Transcendence (2014)

Transcendence (2014)
  • Time: 119 min
  • Genre: Drama | Mystery | Sci-Fi
  • Director: Wally Pfister
  • Cast: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany


Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) is the foremost researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence, working to create a sentient machine that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known with the full range of human emotions. His highly controversial experiments have made him famous, but they have also made him the prime target of anti-technology extremists who will do whatever it takes to stop him. However, in their attempt to destroy Will, they inadvertently become the catalyst for him to succeed-to be a participant in his own transcendence. For his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and best friend Max Waters (Paul Bettany), both fellow researchers, the question is not if they can…but if they should. Their worst fears are realized as Will’s thirst for knowledge evolves into a seemingly omnipresent quest for power, to what end is unknown. The only thing that is becoming terrifyingly clear is there may be no way to stop him.


  • Truly the questions this film asks leave me wondering. So let’s start with the film itself, as a scifi thriller, it’s beautifully executed with some stunning visuals, to the extent that sometimes it has the feel of a travel advertisement. The story hangs together well, with strong central performances which keep you engaged. Some of the ethics are quite complex, and you have to ask if the machine’s intent is really hostile, or is that just the interpretation characters are putting on it because they don’t understand. And we fear what we do not understand. The intent here is clearly to tell a story in such a way that you walk away thinking about it. Job done. I came away thoroughly entertained, and thinking more about singularity and transcendence than I have in quite a while. If you are after a Saturday afternoon blockbuster with a lot of action, this might not be the film for you, but if you prefer your action with a little more intrigue, this is a great film.

  • “Transcendence” is not a movie that will appeal to the masses, it is part social commentary on our society and its use of technology as well as spirituality, ethics and a love story. For whatever reason I am glad I didn’t listen to the critics. This is a complex movie that hits you straight between the eyes with many difficult but unanswered questions. Viewers are left to judge for themselves what they deem right or wrong. Those with an affinity for technology and an open mind for spirituality will be rewarded. As someone who enjoyed Spike Jonze’s “Her” “Transcendence” comes highly recommended for anyone wishing to further explore this intriguing theme of transcendence. The pacing was excellent, character development was adequate. Depp in particular gives a modest performance with some noteworthy moments. There are very few movies I would want to watch twice but if it means anything to you, this is one of them.

  • (Rating: 3 / 5) Wally Pfister is a fetish object for Christopher Nolan, who worked as photography director of a major part of his films, including “The Prestige” and also the hits “Inception”; “Memento” and “Batman: The Dark Knight”. As happen with some talented eg Oliver Stone, understood his talent and decided to take flight himself, with a debut of that you could cite many influences, but which inevitably re-calls Nolan topics

    “Transcendence” is strange. Generally critics would love to find these alleged social messages that hide in the film (as with “Her” where dozens of reviews praising the movie alleging a message about the technological world of today and the addition of its users, even if that film hardly plunged the knife into that aspect); but something is wrong here. The story is simple: a man is murdered, so his brain is connected to a super-computer, allowing access to stored infinite knowledge and exercise totalitarian controls or plans according to his new point of view. Looks like “Robocop”; “Matrix”? Of course, but in fact it sounds like an extreme version of “Big Brother” where here an omniscient being exercises as a nurturing / criticizing parent over the society. This is a topic that would provide great reads and rich details, but this film is not as bold and decides to opt for a less difficult way: a kind of techno-thriller where characters should get rid of a machine. The movie does not provide a fascinating intellectual side, but all we see of Deep (the machine) are some plans, some views, timidly putting together an army, and showing the virtues of nano-technology. One is not bothered by the fact that “Transcendence” is geared to a less intelligent side and more in the vein of an adventure, but the major problem is the same directorial debut, which injects a solemnity to a material not has it. The script makes his own mistakes: for example the idea of ​​”anti – technology” terrorists which is absurd, Why hate technology? Of course, after Deep goes crazy and now there are justifications for hating technology, but in the first minutes is still a ridiculous concept. As such, one can have the feeling that the villains here are very passive to fight against Deep (or bureaucratic, like “White House Down”)

    But the main faults lie in Pfister, who runs with an almost pushy style. Understand this: to know the characters and their lives or psychology, is not necessary for the writer to tell us from the day of birth, but with a mere more intelligible sentences and a standardized direction helps the viewer to locate. But here, the first 20 minutes are a little unclear, since Pfister makes a wild edition maiming scenes of continuity and directing with close-up planes. This makes it impossible to place the characters in context, in the environment (to give an example at random, we can hardly get an idea of where Morgan Freeman is, when eats the cake); because they spend a lot of weird things (the monkey in the cage), there are many close-up planes (the recorder). With that style, coupled with sparse dialogue, one is guided by inertia, until the director offers more details

