Transcendence Starring Johnny Depp

Movie Review: Transcendence

In Wally Pfister’s directorial debut, Transcendence, a scientist works toward a goal of creating a world where computers can have the same capabilities as a human brain. Meanwhile, an organization set against his mission forms and tries to take him out before he can accomplish his objective. Johnny Depp stars as the scientist, Rebecca Hall stars as his wife, and Kate Mara stars as one of the leaders of the rebel army. Paul Bettany, Cillian Murphy, and Morgan Freeman also co-star.

The film is beautifully shot and has feel of a Christopher Nolan film because Pfister was his long-time cinematographer and is taking his talents to the head man on the set. There are some impressive computer generated effects and terrific music throughout. However, his inexperience shows in the pacing of the film. Transcendence moves at a snail’s pace and makes it feel like everything is leading to something earth shattering. However, the decision to open the film with the ending makes it feel a bit anti-climatic. I’m never a big fan of opening a movie with the end because, unless you have one last reveal, we already know what is going to happen at the conclusion of your story.

I won’t go as far as saying that it is boring, but when most of the audience is trying to figure out what is going on thanks to Jack Paglen’s script, you can feel the energy that should be building slipping from the film. As we know from the trailer, Depp’s character is hooked to the computer and his consciousness is uploaded to something and he is able to talk to people even though he is dead. Ok, so that I can buy. However, there is a part during the act three turn that the film turns a bit ludicrous. Pfister walks a line of telling the audience that “Hey, look what computers could do if we aren’t careful.” However when act three starts, anyone who is with the story and believes that something in the first two acts could happen immediately check out and will say to themselves, “No, that’s stupid and won’t happen, I’m done.” At least, that’s what I told myself.

The performances are good, particularly from Rebecca Hall and Paul Bettany. Depp doesn’t get a ton of screen time even though he gets top billing and Kate Mara shows why the people at House of Cards are smart writers. Wink, wink.

At the end of the day, there are some interesting ideas brought up in Transcendence that aren’t explored enough. I think an acceptable comparison is another science fiction movie, Prometheus, which tried some thought provoking material but everything ended up fizzling out. Transcendence could’ve been more, possibly with a different director or another draft of the script, but ended up being a beautiful film to look at with half thought-out ideas.

Grade: C


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