‘Transcendence’ Review: Artificially Intelligent


Transcendence is the newest Warner Brothers film starring Johnny Depp, Morgan Freeman, Rebecca Hall and Kate Mara. Between my undying admiration for Johnny Depp’s work (minus The Lone Ranger which we will never speak of again), my love of sci-fi thrillers and this being my first official assignment with FanBolt I was pretty excited to check this film out…until I checked this film out.

The official synopsis from Warner Brothers is as follows:

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.

The film marks the directorial debut of award-winning cinematographer Wally Pfister, who’s worked on blockbusters including Inception, The Dark Knight and The Prestige. Pfister’s background was apparent as the visuals were stunning albeit creepy, but the story left much to be desired. Transcendence presented us with the usual sci- fi technological advisories: Humans should be wary of relying too heavily upon technology as it not only disengages us as individuals, but could quite probably bring about the fall of mankind as a whole. It also reinforced the idea that should computers ever become sentient beings, we’re all basically screwed and will either become slaves to them or be forced to live through some sort of technological dark age to cleanse ourselves at some point. Great.

The line between believable (Yeah, I could see that happening in the future) science and hokey (Are you kidding me?!) fiction was straddled throughout. I’m pretty sure my eyes almost rolled out of my head when the key to successfully transferring Will Caster’s consciousness to a computer was his wife restarting the computer. I definitely let out an audible giggle after the revelation that a man who was beaten within an inch of his life and miraculously healed via nanotechnology was upgraded to super-human status. The most interesting moments for me were the more believable ones, where the upsides to the advancements made by the Casters were highlighted in a grounded way, such as restoring eyesight to the blind, providing instantaneous clean water and quickly growing crops and forests.

Depp and Hall lacked chemistry as Will and Evelyn Caster pre and post-transcendence, but individually their performances were solid, both doing their best to work with what they were given. Morgan Freeman was enjoyable as their friend and AI expert,  but his role didn’t seem to serve any other purpose than injecting dry comic relief and maximum Morgan Freeman-ness into the film. Kate Mara was brooding and unbelievable as an anti-tech extremist, but bless her for trying.

Whatever the complete opposite of transcendence is, that’s pretty much what this movie left me feeling. Let’s place this film in The Lone Ranger box and push it all the way to the back of the closet where it belongs, shall we?

Grade: C

Review By: Jasmine Alyce

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  1. It’s got a good cast, so I can understand why people would think there’s hope for it to be good. But honestly I don’t understand why Morgan Freeman or Johnny Depp signed on to this one after reading the script.

  2. I just saw this movie. I loved every moment of it. The idea is scary but a possibility. The acting was great. It held my interest to the very end, which tied it all up in a good way.

    I don’t understand how people can sit and judge movies without seeing them for themselves. Freeman and Depp were great. The whole movie was well worth watching. I find critics to be jaded. They lack imagination. I can’t imagine how anyone would think this was a bad movie.. Give things a chance. Don’t judge unless you see a movie. I learned that myself. I will see it again. It was that good.

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