6th: Transcendence

Transcendence is the directorial debut of cinematographer Wally Pfister, who normally works in collaboration with one of the great Hollywood directors, Christopher Nolan. This film presents the premise of the possibility of human beings being capable of having artificial intelligence. It stars Johnny Depp together with Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany and Morgan Freeman.

The Story

Dr. Will Caster is a scientist driven by curiosity about the nature of consciousness and the foremost researcher on the field of artificial intelligence. He works together with a team that includes his wife and fellow scientist, Evelyn. They are working to create a sentient machine that combines collective intelligence that is capable of human emotion as well. Unfortunately, their experiments have made them targets of anti-technology terrorists.

Transcendence, AI movieOne day, Will was shot with polonium that give him only one month to live. In the process, Evelyn and his fellow researcher, Dr. Max Waters made Will the catalyst that enabled them to succeed in their research as they were able to use Will as a participant in his own transcendence in their artificial intelligence project. Events follow as they face threats from the terrorists; Will manages to obtain omnipresence and power similar to God; and soon the morality issue as they question themselves as to whether continue with it or not.


The film has a very good cast, a cast almost straight out of the Christopher Nolan handbook, which we confess is a good thing. Johnny Depp finally plays a straightforward character, and we are treated to a strong performance. Paul Bettany and Morgan Freeman enhanced this work with their acting skills. Rebecca Hall is a fine actress, but her performance is not that strong and comes across as merely whiny.

Overall, Transcendence is a movie that is better than many critics have said and luckily, we did not find the film to be a travesty. Sure, there are some problems especially when it comes to the script as we feel there were way too many concepts and that made the script confusing and muddled at times.

But we feel the film is an eye-opener and these very same concepts could very well be reality in the near future. This film is a film about what happens when artificial intelligence fails and that makes for quite an interesting, mostly enjoyable film.

5th: Ghost in the Shell

It is the year 2029, cyborgs and AI are commonplace. Yet, the political and social scenario is similar to todays. There are cyborgs who have an artificial/technological body, human in appearance and brains made like human’s. They are physically and mentally more capable and can be plugged in to receive and analyze data. The story follows Major Motoko Kusanagi, a cyborg working for a national security agency, as she and her team pursue the puppet master a hacker of formidable ability who seems to be planning a crime concerning foreign affairs, thus involving other departments of the government.

Well Imagined Future

It is highly inaccurate to call this an action movie. Though it involves a national security agency it has very little “action”. The story unfolds like a well paced thriller but that is a very incomplete description. It is a movie for the patient. The scenes in the movie take their time but with good effect. The story and themes are very mature and intellectual but they are well explained. At the same time it is entertaining, not the fun kind but the sort that holds you in awe.

The future is well imagined and appears realistic and the cinematography is so creative exploiting the freedom provided by this medium. Layer after layer is added to the story and slowly a cyber-meta- physical aspect enters it staying in the background at first and becoming significant with time.

Philosophical Concern

Ghost in the Shell, AI movie

While the animation is of course top-notch, it tackles some philosophically heady material that sets it apart from what we’ve seen before. The primary philosophical concern is the nature of consciousness and what it means to be alive. In a world where artificial intelligence can exist independent of a physical form, would you consider it to be “living”?

That’s just one of the many thought-provoking questions the film asks, and attempts to answer. From the technical side of things, we thought the hand-drawn animation was absolutely spectacular and the world-building was amazing as well. There was so much attention to detail that it made this future seem believable. We also liked the score which struck the right tone, kind of a BLADE RUNNER-esque futuristic noir.

This movie hooks you to story of the future where scenarios similar to present day conditions are handled by advanced technologies but as the story progresses it digs deeper and deeper into the future. Overall, GHOST IN THE SHELL tells a fast-paced, intelligent story that has influenced science-fiction in so many ways.

4th: Artificial Intelligence: A.I.

Compelling, slow-paced, lengthy, intelligent, thoughtful, wise and occasionally profound. Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi drama is definitely not your average “crowd pleaser” and lost its way when released as a general Hollywood blockbuster, turning off the crowds who perhaps expected action and thrills instead of the leisurely paced, almost “art house” type film that Spielberg finally delivered. I’m not sure what I expected of this movie, having little knowledge about it beforehand, but I was desperately hoping it wouldn’t be a new-fangled E.T. again.

Unique Movie

At the end of the two hours and twenty minutes I came away with a lot of thoughts and a lot of questions, so Spielberg must have done something right. Of course, Kubrick’s beyond-the-grave involvement hangs over the movie like a watchful shadow and some sequences in the film are pure Kubrick.

Others are pure, emotional Spielberg (the sentimental ending, for instance) and the pairing of the two directors is one to be seen. It at least makes for a totally unique movie with big aspirations, and one which genuinely questions the nature of the robot/human relationship in a way few (if any) other science fiction films have done so.

Artificial Intelligence: A.I., AI moviesThe film has tons of themes and layers to it. A full analysis would come to twenty pages or more. Some will be picked up by the individual viewer, others missed until a later screening. The central character of David is utterly complex and his character arc is interesting – a blend of the futuristic and the fairy-tale that is pulled off well.

Worried about the casting of a child as the lead, I half-expected this to be a kid’s film with kiddie trappings. In some instances, it does feel a little childish (the image of the blue fairy, although representing much much more than just a fairy tale character – more like a miracle or an impossibility) and has that undeveloped Spielbergian touch to it. Ironically, the biggest kiddie trapping – the animated Teddy that follows David through his various adventures – became the most enjoyable part of the film for me. This has got to be the most lovable non-living creation in a film since we saw Wilson in CASTAWAY.

The film is more than watchable – despite lengthy scenes in which little happens – thanks to the technical proficiency and the casting. Technically, the film is superior. Spielberg pulls off some spectacular shots – an underwater Manhattan – and fills the movie with authentic robotic creations. The opening where the woman’s face comes off is astounding and Stan Winston and his pals create some of the best-looking CGI that I’ve ever seen.

Watch out for the arena-style thrills of the Flesh Fair, which is pretty disturbing and would garner an X-rating if the participants were human instead of mecha. The super-cool “aliens” which appear in the final act are also highly impressive creations.


Cast-wise, the film is sound. Haley Joel Osment is incredible as the robot kid and I don’t believe his performance could be bettered. He is thoroughly realistic as a robot struggling to be human. This is even better than his breakthrough performance in THE SIXTH SENSE. Frances O’Connor is also effective as the flawed mother, David’s object of fixation, and her presence adds to the warmth of the film considerably.

Other fixtures like Brendan Gleeson and William Hurt fill out smaller roles with adequacy, but it’s Jude Law who steals his scenes as the robotic Gigolo Joe. Law is fantastic and lives the character he plays. By the end of the film I had cried thanks to some spellbinding scenes of emotion and felt like I’d witnessed a great work. And that’s everything I have to say on the matter.

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