Movie Review: Transcendence (2014)

Posted: January 31, 2015 in Drama
Tags: ,

Transcendence

Will Caster (Johnny Depp) is a roboticist with a specialty in artificial intelligence, and his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) raises money for her husband’s research.  A tech savvy  group of neo-luddites headed Bree (Kate Mara) wants to stop Will’s research, and one of their group shoots Will, the shooting is considered minor until radiation is found within the bullets.  Will is dying, and decides to spend the last few weeks of his life in the laboratory.  Will thinks he’s found a way to upload his consciousness into a computer hard drive.  Can he succeed in such an ambitious goal?  Can the group who poisoned Will succeed in stopping Will’s vision of constructive artificial intelligence?

This movie should have concentrated on keeping the scope of Will’s projects small, and deal with the ethical issues of a man trying to download his consciousness into a computer and then an android, instead the movie makes the threat global, and gets the government involved, and throws in the requisite Hollywood paranoia about technology, put all of it together and you’ve got Transcendence.   It treats artificial intelligence more like a cult than a technology, and with each successive leap in technology, the film becomes more and more far-fectched.  I didn’t find the threat posed from Will excessively frightening.

Johnny Depp’s performance is dull, and listless, he’s trying to sound like HAL the disembodied computer voice from 2001:  A Space Odyssey, but that approach removes all the required urgency from his performance.  Will he ever give a full performance worth watching again? If Depp wants to make a good movie, he should team up with a top director.  If he wants to make science fiction, he should team up with Christopher Nolan, if he wants to make a screwball comedy, he should team up with Wes Anderson.  He seems to be settling for second rate directors and scripts. Rebecca Hall gives an oddly flat performance as well.  And Morgan Freeman gives his usual Mr. Know it All, voice of reason performance.  The viewer is supposed to trust him, without knowing who or what he represents.  Rooney Mara is supposed to be young and tech savvy, but her group is trying to kill a specialist in the field of robotics, am I supposed to root for her?

The movie was long, the pacing was slow, there were some nice slow motion shots of water droplets falling, but the director didn’t pull any great performances out of the actors, or any dazzling visuals, so the direction is nothing to write home about.  The director Wally Pfister was the cinematographer on movies like The Dark Knight and Inception, so the lack of stunning visuals is disappointing.

Transcendence:  Does not transfix the audience.

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