    After the frenzy of the 20 critical minutes, seriously low momentum, because it focuses on the Johnny Deep adventures. The problem is that in these instances, the argument is rather short and the director stretches with contemplative scenes, endless walks, etc. We would not say the film is bad (like point out Rotten Tomatoes), but the plot has been tooo stretched. To make matters worse the movie is supoprted on Johnny Deep, who being a very good actor feels listless lately (“Alice in Wonderland”; “Pirates of the Caribbean 4”; “The Lone Ranger”). It is true that this robotic behavioral fits with “Transcendence” bravado, but we are not talking about “The Godfather” by Francis Ford Coppola where the secrecy and stiffness of mobsters had its charm, but actually Deep is off in his performance and does not transmit the character of an omniscient protagonist who pretends to be an unpredictable complex god and mysterious

    The script continues to commit some ridiculous almost dangerously approaching the bizarre taste of the worst Shyamalan, as Deep that may be present in all the planet through any material (something like drink a glass of water with the face of Johnny Deep. Well, not so well); plus the ending of the movie is morally confused, because then: the protagonist’s plan was right or wrong? Overall, “Transcendence” contains much ho-hum stuff, but is slightly better than “The Monuments Men” and some things are interesting (in a moment, Deep materializes his voice in the body of another to have real contact with his wife, the which is better resolved than in “Her”. Also the interesting but ridiculously executed idea of love as mobilizing the soul of the protagonist). Overall, this is a fairly good Sci-Fi movie (if you think about it, it contains the risk that “The Wave” restricts), but Wally Pfister should have realized the material which was and adjust his approach of a techno-thriller with action or suspense, rather than intellectual Sci-fi. Maybe is not a case of narcissism or egotism, any talented artist always intended that their films are good and transcendental rather than a commercial product. One can understand the enthusiasm of a first-time director, and sometimes goes as expected, sometimes not.

  • This movie is in my opinion excellent, I love Johnny Depp so having said that, no that was not my basis for review. I am giving a fair overall review from my experiences watching all cast members and scenes, though I have seen most if not all of his films. Starting out in wonder, laughing, curiosity, crying, drama, you even get your dose of action so basically you will get it all with this one. This movie I would describe as invasion of the body snatchers, meets the notebook and it’s settings are in an amazing technology era that transform into an apocalyptic setting. I usually can not watch a movie without ruining the ending, this movie had me captivated and kept my heart pounding. This movie is not predictable so if you are reading my review it will not help if you are into the guessing and predicting like me 🙂 This movie should become a home theater classic. Can not rave enough would love to watch again. 🙂

  • As a wildly condensed version of The Lawnmower Man coupled with a subtle nod to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Transcendence stood out in my mind for one true reason: Johnny Depp’s latest release is one in which he plays a character that is a completely normal person. He doesn’t have a weird accent, doesn’t wear an outrageous costume, and for the most part, looks about as recognizable as if he was signing autographs on the street (except for a couple of scenes in which he sports some foul pigmentation in his skin and a bad, computerized perm). I mean, as a scientist who looks into changing artificial intelligence for the better, he channels about as normal a dude as when he played a mild mannered banker in 1995’s Nick of Time.

    Having a premise that has straight-to-DVD written all over it and penned by a first time screenwriter (Jack Paglen), Transcendence begins with a confusing aftermath scene showing what looks like San Francisco, California in a sort of tragic desolation. The film then backtracks five years earlier where we have doctors Will and Evelyn Caster (played by Johnny Depp and Rebecca Hall) speaking at a convention to potential sponsors concerning a concept called technological singularity (the point where artificial intelligence will surpass human intelligence). After the lecture ends, we have Caster (Depp) signing a book he wrote when he’s shot by a bullet that eventually gives him radiation poisoning (thereby leading to his death). Here’s where things get interesting: when Depp’s character dies, his brainwaves stay afloat and embed themselves in a computer. Whether what image on said computer is Caster or not (we know that it at least looks like Depp), we find out that this presence can read thoughts, calculate vital signs without touch, and heal people only to turn them into zombies. As the movie causes the audience to partake in a moral tug of war concerning the sanctity of human life, two FBI agents (Christopher Nolan alum Cillian Murphy and you guessed it, Morgan Freeman) are on the case trying to destroy Caster’s catatonic empire.

