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Will ‘Transcendence’ Cause You To Transcend? (And 24 Other Urgent Questions)

Transcendence questions
Warner Bros.

Right now, as you’re reading this, ‘Transcendence‘ is playing at a multiplex somewhere within driving distance of where you live. Johnny Depp (‘The Astronaut’s Wife’) stars as a man who becomes a computer – transcends, if you will – as he explores the limits (or lack of limits) of his newfound power. Here, we answer every question that you could possibly have about ‘Transcendence.’

Q: Does Johnny Depp star as Ronnie Transcendence?

A: No. Depp plays a famous artificial intelligence researcher named Will Caster.

Q: Wait, isn’t Will Caster a character in ‘Face/Off’?

A: No, you’re thinking of Castor Troy.

Q: In ‘Transcendence,’ was Will Caster born a computer? Was a C-section needed?

A: No. Will Caster was born as a human and becomes a computer during the course of the film.

Q: How does Will Caster become a computer?

A: He doesn’t so much become a computer as his mind is copied and stored inside a computer.

Q: Why is any of this done in the first place?

A: Will Caster studies controversial technology. A fringe domestic terrorist group, run by a woman named Bree (Kate Mara), assassinates Will with a radiation-laced bullet. Before Will dies, his brain is uploaded to a computer.

Q: What is so controversial about this technology?

A: Critics think that creating sentient artificial life is dangerous. That Will is “playing God.”

Q: But then Will gives his famous “I am God” speech.

A: That line of dialogue has nothing to do with ‘Transcendence.’

Q: Oh, wait, is this the man in the computer who shows up in ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier‘?

A: No. You’re thinking of Arnim Zola.

Q: (Hail Hydra?)

A: (Hail Hydra.)

Q: Is this one of those movies in which Johnny Depp is playing one of his trademark eccentric characters?

A: In ‘Transcendence,’ Johnny Depp is not playing an eccentric at all. Well, other than the fact he becomes a computer.

Q: Does Will Caster at least wear a crow on his head?

A: No. At least not during the narrative of this story.

Q: Who uploads Will into a computer?

A: Will is uploaded into a computer by his wife, Evelyn, played by Rebecca Hall (‘Iron Man 3‘) and his friend, Max, played by Paul Bettany (‘Wimbledon’).

Q: Once Will is a computer, does he offer a good assortment of gaming options?

A: Will is not really that kind of computer.

Q: Can he run TurboTax?

A: Well … probably.

Q: What kind of computer is Will?

A: Once Will becomes a sentient being as a computer, his goal becomes to amass more and more knowledge.

Q: So, this is a good thing!

A: Well, at first it’s nice. But, soon, Will starts doing some, let’s say, “ethically questionable acts” to achieve his goals.

Q: Like what?

A: As he grows stronger and stronger, Evelyn has less and less control over him.
Eventually, Will builds a compound in the desert, then develops a problematic habit of inserting robot parts into human beings and making them his slaves.

Q: Will kind of sounds like the computer at the end of ‘Superman III.’

A: I can only assume they are related somehow.

Q: Wait, is Johnny Depp barely in this movie?

A: That’s kind of a problem. After Will is shot, which is pretty early in the film, he’s mostly just seen on computer monitors.

Q: Aren’t Morgan Freeman and Cillian Murphy in this movie?

A: Yes.

Q: What do they do?

A: Not much. Actually, ‘Transcendence’ may have been wise to give Depp a non-computer role and let someone like Murphy become the computer — with the now somewhat creepy voice.

Q: Should I see ‘Transcendence’?

A: The biggest disappointment of ‘Transcendence’ is that it actually has some really interesting ideas. This could all happen some day! But, the problem is it’s presented in such a slapdash way. The conversations the characters have about the possibilities of this technology are far more interesting than seeing any of it in action.

Q: Can Johnny Depp’s character fix my terrible Wi-Fi speeds?

A: I don’t know. Probably. That’s not really the point, though.

Q: Is Johnny Depp’s character really good at those fun BuzzFeed quizzes?

A: Well, BuzzFeed seems to do more checklists now than quizzes, and it’s never specifically addressed, but it’s a safe assumption that he’s very good at them.

Q: If you’re going to be blurbed in this weekend’s commercials for ‘Transcendence,’ what do you think it will be?

A: “Transcendence will help you at BuzzFeed quizzes!” — Mike Ryan, ScreenCrush.com

Mike Ryan is the senior editor of ScreenCrush. You can contact him directly on Twitter.

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