Film Review: Transcendence (USA, 2014)


It’s a film which has been mostly panned by critics, but Wally Pfister’s directorial debut, the Johnny Depp-fronted Transcendence doesn’t fail to at least keep engagement consistent until the very end. Although clunky at times, and full of half-excellent performances, the film finds it’s feet in cinematography, speaking highly for Pfister’s unquestionable talent.

Though visuals can never be enough to save a movie, the film’s plot – although ridiculous – isn’t a completely disaster.

Depp plays Will Caster, with Rebecca Hall playing his wife – Evelyn Caster. Both researchers in the field of artificial intelligence – with Will being a bit more extreme and controversial than his partner – Will and Evelyn eventually run into disaster when someone shoots Will with a bullet which is laced with radiation poisoning. With Will slowly dying, Evelyn takes some gigantic leaps with their ideas and concludes with porting Will’s brain patterns into a hard drive. It worked on a monkey, so why not Will?

Will – now a ghost in the machine – very slowly realises how much power he wields and aids Evelyn in converting a small town into a power-driven base camp. Here, Depp tinkers with other humans, healing them and ‘improving’ them to be more god-like. It would seem that Will is building an army here, but in so far there has been no real evil intentions. Nothing which would possibly justify his mate – played by Paul Bettany and Morgan Freeman – to join the team that is looking to unplug him for good.

The motivations for the main conflict in the film pop out of nowhere, never really having any clear basis and hence pulling the plot down massively. Although the interest remains in the film, there is a bitter aftertaste to the shoddy storytelling once Transcendence moves towards the tail-end.

With elements from Jonathan Nolan’s exceptional crime drama Person of Interest (and to a lesser extent, Revolution), the sometimes possible, post-apocalyptic landscape in which Transcendence deals with is effectively dark and gloomy, full of paranoia and high-stress sequences as all characters deal with something they thought society wasn’t up to yet. Since we have been dealt plenty of cards dealing with A.I before, the ideas in Transcendence aren’t hard to wrap your head around, it just feels like the writers gave up towards the end of the film. And that’s always going to make for bad cinema.


Transcendence is currently in cinemas across the country


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Chris Singh

Chris Singh is an Editor-At-Large at the AU review, loves writing about travel and hospitality, and is partial to a perfectly textured octopus. You can reach him on Instagram: @chrisdsingh.