    Wally Pfister is in charge of this sometimes, sci-fi snoozer. He films with a paint-by-numbers method in terms of the visual palate and Transcendence is his directorial debut. He’s a gifted cinematographer who has shot a lot of Christopher Nolan’s work (Inception, The Dark Knight, The Prestige). I expected his first foray into film making to resemble Nolan. However, he directs Transcendence as if Ridley Scott were at the wheel. What’s on screen feels like a mash up of The Counselor (if The Counselor were science fiction) and Scott’s silvery 2012 release, Prometheus. And although the sun is shining for pretty much the bulk of its 2 hour running time, Pfister seems to have an obsession with filming the slow motion apparatus of rain drops (it’s a metaphor for Transcendence’s moral reasoning and it seems overused).

    Then there is the acting which is for lack of a better word, disappointing. I mean, this is a strong cast and most of them seem lost within the material. They do what they can based on the requirements of the plot. And the silly, sci-fi mumbo jumbo in the script certainly doesn’t help them get ahead. Rebecca Hall as Depp’s character’s wife, overacts at every turn and has poor, unclear character motivation. Morgan Freeman who appears in everything these days, gets another nothing role playing an FBI agent (at least he gets to speak and Freeman’s voice in any film is a sure mainstay). Paul Bettany (Max Waters) probably gives the best performance as Caster’s best friend, confidant, and mentor. But just like everybody else, he goes through the motions just trying to get through the film without really knowing what the heck is going on. Finally there’s Depp. I mean, I have always thought of Johnny Depp as a superior actor but this role is way too easy for him (he pretty much sleepwalks through it). I saw an interview where he says that he doesn’t like to watch his own movies. That’s a good thing because if he actually saw Transcendence, he’d say to himself, “oh well, at least I got paid handsomely”.

    In the end, Transcendence has some genuine moments but it just doesn’t feel that compelling. It doesn’t “transcend” into anything awful but it comes off like more of the same when placed into today’s modern era of sci-fi film making. Sadly, it’s a product that is polished up and completely shipped out. In essence, Hollywood just keeps trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes science fiction. Transcendence just becomes another spoke in that tattered wheel.

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  • (Rating: ☆☆)
    This film is not recommended.

    Many films have dealt with the loss of a lover in a variety of ways. But when we go into the realm of sci-fi / fantasy, not many have had success with that scenario. Granted, opting for continuing a relationship without a physical being does have its limits. On the plus side, films like Her and Ghost, are classic tales of choosing mind over matter, told in a creative way. On the negative end, you have Transcendence.

    Let we digress even further. Back in the early sixties, there was a B-film called The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, a schlocky sci-fi horror about a scientist who could not let his girlfriend die, so he keeps her head alive until he can find a suitable donor to provide a new body. An absurd idea and a guilty pleasure in the annals of bad movies.  I bring this film up as it parallels Transcendence in its concept, if not its execution. Transcendence may take itself more seriously about today’s technological advances and have a bigger budget. It may have more grandiose goals and better CGI, but bad remains bad.

    The plot involves its main character, Will Caster (Johnny Depp), a brilliant scientist and computer genius involved with artificial intelligence studies, who is poisoned by a radical terrorist group hellbent on stopping computer domination. His loving wife, Evelyn (Rebecca Hall), wants to keep him alive by hooking up his mind into a computer. So Will morphs into Robo-Computer, an omnipotent force to be reckoned with, but can this brain ever die?

    Many talented actors (Morgan Freeman, Cilian Murphy, Kate Mara) are wasted in this slow-moving fantasy movie, a thriller without any thrills. (Only Paul Bettany brings any credibility to his role.) Depp tries to go deep into his character, but there is no character to play. This once gifted actor has literally become a non-actor on screen of late. However, this time, the fault is not his. The film’s screenplay by Jack Paglen is so formulaic and dull. Far too many philosophical speeches about existentialism and God, or man vs. machine arguments endlessly drone on and on. Characters are one dimensional stereotypes. On a scale of 1 to 10, there is zero chemistry between Depp and Hall which may be the fault of the actors and / or the writing. (The usually dependable Ms. Hall oversells her character’s traumatic circumstances without any nuance.) Either way, there’s an emotional void that never engages the audience. Instead, moviegoers are lulled into a state of suspended animation.

