“Transcendence” Tampering with the Future (Film Review)



Working on its viewers with the promise of a chilling Sci-Fi thriller, in the end Transcendence fails to deliver. While the beginning of the film does offer an intriguing view of what could happen if a research company developed independent network with enough power and information to find a cure for cancer, the movie gets trite when a faction with a cause tries to destroy it.  Add to this the insipid performances, weak direction and too much out of control fiction and you get a wretched two hours with no reward. 

The story centers on Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) the top Artificial Intelligence (AI) researcher in the world.  He along with his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall), one of the best scientists in the field, and equally knowledgeable Max Waters (Paul Bettany) have invented PINN (Physically Independent Neural Network).  Its intended use is to gather information from AI researchers to get the answers for the cure of certain cancers and even Alzheimer’s disease.

Johnny Depp as Dr. Will Caster in TRANSCENDENCE

Johnny Depp as Dr. Will Caster in TRANSCENDENCE

As the story progresses, an attack occurs on all the AI research stations around the world by RIFT (Revolutionary Independence From Technology). Led by Bree (Kate Mara), the RIFT assault takes the lives of several important research supervisors of the program.  Dr. Will Caster also gets shot in a crowded hallway by a lone gunman who takes his own life in the hit.  Thinking Will has only been grazed in the shooting, he continues his work.  When he realizes his wound was poisoned by an isotope on the bullet that tore into his flesh, Evelyn and Max rush to input all they can of Will’s intelligence into PINN.

When Will dies and sometime later appears on the screen of Evelyn’s computer, she realizes her accomplishment of creating the impossible.  First time director Wally Pfister moves his film along showing the growing development of PINN under Evelyn with the help of Will “living” in the computer hard drive.  He then goes off on a tangent, however with RIFT luring a member of the board of PINN, Joseph Tagger (Morgan Freeman), into their organization.  It actually looks like the role was forced and although a lot of dialogue is given to the character, Freeman’s just window dressing.

Inside PINN with Will part of the hard drive

Inside PINN with Will part of the hard drive

Not known for his film direction (he has made 43 films as a director of cinematography including The Dark Knight), Pfister knows what a film should look like, but doesn’t seem to have a handle on character development.  Weak, uninteresting and dull the main stars throw a grim shadow on the project.  He doesn’t push Johnny Depp to put authority into his character making him tedious, a person reciting lines not representative of any authority or accomplishment.  As his wife Evelyn, Rebecca Hall gets hysterical with Max wanting to pull the plug on Will and then falls into the same dull pattern much like Depp’s performance.  Even when her back’s to the wall against RIFT, she responds to them as if she’s invincible yet in a daze.  As Bree the leader of RIFT, Kate Mara’s character is poorly fleshed out showing little control of the insurgent organization. Even RIFT never gets its day in the sun with the film not pressing any compassion for the cause.

Max (Bettany) and Evelyn (Hall) are stunned to see Will's image

Max (Bettany) and Evelyn (Hall) are stunned to see Will’s image

Disappointment’s a huge word here as it’s not every day you see $100 million movie get panned.  Depp will probably attract his huge following the first weekend, but after word gets out the film may not have enough box office staying power to garner attention from its target audience. The trailers may also help the first weekend as the ads have shown limited footage beyond ‘Depp in a computer’.

Transcendence has been rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, some bloody images, brief strong language and sensuality. If you put the word ‘mock’ in front of each of the rating points it’s more of the truth as this film borders on a hard PG.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A boring long winded waste of film. (D)

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy, Kate Mara, Cole Hauser, Clifton Collins Jr., Lucas Haas
Directed by: Wally Pfister (Cinematographer)
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, some bloody images, brief strong language and sensuality
Running Time: 1 hr 59 min
Release Date: April 18, 2014
Distributed by: Warner Bros.

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress