Transcendence (2014) – Review

1 Star

Transcendence marks the directing debut of longtime cinematographer and frequent Christopher Nolan collaborator, Wally Pfister. This is of note not because of the promotion given to Pfister, due rather to the close resemblance of style and visual look of Nolan’s work. It looks, talks and moves like a Nolan film but there is a key ingredient missing that ultimately turns the recipe into a bland mixture of heighten techno paranoia and ridiculous plot turns.

Johnny Depp plays Will Caster, a brilliant but mad-scientist. After his latest lecture on the benefits and possibilities of artificial intelligence, Caster is shot by a member of a militant anti-technology group. He survives the assassination attempt but is infected by radiation poisoning from the coating on the penetrating bullet. Given a prognosis of six weeks to live, Will along with his wife (Rebecca Hall) and friend (Paul Bettany), upload his vast knowledge into a working A.I. program. Once the body dies, Caster will be alive forever inside the technological network.

Before long, the computer version of the deceased scientist is running rampant. He/It are able to control people through a process that I couldn’t possibly explain. Meanwhile, Will’s friend Max, is kidnapped and held captive by the same group that shot Caster in the first act. Two years in captivity and some brainwashing later Max is willing to lead a group aided by F.B.I. agents Cilian Murphy and Morgan Freeman to destroy the compound that Will’s minions have created in a desert town.

Transcendence is a movie that starts out ambitious before gradually descending into a derivative series of scenes that lack momentum, energy and often defy comprehension. As expected, some of the visuals are striking. Depp is well-cast and the other actors work hard to convey a sense of importance that the writing is unable to support. This is another muddled entry into the over-populated paranoia themed science fiction sub genre.

Director: Wally Pfister
Stars: Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, Rebecca Hall

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