Monday, April 28, 2014

Transcendence Movie Review

Last Saturday I saw the movie Transcendence ( It's gotten mixed reviews on how good or not good it was as a movie, but two elements of the plot really intrigued me, and I think that alone makes it worth seeing (I'm not enough of an artist to say if it's a good movie from a filmography standpoint, or enough of a writer to say if the plot is predictable or not).

Some minor spoilers will appear below.

1. The RIFT Terrorists
One of the things I really loved about this movie was that there was no "one good guy" or "one bad guy". Everyone was just human, with understandable fears and motives. The RIFT group had a really great point - a really strong AI, while it would mean a lot of very exciting things for technology, would also be somewhat terrifying. Preventing that AI from getting online and from taking over the world is an understandable motive. Doing it by killing tons of people (note in the trailer he says, "they hit AI labs all over the world") is not so good, but terrorists use death and bombs to make points. For the first time EVER, I sort of understood the point they were trying to make. People weren't listening to them about the dangers of the AI, so they made their voices louder. In a terrible, violent way, but they were louder.

2. The Fear of Death
The main premise of the movie is that Will, a famous AI professor (played by Johnny Depp) is dying from radiation poisoning (from RIFT). His wife, Evelyn, comes up with the idea to combine two kinds of AI research to protect his consciousness. She scans his brain and loads it into PINN (Physically Independent Neural Network). You can see all this in the trailer - and my especially favorite part is when the AI imitates his face and she tears up touching him. She's so afraid of her husband dying, and wants to be together with him forever - so she does questionable things with technology to save him. I thought this was interesting. In our last Bible Study, we read about how, when King David's child died (in 2 Samuel 12:23) he said "I will go to him, but he will not return to me". For believers, this is the hope and comfort after death - that you will see that person again and they are rejoicing with Christ. But for this movie, it was the exact opposite - Evelyn needed Will to come back to her, instead of hoping that she could go to be with him. There was no hope of life after death for them, so she had to find a creepy way to resurrect her husband.

3. Nano-Technology
In the trailer, they show a small part of the nano-tech: a computer arm goes into a dead plant and it is revived. The solar panels are able to re-build themselves (also in the trailer), and ultimately, we're led to believe that Will and Evelyn are somehow together at the end through the power of nano-technology (although that's more like the Inception spinning top - it's up for debate). I thought the nano-tech was amazing, but then I thought about the implications of never dying, and (this part confused me) the nano tech was some how connected to the AI. This was the one part of the movie that I didn't understand, but would love to learn more about and think more about!

So, I would say I was pleasantly surprised by how much I actually enjoyed Transcendence.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Why I didn't like "Captain America: The Winter Soldier"

First of all, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a great movie. It was fun to watch. Don't take this as me saying it wasn't a good super hero movie, and, from what I hear, better than the first Captain America movie.

OK so now why I didn't like it (contains spoilers, FYI):
1. Throw any kind of science out the window when considering this movie
They have a bird-man. Falcon, as he is called, is a retired air force "flyer" who has mechanical bird wings. Biological research into birds and physics knowledge of gravity etc. have shown this to be impossible. Also, they have the brain of a dead German scientist stored on 1950s computer technology. We can't do that now, on today's technology (we do have Watson, but he doesn't have a personality/memories like this computer did). Also Captain America's shield can dent cars and cut into metal and break bullet proof glass, but doesn't hurt his hands when he catches it midair. I can totally understand some super hero things just happen, but no one, not even Captain America, is indestructible.

2. Throw any knowledge about how anything in the government works out the window
That bird man I mentioned? He has classified documents just sitting around in his apartment, and the government knows he has them and doesn't come after him. Also an armored car can make secure phone calls? Also directors can voice over-ride anything? (that's WAY unsafe, I just saw a presentation on how bad voice recognition actually is at securing things).

3. Death has no meaning
Nick Fury dies in front of our eyes. We watch the doctor declare his time of death and see Black Widow standing over his dead body. He gives Capt. America a final mission before his death - oh wait, no, just kidding. He's not dead. He's conveniently alive, having faked his own death with the help of Agent Hill (the lovely Colbie Smoulders!!) Also, we WATCH Agent Hill give the computer command to destroy the helipad that Capt. America is on - and yet he survives that to have a final showdown with the Winter Soldier. Who throws him in the ocean. Only for him to survive that and get dragged (bleeding) onto a beach, where he should have died but doesn't. Also Black Widow activates the armed bio-pin on her chest (that killed all other council members) and yet doesn't die. My good friend Bethanie pointed out that movies and TV shows are becoming like cartoon shows - her example is Tom and Jerry, the cat and mouse show. Tom and Jerry mutilate and kill each other over and over, only to pop up again and pull another funny prank. Death means nothing for them, and means nothing in this movie.

4. It's OK to torture mentally ill people to turn them into weapons
The Winter Soldier is a military prisoner from WWII who, like Capt. America, was frozen to keep him young. However, unlike Captain America, he has been genetically engineered to be a killing machine. His brain has been "wiped' multiple times through electro-shock therapy, which has made him slightly insane. At the end of the film, there's a teaser sequence for the future with two teenagers locked in cages. They have super powers (that they seem to have been born with) and are also being tortured and oppressed. Not OK. Even in a false universe where being mentally unstable might mean super powers, treating them like something less than human made my skin crawl.

5. Hail Hydra
I can't describe how creepy I found the whole Hydra thing to be. It was one thing when it was Nazi Germany, but to update it to modern day and have the governing secretary of defense be a part of it was too much for me. That was a terrible time in our global history, and to make light of it gives me the creeps. The memes going around the internet of various popular characters saying "Hail Hydra" scare me, because people seem to be de-sensitizing themselves to that part of history. I know none of the people joking about it would say they are de-sensitizing themselves, but they are. I drive by the Holocaust memorial all the time, and I just can't bring myself to find that saying at all funny.

So that's why I didn't like Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I needed to just dump all that feeling onto a page (I saw it late last night). It won't make sense if you didn't see the movie and still might not make sense if you have, but the negative emotions are there. I don't usually go for the "PluggedIn" reviews, but the conclusion to this one is good and sums up some of what  I am feeling, though not all of it: