Love Kills. Technology, That is.

| April 21, 2014

Transcendence EDITORIAL – Although I’ll admit Transcendence is trying a bit hard to be labeled existential, I definitely won’t regret seeing it but, if you’re heading to the theaters this week, there are several things you should consider. This film is concentrating on its own intelligence in so many ways it fails to provide the viewer any emotional connection, and instead provides him or her with a detailed lesson in neuropsychology. Relax, there is no test at the end of the movie, but it does mean the film is severely lacking in building its characters–Why is Evelyn Caster so co-dependent? Because it’s really creeping us out. Why is Max so in love with her? Is there a college fling we aren’t told about? And what, exactly, was the climax? (Besides when Evelyn became a four year old screaming, “You’re not allowed!” at her iRobot-esque husband). Ironically enough, this film which is meant to discuss artificial intelligence, is instead side-swept by a main storyline of a true love, and the two are not only compared and contrasted, but by the end of the film, the viewer may not be sure which they believe in more, or less.

Reminiscent of a child with an imaginary friend as well as some aspects of the plot of 1984, Evelyn Caster uploads her husband’s brain to the internet in order to speak with him after he has died. His face begins to appear on her wall and he is with her nonstop–how she gets his voice to sound the same without vocal chords I’ll never understand. Evelyn is able to, out of some form of love, help her husband transcend his death, and her own feelings of loss, by uploading his brain waves to the internet. However, for reasons you’ll have to see the movie to understand, this act of love in order to save one person (and help them transcend) is ironic because it ends up destroying the world’s technology as well as asks the viewer a string of introspective questions: If we are meant to connect with Evelyn Caster on this level, are we meant to tell ourselves that of course we would do anything to save those we love? Or are we meant to think of the love Evelyn has for her husband as a transcendental love? One which we do not possess the intelligence to understand. If for no other reason than the title of the movie, let’s bring the definition of transcendentalism into play.

Transcendentalism, which was influenced by romanticism and which combatted rationalism, came into being around 1836 and parallels the ideals of Transcendence (being influenced by romantics and combatting reality). You’ll probably recognize its key figures as the poets Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Transcendentalism states that “divinity pervades all nature and humanity,” as well as “the idea that, in order to understand the nature of reality, one must first examine and analyze the reasoning process that governs the nature of experience.” Let’s use these definitions to create one of our own for the type of love we are led to believe Evelyn and Will Caster share: transcendental love. We must ask, if we are set to examine the nature of love, what is the nature of the experience of love? This transcendental type of love would exceed the average experience people have when in love, but it also asks the question is there any type of average love or is all love different? If all love is average, one might ask how to transcend these feelings of sheer, stereotypical love which we see displayed in romantic comedies. On the other hand, if all love is different, one might ask if it is even possible to transcend love. Since we have not only never observed a controlled romantic experience (love, by definition, is unexplainable and uncontrollable) and since love can be experienced in a variety of fashions (obsessive, one-sided, destructible) it is hard to even begin to know how to transcend something which we don’t fully comprehend. There is no method to the madness as far as we can see, no matter what Cosmo tells us.

The definition of transcendence is to experience something more or better than the average human would experience it. This statement begs us to consider, “What is experience?” This query seems to be one of the entire premises on which this introspective movie is based. Each character is not only examining the ways in which his or her mind works, but why the mind works in this manner. However, along with all of their complicated technological advances, we still see some very basic emotions: love, or something like it, as well as desperation, imagination, and pain. Therefore, the goal of the main character, Evelyn Caster, becomes transcending these feelings of loss when her husband, Will Caster dies. The tragic flaws in the irony of these two tragic heroes become their demise. Although they are able to create, or transcend to an alternate world as scientists, they are unable to live there as humans. Therefore, either the intelligence which makes them a scientist must be discarded, or the emotion which makes them human must be.

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