Release Date: April 10, 2014
Director: Wally Pfister
Screenplay by: Jack Paglen
Cast: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Clifton Collins Jr., Kate Mara, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy
Let me get this out of the way- Transcendence is a really REALLY boring movie if you’re looking for a sci-fi action blockbuster a la Nolan’s Inception. It basically follows professor Will Caster (Depp), an artificial intelligence developer and thinker, that gets attacked by a group of anti A.I extremists, and in turn is pushed harder to ‘transcend’ his human body by digitizing his mind — and I guess his spirit or essence — to live forever connected to the grid, as an omnipresent entity like a God.
Let me rephrase that~ you are watching nearly forty minutes of Johnny Depp dying and scanning his mind, and for the rest of the movie, you just listen to his voice telling Rebecca Hall what to do to keep expanding his hardware and digital domain, until she gets scared and the third act begins. However, Transcendence does pose very interesting questions and I have to commend Depp because he really seems to be honestly interested in the topic.
There are a lot of things that don’t work in the film; the anti A.I. group doesn’t seem like a big enough threat — I mean, come on! Kate Mara and Lukas Haas! — even by the third act, when tension should have already been built against the omnipresent power of Will Caster and the collision with his best friend when alive, Max Waters played by Bettany, who barely gets to do something.There’s also the fact that Rebecca Hall’s Evelyn seems too passive to hold the story throughout its second act, and the inclusion of Morgan Freeman and Cillian Murphy doesn’t help up with cohesiveness either. Clifton Collins Jr. has more screentime than the two of them together!
Having said all that, I found the movie engaging because its up my alley. During the first half, I pictured Transcendence as the bridge between our reality and The Matrix, but unlike the resolution, I’m obviously much more pessimistic. I expected Will to grow bigger and hungrier for an energy source, finally connecting us to the grid and feeding off of us. There’s, however, a certain beauty in how it ended — the droplets of water floating up? Was the experiment to go wrong from the very beginning? Or did it all just blow up for mere fear and misconception? There’s, of course, a certain nightmarish side to being completely disconnected in a world that has pride itself of its connectedness for the past five years. Would you give up a bit of you, let them access the most private of your information… maybe give a little away from your free will, all in the name of being connected peacefully into a system, a grid that is controlled by someone? Where do we draw the line?
Half an extra star for topic.