I've been not paying a ton of attention to the marketing of Transcendence, so much of what Warner Bros showed at CinemaCon today was a huge surprise to me. Maybe it is to you as well.
The footage seemed to sketch the arc of the film: Johnny Depp's AI scientist is preparing to turn on a world-changing computer intelligence when he gets shot by an anarchist involved in an anti-technology group. The bullet doesn't kill him right away, but doctors say he only has weeks to live. Depp's wife, played by Rebecca Hall, comes up with the idea of uploading his brainwaves into the supercomputer he has been building - the only way, she believes, of saving him.
But as colleague Paul Bettany warns her, it's a mistake. If one memory is missing, if one piece of the personality doesn't make the transfer, he'll be a different man. And that becomes apparent as, soon after waking up in his new computer body, Depp starts demanding access to more power and more information.
It seems to snowball from there. From what I could tell the new AI creates nanites that he spreads into the environment, allowing him to exist in the air, the earth and the water. And with all of the computing power at his command - more than the combined intelligence of every human who ever lived - he quickly accomplishes things that seem like miracles. We see him operating on - and reviving - a dead man. But more than reviving him, the dead man is amplified, and a voice over tells us Depp is building an army.
An army of zombies? That's certainly how it seemed, and the one guy he resurrected appeared to be very fast and very strong. We also see trees growing at Depp's command, and it appears that he even creates a whole new body for himself (that still looks like Johnny Depp, because why would he want to look like anyone else?).
The second half of the footage got pretty weird, with the zombies and the sponaneous creation of matter (seemingly from nanites) and lots of explosions and a showdown at solar energy farm. The film gets much more physical than I would have guessed from the early synopses and the teaser. It looks way pulpier than I thought. Hopefully the descent into physicality doesn't make this curious film less interesting.