Five Interesting Facts About the 2014 Film "Transcendence"

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Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) is the foremost researcher in the field of artificial intelligence, working to create a sentient machine that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known with the full range of human emotions. His highly controversial experiments have made him famous, but they have also made him the prime target of anti-technology extremists who will do whatever it takes to stop him.
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.
April 22nd, 2014

Science fiction films have been capturing the hearts and minds of audiences for decades, and one of the most captivating themes is artificial intelligence. "Transcendence," a sci-fi drama released on April 18, 2014, explores this and other ideas in a mind-bending plot that keeps viewers guessing. When Dr. Will Caster is almost killed by anti-tech extremists, he uploads a copy of his consciousness onto a computer. Five fascinating facts about this groundbreaking film make it even more interesting to learn about its background.

The Film Was Directed by Christopher Nolan's Main Cinematographer

"Transcendence" is the directorial debut of Wally Pfister, the cinematographer who worked on numerous Christopher Nolan films such as "Inception" and "The Dark Knight" trilogy. When Nolan originally viewed the script, he opted out of the directorial role, believing that it would be the perfect opportunity for Pfister to make his debut. Nolan instead took the role of executive producer, and Pfister infused the film with his own creative cinematic style. The result is a visual masterpiece from mundane scenes in the laboratory to the heavy effects used when Caster is seeking more power. Audiences can expect the same breathtaking visuals that made "Inception" and other films so entrancing.

The Director Opted for Traditional Film Stock Over Digital Formats

Wally Pfister made the shocking decision of using traditional film stock, recording the entire movie on 35 millimeter film in anamorphic format. He forgoes the use of digital cameras, continuing his long-held advocacy for the traditional method of filming. Interestingly, before filming began, Pfister admitted that he was open to the use of digital recording even if it was not his personal preference. The cinematographer sees film stock as a dying aspect of cinematography, and many photo labs no longer process it. "Transcendence" was finished photochemically with no digital intermediate, but the result is still just as stunning as audiences have come to expect from modern films.

Christian Bale Was Originally Meant to Play the Lead

Before filming began, Pfister met with several actors for the lead role, including Christian Bale, Tobey Maguire and James McAvoy. Pfister's first choice for the role was Bale, who also starred in Nolan's "The Dark Knight" trilogy as Bruce Wayne. However, Johnny Depp landed the role when negotiations fell through with Bale. Depp entered into negotiations in October in 2012, and filming began in June of 2013. It was announced by The Hollywood Reporter that Depp would receive a whopping $20 million for the role. Johnny Depp may not have been Pfister's first choice, but his spot-on portrayal of the brilliant doctor does not disappoint.

Rebecca Hall Won the Role of Evelyn Over Stiff Competition

Kate Winslet turned down the lead female role due to conflicts in scheduling, and Noomi Rapace was also considered for the role. The final three choices were Rooney Mara, Emily Blunt and Rebecca Hall, and Hall eventually won out. Rebecca Hall, as well as a few other actors in the film, had previously worked with Pfister in several of Christopher Nolan's movies. She is best known for her roles in "The Prestige," "Iron Man 3" and "The Town," and she also has a history in theater.

The Film Is Based on the Idea of the Singularity

"Transcendence" takes time to explore questions and issues relating to the Singularity, the moment in the future during which technologies such as artificial intelligence are used to create an entity with power and knowledge greater than that of any human. The idea was popularized by futurist Ray Kurzweil, and screenwriter Jack Paglen used the idea of the Singularity to create the script. He was both inspired and assisted by his wife, a computer programmer in the field of AI. The Singularity has also inspired several other films over the years, such as "The Matrix" and "The Terminator," but none explores it more thoroughly than "Transcendence." The tough questions raised during the film also explore the idea of consciousness, as the characters try to figure out whether the computer copy of Will's mind is the real researcher or nothing more than advanced AI.

"Transcendence" goes where few films dare to go, exploring the limits of technology and human consciousness. Although the film has its moments of action, it is more of an intellectual drama than a sci-fi thriller. This format works well for the film, as it generates plenty of reflection and discussion among viewers. With talented actors and an outstanding director, "Transcendence" is sure to become a sci-fi favorite for years to come.