The Machine Is The Perfect Remedy For Johnny Depp's Transcendence
If you were disappointed after watching Johnny Depp in Transcendence this weekend, you're not alone. After just a few days in theaters, Wally Pfister's directorial debut is already being touted as one of Depp's biggest ever box-office flops, receiving scathing reviews in the process. However, if you're still hungering for some A.I-centric drama, a British production by the name of 'The Machine' could be the perfect remedy for that bad taste left in your mouth by the Depp and co.
Written and directed by Caradog W. James, The Machine is a thought-provoking, fast-paced drama set in a near-future blighted by a cold-war with China. To overcome the economic struggles that plague the Western world, the development of intelligent machines has become a global fascination. Dr. Vincent McCarthy (Toby Stephens) is one of the leading experts in the field of artificial intelligence, and his work for the UK's Ministry of Defence sees him struggling to develop the truly self-aware machine his employers desire. Seemingly on the cusp of a landmark achievement, McCarthy enlists the help of fellow programmer Ava (Caity Lotz) to help develop an A.I capable of beating the fabled Turing test. With Ava's influence, the team come closer to their goal than ever before, but when Ava is fatally injured, McCarthy has a chance to take his project to the next level.
With McCarthy succeeding in developing a super-powered, self-aware A.I, he soon becomes aware that his creation may cause more problems than it solves. What unfolds is part love-story, part political thriller, and 100% small-scale science fiction at its best. James's story asks all the questions you want answered in a movie about technological singularity, but it never gets too bogged down in speculation, keeping an entertaining pace throughout. Lotz's dual roles of Ava and 'The Machine' do much to highlight the potential innocence an A.I might possess while also showing up the many flaws of human nature.
This uncomplicated approach is exactly where Transcendence seemed to fall down. After setting a solid foundation, Jack Paglen's scripped became messy, losing track of the real issues it set out to address. The whole production seemed too intent on creating a movie on a grand scale, which when you have a premise as interesting as singularity, is wholly unnecessary. In contrast, the small, but well spent budget of The Machine ensured that James and his cast deliver a simple yet effective and entertaining message.
Of course, it is unfair to talk about one movie purely in the context of another, and though a lack of blockbuster action may disappoint many sci-fi fans, The Machine has plenty to entertain even the most demanding science fiction fan. Indeed, in an age where big budget science fiction is undergoing a renaissance of sorts, lo-fi productions should and will generate a great deal of excitement, especially when they are as visual and cerebral as The Machine is. This being said, The Machine is by no means perfect. It too struggles towards its ending and, while the simple premise and setting is refreshing to many, others may crave a bit more complexity.
James's production has won a lot of praise on the festival circuit, and last week it received the honor of screening at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival. Next up is limited release in theaters across North America this weekend, but for those wanting to watch it now, you can rent it or buy it on Amazon Instant.