Transcendence photo starrating-2stars.jpgYou really have to believe in the narrative thrust of your story to begin a movie with the conclusion. The ending in Transcendence is spoiled at the start by the screenwriter. Without the necessary suspense, everything leading up to that point had better be exceptional. Simply put, it isn’t. In the opening scene we’re presented with the aftermath of a catastrophe in which virtually all power has been lost throughout the entire world. No cell phones, computers or Internet. We meet a man named Max Waters (Paul Bettany) who remembers his friends Will and Evelyn Caster.

Johnny Depp and Rebecca Hall play a brilliant husband and wife team of researchers in the field of artificial intelligence. After Will is shot by a terrorist (Lukas Haas) from an anti-technology group called RIFT. Evelyn suggests they upload Will’s consciousness into the sentient supercomputer in their lab.   Although Will’s body dies in the material sense, his mind is kept alive in the mainframe.  Over time he connects himself to energy sources stretching around the country. He grows more powerful and omnipotent. Part of the problem of Transcendence is the tale is unnecessarily complicated. It’s patently ridiculous. That’s okay, but be cognizant of that absurdity. I mean there’s an inherent irony that RIFT’s attempted murder of Will is the very motivation for him to pursue “transcendence” via the computer. This was the precise activity they were trying to eradicate. The chronicle takes itself way too seriously. I mean they’ve even given the supercomputer a boring name: PINN (Physically Independent Neural Network).  Wouldn’t it have been funnier if they named it GOD (Good Orderly Direction)?  Well that was a wasted opportunity.  <sigh>  The dreary script just sucks the fun out of what should have been a whimsical concept.

Transcendence is a chore to watch. It’s an overly elaborate, unconvincing, joyless bore. A lot of really great actors are wasted by standing around not doing much of anything. Cillian Murphy, Kate Mara, Cole Hauser and Morgan Freeman are particularly useless. Not because they give bad performances but because they are given awful parts. All four could’ve been taken out of the story and it would’ve made matters much simpler and less convoluted. Rebecca Hall and Paul Bettany fare better. You’d think Wally Pfister, Christopher Nolan’s cinematographer (The Dark Knight, Inception), would at least have the presence of mind to create a visually impressive film. Unless you enjoy watching numerous scenes of electronically charged water droplets moving in slow-motion, it’s a downer there as well. At the core, the saga is merely a series of uninteresting standoffs between good vs. evil. Ultimately the drama’s big idea is: Technology Is Bad. At the end of this turgid ordeal, I wasn’t even convinced of that. But this movie sure is.



38 Responses to “Transcendence”

  1. I love Sci Fi, and I was legitimately excited for this. But so many negative reviews from WordPressers have sapped my desire to watch this, even for 5 dollars on a Tuesday.

    I probably still should at some point for review’s purposes, but it seems so boring and mundane. I fear I may fall asleep during the showing.

  2. Amazing that Mara, Freeman, Murphy, and Cole Hauser even signed up for this film. Nice review Mark – wasn’t this a film where all the actors (except Bettany & Hall) signed on, got their paychecks and now have to live with results.

    I hope Depp and Morgan Freeman didn’t sign on for smaller upfronts with the idea of reaping REWARDS FROM THE GROSS like Sandra Bullock did with Gravity.

  3. Yeah. Its too bad that this flopped. I wanted it to be cool but it just…isn’t. I liked the poster showing the back of his head with all the cords coming down. But usually when a poster is pretty striking to me then the movie isn’t…

  4. I am so sorry this was a wash out. It had potential–a Dean Koontz novel brought to the screen, a chance for Depp to be “normal” devoid of make up, but it seems boring and muddled.

    • Transcendence is based on an original screenplay from newcomer Jack Paglen.

      However Dean Koontz’ Odd Thomas was made into a film starring Anton Yelchin recently. Perhaps that’s the novel you’re thinking of. I don’t think it got a theatrical release. Never a good sign.

      • I was thinking of ‘Midnight’ which might not be a perfect fit–I remember reading a scene where the man morphed into the computer, the wires were like vines that swallowed him up. I used to read Koontz ages ago. I like the premise. A reversal on A.I., yes?

      • I’ve actually read Midnight but I remember it being more of a horror story where mysterious beasts are taking over a little coastal town. It’s been awhile though.

