcendence apart from other artificial intelligence films is that it’s actually dealing with real intelligence within a computer.
“I think I can say without any spoilers, it’s actually a human mind that gets uploaded. So we’re talking about an actual human concsiousness living in this machine rather than something completely artificial,” Pfister says. “I think that that also sets off the emotional journey. The idea is to question whether in fact this machine is sentient, if it contains the actual soul of this person.”
Hey, it's 2014, we can all personally connect with technology - and Pfister is no exception.
“I guess I have a love/hate relationship with technology in general. I love my computer and my cell phone, and my iPad, but at the same time I’m not that crazy about giving out personal information on social media sites. I also get a little annoyed when my phone makes me upgrade to the new software quite frequently rather than just letting me use it as a telephone.”
But his futuristic dreams for the technological world aren’t about superhuman computers.
“I’d like to see technology reach the level in image capture that film is and look forward to a time where digital means are as simple and as effective as film is right now,” he says.
Once you’ve seen the film you can take whichever morals you please from it, but Pfister lays out the basics for you. “If we are going to be reliant on technology or dependent on technology, it’s good to know whose hands it’s in. And clearly if we’re talking about a benevolent character then we would hope that good things are going to be done with the technology and it’s going to be used for the betterment of mankind. And then also there’s the cautionary note of if it were in different hands.”
Technology is good, technology is bad. But movies, they’re always great. So watch for Transcendence in a theatre near you.