I think it’s always interesting to look at films in context. Looking at the time in which a film is made, what is its contemporary relevance? Is it saying something about the specific age it is made, a particular moment, or simply humanity in general?
Could a film — could Transcendence — have been made only at this time?
Well, in Transcendence‘s case, certainly not. We’ve had AI/rapidly advancing technology/technological apocalypse films many, many times before. But there does seem to be a certain sense of appropriateness to making it now, at a time when most people are increasingly reliant on handheld versions of what fifteen years ago would have been supercomputers. A time when technology is so poorly understood that serious politicians talk sincerely about filtering out the bad parts of the internet.
I recall when I saw Total Recall at the cinema. The remake, not the original. I remember emerging blinking into the day, and wondering what on earth I had just seen.
Despair of remakes is not new, either generally or me. I generally hold it as a badge of unoriginality, a symptom of the malaise afflicting the film industry wherein spinning out an old success once again as a certainty of money is more important and worthwhile than taking a risk on something new.
Enter, then, another 80s SF remake: Robocop. I’m late in the day seeing this, and honestly wouldn’t if the well of new releases had not run dry in the post-Oscars lull. The original was an important film, if a bit — well, a bit 80s. Remaking it isn’t encouraging, for the Total Recall reasons above, and yet there is something a little more timeless about the story of a robot policeman.