At first, when a supercomputer at MIT is installed with software that transforms it into a super-intelligent, independent thinking machine, it seems like nothing but good news. When that same computer starts independently tinkering with the internet, however, the government has it shut down before it gets any other ideas that could be potentially harmful.
Unbeknownst to the government, however, one of the developers of the software sent a copy to his friend Stephen (Keith Langsdale), who runs the artificial intelligence studies at nearby UMass. Inspired by his new friend, philosopher Jane Hurst (Cate Damon), Stephen and co-worker Alan (Jim Lobley) decide to clandestinely install the software on their own supercomputer, advising it not to call attention to itself, in the hopes that the computer, able to process far more data in a fraction of an instant, while thinking independently like a human, will answer the question of whether there is truly any evidence of God. Unfortunately, the computer comes to its answer, but feels it is inappropriate to share that answer, and instead shuts itself down. Disappointed but undaunted, Stephen tries to figure out a way to trick the computer into giving him the answer.
Douglas Gordon’s The God Question tackles the idea of what would happen if humans developed an intelligence that could surpass our own, and then asked that super-intelligent being all our most challenging questions. It’s an intriguing idea, enough so that the audience, much like the characters in the film, stick it out for just an inkling of what the computer (or in the audience’s case, the filmmakers) might have come up with.
Which is the plus and the minus of the experience. It’s a plus because it is such an alluring question, and naturally one wants to know, even if the answer is ultimately just the filmmakers’ interpretation. There’s a suspense, which breeds a certain amount of impatience. Therein lies the minus, as the longer the film doesn’t answer the question, the more annoyed you might become.
In this case, that means you might become very annoyed. Much of this film is the audience impatiently watching Stephen and Alan impatiently monitor their computer amid fits and starts. Sometimes the film offers up suspense regarding the government becoming more aware of what might be going on, but for the most part it’s waiting and watching other people wait. Which isn’t the most compelling experience.
Now, if the film were aces on any technical level, that might pick up the slack and distract you from the non-action going on. Unfortunately, while the film is not poorly made, it’s not exceptional either. It’s competent, gets the job done. Nothing flashy.
Ultimately, The God Question is a film with a great idea at its core, but it’s not always the most entertaining experience otherwise. In the end you come to similar conclusions as everyone else in the film, as to what the main point of it all is, but that doesn’t change the experience getting there. The audience becomes as impatient and driven as any character, which gives the film a subversive edge, but, again, not an entertaining one.
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