Dr. Will Caster wants to change the world with technology, but he can only run at the speed his society allows. But when he is fatally wounded by an ecological terrorist and realizes he’s going to die, he transfers his consciousness into a computer. With the help of his wife Dr. Evelyn Caster, he is able to connect himself to the internet…and suddenly he is everywhere. He is able to access all the resources necessary to pursue his lifelong dream— to change the world.
Subsequently he is able to build a vast underground computer facility with advanced nanotech medical equipment capable of restoring organs, limbs, curing blindness. And as news of his facility spreads, crippled, blind, and diseased patients start to come by the busload— and Caster and his team and their equipment are literally able to produce miracles.
The same ecological terrorists who shot him are now trying to hunt him and his facility down and turn him off. Their thinking is that any “man” capable of controlling the entire internet is eminently dangerous. And his use of high tech is so invasive it is scary. For instance, he saves the life of a mortally wounded employee, raising him from the dead, implanting into his brain an interface which allows him to be control remotely. But the man is not exactly a zombie, he is a more a “superhuman”, a person who can actually be driven and manipulated like a “vehicle”. When Caster steers this resurrected man to meet Evelyn, and Caster speaks through him— “Evelyn, it’s me,” she recoils in horror. She’s unable to make the leap of faith required to understand how her dead husband— whose mind and soul is now formatted to inhabit the Web and anything connected to the Web— is desperately trying to assure her that he is very much alive, and that he’s trying to fulfil their mutual goal of transforming the world.
And the audience is slowly led to believe what the terrorists are insinuating. The Caster’s best friend, Max Waters, (played by Paul Bettany), and Evelyn’s old friend, FBI agent Joseph Tagger (played by Morgan Freeman), both warn Evelyn that the artificial intelligence masquerading as Will
Caster is not Will Caster. As the action escalates, we are convinced that this is the case.
But the film is much deeper than that. I had to watch it four times to finally pick up on a line at the end which convinces me the film is a tour de force. I’m not going to spoil the film by going into more detail. But I am going to raise the issue which the film raises in order to make my analogy.
My analogy turns on the conflict which the film raises. If a man had the power to change the world and started to do it, wouldn’t you think he’d be welcomed with open arms and encouraged? Especially if he genuinely started to heal diseases and restore the blind and the crippled— for free, no less— especially if he showed his power to do good? You would think he would be a hero. But there is strange paranoia in us all that makes us fearful of change and suspicious of those wielding unusual powers… as is the case of Will Caster, whose best friends and even his wife began to regard him with fear and suspicion…and even we in the audience are drawn into their duplicity to the point where we are convinced he is a monster.
Maybe I’m a hopeless romantic or an incurable optimist, but I know the kind of movies Johnny Depp has been making (and don’t tell me actors don’t get to choose heir roles) and I remember the amazing job he did with Finding Neverland (the story of the man who wrote Peter Pan) and I’m certain that Transcendence was designed to send the kind of poignant message Depp is fond of delivering.
My point? Even if a man was the creator God himself, and even if he came to Earth in the form of a man and did amazing miracles and wanted people to accept him for who he was, (ie. the ultimate saviour of the world)— because of the fear and paranoia intrinsic with human nature, it’s obvious that people would suspect his motives. (Why would a man do good and heal people and raise the dead…what’s he after, anyway?). Transcendence is the story of a man very much like Jesus Christ who genuinely came to change the world and save everybody— but who in the end was betrayed by his friends and killed by his enemies.
Question: what IF somebody genuinely cared for the whole human race— the whole incorrigible scruffy bunch of us— and had the means, the power, and the plan to turn the world into a paradise, would we let him?
 tour de force ˌto͝or də ˈfôrs/ noun / an impressive performance or achievement that has been accomplished or managed with great skill. “his novel is a tour de force”synonyms: triumph, masterpiece, achievement, success, masterful performance, magnum opus