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Review: Transcendence – Silly sentience cinema

Posted by on April 18, 2014 – 7:40 am

Transcendence Note to Johnny Depp: Dude, we all know you are from ‘Merica, so enough already with the pretentious fake European accent. If you want to live in France, cool, more power to you; but you’re not fooling us back home by adding that extra “hoit” to your “toity” voice – it’s just annoying.

Oh yeah, the movie – Johnny Depp’s latest film, Transcendence, desperately tries to be a smart sci-fi story about the dangers of technology mixed with artificial intelligence; but ‘intelligence’ is not a word I would use in conjunction with this movie. The film’s inane efforts to explore a theme of technological consciousness will most likely lull you into a state of unconsciousness.

Dr. Will Caster (Depp) is a scientist who has devoted his life to developing the perfect artificial intelligence; but giving the A.I. a touch of human-like sentience has proven to be difficult. That is until he is shot and poisoned by an anti-technology terrorist group called “RIFT” (Revolutionary Independence From Technology) and his wife, Evelyn (Rebecca Hall), uploads his consciousness into the electronic ether.

Transcendence Will’s science-buddy, Max (Paul Bettany), is against Evelyn’s plans to preserve Dr. Caster’s mind, and he is abducted by a RIFT agent, Bree (Kate Mara from House of Cards), and then recruited to join the team in a fight against the trouble they know is coming – that Caster’s consciousness is going to try to take over the world.

RIFT also manages to enlist the help of Caster’s former colleague, Joseph Tagger (Morgan Freeman), to help put a stop to Dr. Will, who is using his power over microscopic nanites to heal the sick and then control them as part of his own physical army. Evelyn eventually see’s Will’s evil ways and joins RIFT as well; letting them inject her with a virus that they hope Will will upload to the main frame.

Transcendence has been tied to the Dark Knight Trilogy’s Christopher Nolan for some time (and he has an Executive Producer credit on the film), but it is directed by Nolan’s long time cinematographer, Wally Pfister, with a screenplay by Jack Paglen; and it’s mostly the writing that hurts this movie (next to  Depp’s ostentatious performance.)

Transcendence There is plenty of technical mumbo-jumbo to be had in this film and most of it will bore you to tears. The Techxaggeration* quotient in this movie is off the scale and the narrative wavers between stuffy and just plain silly. By the timeEvelyn is begging Will to “upload” her, Transcendence becomes laughable.

If having your brain spend two-hours in a cinematic “Recycle Bin” sounds like fun, then by all means check out Transcendence; but if you’d like to see a great film about artificial intelligence, I highly recommend one of last year’s best Sci-Fi movies, Her. Grade: 3/10

* Techxaggeration – When technology is used in a film, in an unbelievably exaggerated way, to quickly advance the story.

Photos © 2014 Alcon Entertainment