A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Transcendence stars Johnny Depp as Dr. Will Caster, a brilliant researcher in the field of artificial intelligence who's shot by a band of anti-technology extremists and finds another life within an experimental supercomputer. As the scientist's mind expands into new frontiers, he starts to devise new ways to cure diseases and heal the environment ... but he also pursues his own less-altruistic agenda. This is pretty intense, brooding end-of-the-world material, which is too much for younger viewers. Expect explosions, gunfire, and other action sequences, as well as infrequent swearing (including "s--t"), a little kissing, and a few bar scenes with adults drinking.
What's the story?
Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp), the world's preeminent expert on artificial intelligence, is attacked by a band of anti-technology extremists, leaving him close to death. His research partner/wife, Evelyn (Rebecca Hall), realizes that she and their brilliant scientist friend (Paul Bettany) can save Will -- or at least his mind -- by transferring his consciousness into a powerful experimental computer. The scientist quickly becomes intertwined with the Internet, giving him access to every electronic system on Earth, and is soon developing stunning breakthroughs that promise to change the planet for the better. But Will has other goals as well, and his growing power makes him a threat to anyone in his way.
Is it any good?
TRANSCENDENCE is ambitious, with an interesting premise, making for an engrossing cinematic experience. But, just like the supercomputer at the center of its plot, it feels at a slight remove. Yes, the cinematography is impressive and the actors are talented, but it doesn't fail to remind you at every turn that it's epic -- to the point of pomposity.
Still, the film asks some very compelling questions: At what point does human interest in artificial intelligence cross the line? How far do we want science to go? Are there any downsides to our yearning to create a "sentient machine"? The movie addresses all of these somewhat, but only on the surface. It's got too much on its plate -- special effects, dystopian plot, Depp -- to pay close attention to other themes it raises: love, death, immortality. Perhaps if it had allowed some of its more intimate moments to linger, Transcendence would actually be transcendent.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Transcendence's messages about technology. Is this a cautionary tale? Do you think anything like this would ever be possible in real life?
Is that really Will in the computer? How is he like a human, and how is he not?
What do you think about the relationship between Evelyn and her virtual husband? How do her feelings change toward Will, and how does his digital consciousness react?
- In theaters: April 18, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: July 22, 2014
- Cast: Johnny Depp, Kate Mara, Morgan Freeman
- Director: Wally Pfister
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Run time: 119 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sci-fi action and violence, some bloody images, brief strong language and sensuality
For kids who love sci-fi
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.