Dr. Will Castor is a scientist working on a project to create a sentient computer; one he believes will create a technological singularity and change the world in a process he calls “transcendence”. When shot by a Luddite terrorist and given months to live, his wife Evelyn and friend Max upload his consciousness to his computer project to save him. Though as time wears on, it becomes clear that the computer is no longer the soul of Will Castor, but something with darker intentions.
An interesting take on the sci-fi genre,Transcendence is full of imaginative promise and is a film that encourages its audience to think about the pros and cons of the technology we use today and, more importantly, how we use it. Boasting wonderful CGI and a well-renowned cast, its premise is a refreshing change to the cinema listings. Or at least, it would have been.
Johnny Depp, as we know, is not one to shy away from the more interesting and unusual roles, though in this film, his character comes across as a little mediocre. His character Dr. Will Castor, is a successful scientist with a wonderful wife and a great career boasting all the luxuries any person can hope to achieve. Yet, somehow his personality is lacking, and even when I hoped the characters would become more interesting after the first half an hour… they really didn’t. Perhaps that is because Depp’s character becomes an emotionless computer for the better half of the film, but even then, Will Castor seemed a little downplayed. We don’t really get to know him all that well, and even the relationship with his wife Evelyn (played by Rebecca Hall) isn’t all that convincing either. While Paul Bettany (Max) modestly improves on this and even with Morgan Freeman in the line up, overall, none of these people make to be a good hook for the story or us as an audience.
This is probably due to the short duration of most scenes, featuring only a few lines of dialogue before we are cut to somewhere else where the same process repeats itself and, quite frankly, it’s a little frustrating. One or two short scenes would be enough, but when the film consistently relies on cutting to one place for a few seconds, one or two lines are spoken, then cutting to somewhere else for another thirty seconds, it does little for the story flow. It honestly felt like bumping along a rough road in a beat up old pick up truck. While the film does well to question how much we rely on technology and its usage in our daily lives; (using Castor’s super-computer ability to heal other human beings, make them stronger, artificially recreate plant life, water etc.) the characters running along in this bizarre tale don’t really tug on our heartstrings and we don’t feel for them like we should.
The story however was very promising and, initially judging from the trailer, it looked to be a really good watch. Sadly, avoiding spoilers, some parts seemed slightly unrealistic and perhaps a little farfetched, and assisted with the short, snappy and lack-of-emotion dialogue, it made to be very unimpressive indeed, which is a great shame because it could have turned into something much better. Directed by a cinematographer, naturally the film held its beauty in the way it was shot, and that, unfortunately, is the only thing that sings praises in this movie.
A very promising premise that fell flat on its face, Transcendence wasn’t exactly the film I’d hoped it to be. I wouldn’t exactly recommend going out of your way to see this one – it’s originally thrilling first impression came to be nothing more than bland, rushed and sincerely lacking in its potential. Save your pennies for the bigger summer blockbusters, folks.
Director: Wally Pfister
Starring: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Morgan Freeman, Kate Mara, Cillian Murphy
Running Time: 119 minutes
Release Date: April 18 2014