Malcolm Schulz, Turret staff writer
2014 will go down in cinema history as the year that heaven and God became Hollywood’s top sellers. Within the first four months of the year we have had Noah, God’s Not Dead, Heaven is for Real and Son of God. I entered the movie theater, bought my ticket, got my over-priced medium soda and immediately walked past all four movies to see Transcendence. You’ll see why I brought up religion in a minute, because this movie heavily alludes to spirituality and the idea of God, but in a flawed way.
Transcendence is the first movie from both director Wally Pfister and writer Jack Paglen. Pfister has worked with Christopher Nolan as his cinematographer for all of Nolan’s movies. This time Nolan is stepping back and playing the role of executive producer. Jack Paglen is well …. Jack Paglen (this is his first time behind the scenes as a writer). Together these two virgin filmmakers set out to give audiences a creative but half-hearted science fiction experience.
The movie stars Johnny Depp as a computer scientist, Will Caster, who leads an agency in creating the world’s most advanced computers and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Caster foresees that the analytical power of computers will be greater than the combined intellect of all humans that have ever existed. Thus he is trying to convince humans to embrace this idea, hailing it as the key to solving humanity’s ills. After delivering a speech, he is struck down by an assassin’s bullet, connected to the anti-tech group R.I.F.T. Caster survives the shot, but the bullet is laced with radioactive materials that will eventually kill him. Before he dies, in extreme desperation, his wife Evelyn “uploads” his consciousness to the agency’s most advanced computer. With “Will” uploaded to the computer, Evelyn releases him into cyber space, where his power only grows.
To be honest I didn’t like this movie. I didn’t hate it, but I wouldn’t watch it again. For one, the movie has an incredibly slow pace and gets boring. Two, some parts of the movie don’t make any logical sense. But first, let me say what I do like.
Transcendence is a movie full of Hollywood stars, including Morgan Freeman and Cillian Murphy. They all give good performances, but the way they perform is different. They all act as if they all had some degree of anti-social behavior. They probably did this to show how technology was tearing our society apart by “cocooning” us through social isolation. The movie looks like a classic Nolan film with fantastic special effects. The scenery is also top notch, balancing between ruins and pristine architecture sometimes in the same scene.
The movie has a strong and steady pace at the beginning of the film, then it slams on the brakes and slows down to a snail’s pace. I feel like some rich Hollywood executive is saying “Well we already have their money, distract them for two hours with diluted logic and a boring script while we make a break for the bank”.
There is a lot not to like about Transcendence. The first is that it slows down tremendously about one-third of the way through and doesn’t pick up the pace anywhere throughout the rest of the film. After Caster commands Evelyn to build a laboratory in a remote desert town, the movie then does a time jump ahead two years. At that point the fallacies in many parts of the script start to shine through. If the dragged sequences were meant to make us think, it back fired. My second problem is that some parts of the movie didn’t make any sense. One example is when R.I.F.T hears about Caster’s laboratory in the desert, then waits two years to attack it.
One thing the movie is clear about, is the use of biblical imagery and allusions to illustrate how Caster became the most powerful being on earth; a god. He tells his wife Evelyn (which includes the name Eve) to go out into the dessert and build a research facility, where he begins to perform biblical grade miracles, like curing deafness and blindness.
This movie leaves me thinking, do they endorse terrorisim? I mean R.I.F.T did kill people, but they were right the entire time. Had they killed Caster, they would have stopped the emergence of a “god”.
Transcendence would have been a great science fiction film, but it falls flat on its face with a boring script and half-hearted writing.
I give Transcendence … a 6.5 out of 10.