Director: Wally Pfister
Starring: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Morgan Freeman, Paul Bettany
Release Date: April 18, 2014
Johnny Depp is not sailing the oceans fighting pirates, assisting Alice on her journey through Wonderland or seeking vengeance in the wild west with the Lone Ranger. Basically, we don't get to see Depp's strange personality that we grew to love in his latest film Transcendence. But was Depp able to remove the jokes & weirdness and bring forth a dark and serious role? Or did we see another swing & miss from Depp?
Johnny Depp plays Dr. Will Caster, the leading researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI). With his wife Evelyn Caster (Rebecca Hall), they hope to create a machine that is able to feel human emotions while also combining the collective intelligence of everything ever known. After years of researching and building without any government funding, the Caster's were able to create PINN (Physically Independent Neural Network), a machine designed to process history's combined knowledge and sync it with an uploaded sentient mind.
Dr. Caster's vexed experiments have made him famous but also made him the prime target of an anti-technology extremist group called RIFT (Revolutionary Independence From Technology). RIFT's motto is Evolution without Technology and they go to any extent to stop humankind's dependence on technology and its influence on the world. Prior to their attempt at shooting Caster with a poisonous bullet, a RIFT member asks Dr. Caster a simple question, "You want to create a God?" and Caster replies, "Isn’t that what man has always wanted?" Little did RIFT know, they will aid in the creation of this "God" with Dr. Caster playing the role.
Evelyn refuses to allow death to take her husband and recruits Will's best friend, Dr. Max Waters (Paul Bettany
) to help save her husband the only way they can, by uploading Will's consciousness into PINN in order to achieve transcendence. The question they ask themselves is not if they can do it but if they should do it. If they succeed, the possibilities are endless, as are the consequences.
Academy Award winner Wally Pfister makes his directorial debut with Transcendence after being Christopher Nolan's long-time cinematographer working with him on films such as Memento, The Dark Knight Trilogy and The Prestige. So it is no surprise Pfister made his directorial debut with a big-budget thriller but he does not bring his prior photography work to the film. Pfister is no Nolan, and that is shown with his directorial debut despite having some similarities. Paired with a weak script with many holes, Pfister was fighting an uphill battle right from the start.
Johnny Depp doesn't give us the performance that people are accustomed to and it 's surely missed throughout the film. Depp only seems bored and lifeless without all the make up and gimmicks. On the other hand, he's naturally a very intelligent man, so he plays the role of Dr. Caster very comfortably which is essential. And Rebecca Hall does not fall short in portraying Evelyn Caster. But with Hall excelling as Evelyn and Depp giving us a lifeless Will, the chemistry between the two fail. Evelyn's emotions are heighten which leads her to give the green light to transcend her husband and go through the roller coaster ride that is this process. An emotional level in which Depp never duplicates or even comes close to meeting.
The concept of the film is intriguing and was paired with an amazing job done by Rebecca Hall, but this concept is nothing new to the film industry. The film does not have many highlights. To begin, Transcendence takes longer than it should to reach its climax. Perhaps the film should have started with Evelyn and Dr. Waters working on uploading Dr. Caster's consciousness to PINN. On top of that, throughout the film a lot of conflict and questions begin to rise but are never answered or addressed. For example, if the uploaded consciousness really was Dr. Caster or just a digital representation of him. Or how the FBI, who at one point was hunting down RIFT members, never addressed or were alerted about Dr. Waters being taken hostage.
There is also no sense of time throughout the film as the breakthroughs done that took mere days in the film should of taken years in reality causing a shattered sense of reality for the audience. And this broken reality continues to be a theme as the solution that Dr. Waters, Evelyn and company came up with was never addressed with high ranking government officials. Which it should have, seeing that the outcome had MAJOR effects on humanity.
The thing you can take away from film is its concept as it can be a great conversation topic. If Transcendence came out in the 90's like other sci-fi films of this concept it would of been harder to relate to, but we are apart of a generation that is relying more and more on technology. What role do we want technology to play in the bigger picture that is our future? Should we fear technology? How far should we go in the development of Artificial Intelligence? Transcendence might or might not be a realistic possibility of what could happen if we go too far in the development of AI but the film does definitely gives its viewer a spark in a conversation that will play a huge role in our civilization for years to come.
Overall, Transcendence is full of fascinating ideas but is equally filled with logical errors. You leave the theater asking yourself questions about some of the plot points and unfortunately some of these questions don't come with answers. Hopefully Pfister does give it a second go at the directorial seat because I do expect him to find his niche and give us greatness as a director as he has done as a cinematographer. I would not recommend going out to see this film in theaters but if you do, skip out on the IMAX experience and see it on a regular formatted screen. Perhaps adding Transcendence to your DVD collection is a good idea.
Labels: 2014, DVD, Johnny Depp, Morgan Freeman, Movie Review, Paul Bettany, Rebecca Hall, Transcendence, Wally Pfister