    Wally Pfister gives the film a nice futuristic look with lots of colorful icons on monitors and stylish composition shots, but all his efforts can’t hide the fact that this is a numbing experience. Transcendence wants to be seen as an intellectual mind-bender but one needs more original ideas and better writing to exist on that level. Perhaps it should page Max Headroom for some input! GRADE: C

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  • “We’re not going to fight them, we’re going to transcend them.”

    Impatiently and with high expectations I’ve been waiting for this movie. Ultimately this is just a familiar story, with an expensive casing, that has been told already several times. It’s again a plea with an admonishing finger, against the ever-growing information technology, especially in the field of artificial intelligence. There’s a denouncement about the danger of a self unfolding artificial consciousness, that grows into a dictatorial monstrosity that has an infinite hunger for power.

    The one who’s responsible for directing this SF is Wally Pfister. A totally unknown person for many. Actually, you could call him the personal cameraman of Christopher Nolan. With the latter he has made “Memento”, “Insomnia”, “Batman Begins”, “The Prestige”, “The Dark Knight”, “Inception” and “The Dark Knight Rises”. The list of awards he has won is really impressive. He won an Oscar for “Best Achievement in Cinematography” for Inception and was nominated in the same category for “Batman Begins”, “The Prestige” and “The Dark Knight.” So, he’s not just anybody and was chosen to create this SF with an extraordinary budget of $ 100 million.

    Dr. Carter (Johnny Depp) is an authority in the field of artificial intelligence and his research is groundbreaking and well known. He focuses on the realization of an artificial and intelligent entity that also has human emotions. His work also ensures that a group called R.I.F.T, sees him as a threat and a possible cause of the downfall of society in the future. They succeed in their mission to assassinate him, but they are also the impetus that Dr. Carter applies his life’s work on himself. He lets his intellect and consciousness transcend to a supercomputer with the help of his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and a good friend Max (Paul Bettany). The experiment succeeds and the digital version of Dr. Carter begins to grow into an unstoppable power hungry virtual identity.

    It’s not exactly an original and innovative subject. Everybody will have read that by now. In the past there were several films made about a malfunctioning computer. In “Demon Seed” the automation system is terrorizing a housewife because it wants to conceive a child and in “Westworld” it’s about some robots going berserk ending in total chaos. In “Terminator” it’s Skynet that develops an awareness and turning against the human race. And recently there was “Her”. An OS that had human feelings. The line of films can be completed with some similar movies such as “AI”, “I, Robot”, “War Games”, “Robocop” and a film that really matches to “Transcendence” is “The Machine”. Personally, I found the latter in terms of design much better. The only difference with “Transcendence” is the budget. “The Machine” is a cleverly put together low-budget SF, which deals with the limited budget in a creative way and still manages to use the SE’s in a convincing way.

    So, the greatest asset of “Transcendence” are the special effects and the decoration of the film. It’s a delight for the eye to view the computer equipments such as the supercomputer, the flat screens that appear everywhere,the clinical and futuristic industrial factory build in-the-middle-of-nowhere, the futuristic inventions that are used to help people in the first place and were ingenious masterful medical assistance attributes. But ultimately they were just used to manipulate humans so that they could be used for the ultimate goal. The self-regenerating tissues by nano-technology looks visually slick. But despite the stunning images it’s just an artificially non-intelligent story.

    A large portion of the budget was probably also spent on the cast with Depp and Freeman in a leading role. Depp is known for his eccentric roles, and after a long time once again he performs as a perfectly normal character instead of a fuzzy pirate or a crazy Indian with a dead bird on his head. But don’t expect a masterful rendition. His contribution in the beginning was that of a dull, seemingly absent intellectual who got no further than muttering about his high-tech hobby. The rest of the film, he appears as a 3D computer image.

    In the end it was a meaningless, beautifully styled film. The only response I had after the movie was ” That’s it !!??”. The message is obvious : the advancement of information technology has become irreversible and important, and we must ensure that this technology is not going to define our lives. But it’s not convincing. Eventually, after this film we calmly surf to a website to decide which restaurant to go to for dinner. Next we calculate the shortest route with ViaMichelin and pay the reservation using PC banking. And finally we let everyone know on Facebook where we are going to eat, so we can receive virtual “Bon appetit”-wishes electronically. We’re clearly not ready for the message and we’re definitely not hearing it. What’s clear is that this film is already competing for the title “Disappointment of the year”.

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