Technology is everywhere; we all know it. Some of us can see the dangers of what does to our society. Even Wally Pfister, longtime cinematographer and now director of the upcoming film “Transcendence” sees the harm that it can cause to the world we live in.
In a question-and-answer call between Pfister and The Fairfield Mirror and other universities in the area on Sunday, Pfister touched on the contradiction that he is a man whose life is surrounded by technology, but he still struggles with his phone’s need to update and technology in general.
It’s this that inspired him to take on his directorial debut with a film as complex and technologically driven as “Transcendence.”
“Transcendence,” which opens everywhere on April 18, tells the story of Dr. Will Caster (played by Johnny Depp), a man who is the very top researcher and developer in the Artificial Intelligence field. His thirst for knowledge leads him to build a sentient machine that “combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known with the full range of human emotions,” according to Warner Brothers’ press release for the film.
As one could imagine, Caster is not a cut-and-dry character. As his body deteriorates, he decides to take the chance and upload his consciousness to the machine. As the machine allows for his knowledge to grow, so too does his thirst for power. Nobody is what you expect them to be, and part of the joy in watching the film unfold is not really knowing characters’ intentions or actions.
Pfister took a second to think when I asked if he thought people would use this machine if it were available to the public. Pfister said that he wouldn’t know what to do with his consciousness if he uploaded it to a machine and that it wouldn’t really serve a purpose for him. It really only stood a purpose for a man like Castor.
For Pfister, although there is an underlying message in the film about the danger that technology has in a society, the message does not come from him.
“I think that the ‘message’ in a film should not come from the director, it should come from the characters,” Pfister said.
Separating his feelings from his work was not a hard task for Pfister, who previously never had to worry about it in his work as a cinematographer.
Pfister is an accomplished cinematographer who might be best known for his work with Christopher Nolan on the “Dark Knight,” trilogy. Through the years of working together on set, Pfister saw many similarities and differences between how he and Nolan would run their sets.
“Christopher Nolan runs a really strict set. If call time is 7:00 if you show up 5 minutes before 7, you’re late,” Pfister said.
His relationships and time spent on the set of the “Dark Knight” trilogy also turned out to be beneficial for Pfister in his directorial debut. Morgan Freeman, who plays Joseph Tagger in “Transcendence,” also plays Lucius Fox in all three of the “Dark Knight” films.
Cillian Murphy, who plays Donald Buchanan in “Transcendence,” played the Scarecrow in the “Dark Knight” films as well as Robert Michael Fischer in “Inception,” another film that Pfister filmed and Nolan directed.
Rebecca Hall, who plays Depp’s wife in the film also starred in “The Presitge,” which, you guessed it, Pfister filmed and Nolan directed.
Not only did he have a cast he was familiar with on set, Pfister noted that it was also a remarkably star-studded cast for someone to have on their first go around as a director. Joining Murphy, Freeman, Hall, and Depp is Kate Mara, known for role on “House of Cards,” Cole Hauser, who played Roma in “Olympus Has Fallen” and Paul Bettany, who played Silas in “The Da Vinci Code.”
If Pfister can continue making thought-provoking and visually appealing films like “Transcendence,” it is not beyond belief that he could someday have the directorial prowess similar to his friend Nolan.
Check out “Transcendence,” when it opens across America on April 18.