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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. Written by
Continuing his outspoken advocacy for the use of film stock over digital formats, Cinematographer Wally Pfister not only chose to shoot the film in the anamorphic format on 35mm film instead of on a digital camera, but also finished the film photochemically, refusing to use a digital intermediate. See more »
When Max is in the bar drinking a shot and a beer and meets Bree for the first time, as he gets up to leave the glass with the whiskey has about an inch of whiskey in it. Max leaves and the camera cuts back to the bar and the whiskey glass is now empty. See more »
They say there's power in Boston. Some phone service in Denver. But things are far from what they were. Maybe it was all invevitable. An unavoidable collision between mankind and technology. The Internet was meant to make the world a smaller place. But it actually feels smaller without it. I knew Will and Evelyn Caster better than anyone. I knew their brillance. Their dedication to what they believed in. And to what they loved.
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Stupid, Boring and a Huge Embarrassment to all Involved.
Dr Will Caster (Johnny Depp) develops a sentient computer device with unsurpassed processing power. When fatally poisoned by a radical techno-terrorist organisation he and his wife (Rebecca Hall) upload his consciousness into his invention to preserve his life, but the now unrestrained supercomputer soon develops a frightening ambition that blurs the line between humanity and technology.
It seems that every few years somebody in Hollywood tries to redo The Lawnmower Man, which is by no means a perfect movie (especially with its laughable, early generation CGI) but it harbours an interesting premise; what happens if we ignore our own judgement and let our technology get the better of us?. It's an old sci-fi trope going back decades that has definitely become a crutch of story telling to some extent, but any good idea is worth exploring again, and with such an impressive cast and a very promising production team behind it, hopes were high for Transcendence to be a good movie.
Unfortunately though, it isn't. Transcendence is a turgid, lifeless bore of a film that doesn't really offer anything insightful about its subject matter because it's so single mindedly stupid about it. All the parts about technology, philosophy and what it means to be human are all thrown to the wayside, and the movie instead grounds most of its logic on the relationship between two people like its the most important thing in this world. In a movie where technology is used to heal the sick, rebuild the forests and even cure death, all the movie wants us to care about is how Rebecca Hall cannot possibly go on living without her dead husband and how all that amazing wonderful miracle-making doesn't mean anything.
I'm not even sure who the main character is supposed to be. Depp is in the movie in the flesh only for about 15 minutes and after that he disappears mostly into the background of scenes as a computer program making it hard to relate to him. Hall acts so selfish, stupid and blunt throughout that it's impossible to like her as an audience member. It certainly isn't Paul Bettany either, he's a prisoner through most of the film and when he's not, the things that are happening are more or less out of his control.
Also the vagueness of the films antagonist is a real problem, we're led to believe that Computerised-Depp is the main antagonist, but he's not really, a computer operating by logic is hard to hate as a viewer, because it's just doing what's in its own nature, and many of the miracles its capable of are not, in and of themselves evil either (since when was healing the blind considered unjust?). It certainly isn't the Techno-Terrorist group R.I.F.T either, their motivations as terrorists isn't even particularly clear other than "Technology is Bad", Shooting Johnny Depp over a hypothesis seems more like stupidity than martyrdom. Also during the films climax they become good guys.
Johnny Depp was reportedly paid $20 million for his role in this movie, and in my opinion he didn't earn his salary. He is stiff, lifeless, bored (that's even before he gets uploaded into a computer) and obviously uninterested in the finished product. Rebecca Hall is trying very hard here, but the terrible writing of her character hamstring her efforts. Paul Bettany is good here and is probably the films strongest asset, but he's not in the film enough and pretty much useless by the time the conclusion comes. Morgan Freeman and Cillian Murphy are just there, they don't really have anything interesting to say or do. Kate Mara gives by far the worst performance, the bad writing of her character hurts her more than others, but she was impossible to buy as the stern, serious leader of an organised terrorist group.
There's also a huge lack of understanding of rudimentary film making skills at play. Wally Pfister is a gifted cinematographer and the film does look good generally speaking, but working cinematography on a movie and directing an entire movie are two completely different ball games. Many aspects of film-making are botched here: Framing, Blocking, Dynamics between Characters, Editing, Camera Movements but especially Pacing. This is one of the worst Paced movies in quite some time, nothing that happens in the story has any momentum, and this coupled with the poor direction over everything else makes the whole movie completely dull to watch (the biggest mistake is that film begins with the ending, spoiling any and all tension during the movie).
I'm not saying that every movie needs to have an action scene either, there isn't a car chase during 12 Angry Men, but Transcendence builds to a huge final engagement and when it comes it's over with way too quickly.
It's a combination of many elements that could go wrong with a movie, and it's easy to blame Wally Pfister for the poor direction, but I think this movie represents a far bigger concern. Johnny Depp is currently the highest paid actor in the world, but this and some of his last films "The Lone Ranger" and "Dark Shadows" both had disappointing box office takings, which leads me to believe that maybe Depp's day are numbered, and/or perhaps we're entering a new age of movies where it doesn't matter who you cast, a stinker's a stinker and people wont flock to see garbage.
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