  5. Movies like this try to be about so much, yet, really aren’t about anything at all. Here, the movie is about something, it just doesn’t know what to say about that special something. Good review Mark.

  6. Boring……what a disappointment. This had an opportunity to be a great scientific gem. I was hoping to enjoy it. There was no connection with the characters, and the story was confusing. Sorry Johnny. 2 stars.

    • This looked like a good idea on paper. Too bad, Lately I can say that Johnny Depp did great voice work in Rango and provided a nice cameo in 21 Jump Street.

  7. Nice review. Heard the same thing from everyone about the stupid spoiler in the beginning, with no real appeal when taking such a risk. Kinda saw this one being a total dud from the preview though so no real surprise here.

  8. Sad. I held hope for this one.

    • I kind of had a feeling when I saw the April 18th release date. Captain America is a notable exception, but April is usually a dumping ground for bad films.

  9. Nice review. Can’t say I had any interest in this one and reading your thoughts makes me glad I missed this.

  10. It might have been better if they gave Depp’s character a personality post upload. Unlike Scarlett Johansson in “Her”, Depp’s character is lifeless, robotic and stiff. Why couldn’t Will Caster have had a personality? Have humor and charm or wit or irony or anything?

  11. marlonwallace Says:

    I think it would have been better if they gave Depp’s character post upload a personality. Unlike Scarlett Johansson in ‘Her’, Depp’s character is lifeless. He has no humor, no charm, no wit, no irony, no anything. Depp’s character was very robotic and stiff, very HAL 9000. The car in ‘Knight Rider’ had more of a personality. Nick Fury’s car in ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ had more of a personality.

  12. Right on the money man. The movie was such a silly exercise in futility. At some point I was distinctly aware that I had mentally checked out of the story and I had the presence of mind to think how bad a movie must be for me to recognize that I had checked out of it. Indeed, this is the kind of film this was.

  13. martin250 Says:

    good review Mark. was still considering to see this yesterday despite negative reviews, but decided to go with The Other Woman which at least meets a lower expectation.

    I can still enjoy Sci Fi that isn’t cognizant of the absurdity. I think “In Time” (starring Justin Timberlake) is an example. But mentioning words like dreary, bore, and joyless, despite the casting of Transcendence makes it sound like a huge waste.

  14. garylee828 Says:

    I thought this looked dull from the trailer, but I was hoping maybe it’d be a pleasant surprise. Guess not! This sounds even worse than I thought.

    Do you think “Interstellar” will be able to surpass this? lol.

    • With Christopher Nolan as the director, I have extremely high expectations.

      • garylee828 Says:

        Yeah, there has been a ton of anticipation from people about it. I know it will be a lot better than this. I don’t think Jessica Chastain does bad movies. 🙂

      • I suppose that’s a matter of opinion. Lawless bored me to tears. But for the most part I agree.

      • garylee828 Says:

        You know, I never watched Lawless for the very reason you stated – it just looked boring as heck. If a movie looks dull I won’t watch, no matter who’s in it.

  15. I completely agree that the opening completely destroys any chance for suspense in the film and that visually it’s unimpressive. Your point about the computer’s name is a good one too. I didn’t even think about that while watching. Sitting through it was a chore for me as well. Two things I hated: how you never see or understand why Max joins RIFT (his turn seems to be more out of narrative necessity than moral conviction) and how the government sends a rinky dink force after Will/the computer. If they thought he was a threat, wouldn’t they send a larger, more prepared group?

  16. The most fatal flaw this movie did was show us the choice made at the end of the film… right at the beginning.

    I didn’t find this film confusing at all, it seems some viewers did, but to me it was pretty straight forward and not too difficult to follow or even predict what will happen next… especially when we know where it is going to end.

    Had I not seen the beginning and it just started with a big, “5 YEARS AGO” – The film may have actually been a lot more interesting… well, maybe not a lot more, but at least we wouldn’t know which way it was going to go until it went that way.

    When I first heard about this movie, I thought, oh wow, they’re going to re-do Lawnmower Man in to something EPIC. It is sad to say that I think Lawnmower Man had many more moving parts in the plot than this film.

    Such a shame, so much potential, so many good actors.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: