‘Transcendence’ Doesn’t Manage to Transcend Expectations

This review contains little to no spoilers. 

The one positive aspect of this film is that Johnny Depp doesn’t play the typical Jack Sparrow character that he’s been playing for the last ten years. However, that would have actually made the film interesting.

trascendence, johnny depp, warner bros
Transcendence Promotional Poster | Promotional Image by Warner Bros.

Johnny Depp plays Dr. Will Caster, an artificial intelligence researcher who desires to create a machine that possesses sentience and collective intelligence with a human touch. After a semi-successful assassination attempt by anti-technology extremists, Caster’s wife, Evelyn (Rebecca Hall), and his best friend, Max Waters (Paul Bettany), download Caster’s mind onto a computer to save a piece of him. Once his mind is connecting to the internet, there’s very little that could stop him from taking over.

This movie had a brilliant concept – what happens when a mind is able to be connected to the internet? – but the execution was subpar. Depp doesn’t play his over-the-top Jack Sparrow impression. Instead, he is a lifeless, dull character. Though, to be fair, he is a computer for most of the film.

But the other characters had no excuse. Evelyn Caster (Hall) was probably the most interesting, as she finally comes to accept that maybe the computer she’s been talking to for all these years may not have been her husband. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Max Waters (Bettany) could have been an unique character with conflicting motives, but considering that A) his character was rather dry (they spoke his name twice in the film), and B) he also voices JARVIS, the AI in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it didn’t work as well. Instead of a strong character learning how dangerous the world of artificial intelligence can be, people in the theater were asking how Tony Stark would feel about JARVIS disapproving artificial intelligence.

The other characters in this film were either underused or done so poorly. The Anti-Technology extremists group, RIFT, lead by Bree (Kate Mara), had such radical ideas that it was more funny than probably intended. Cillian Murphy and Morgan Freeman both appear for about ten minutes, but are otherwise not mentioned. And other side characters that pop up are literally used as props for Will Caster (I wish I were joking).

To the movie’s credit, it is filmed gorgeously. Some of the shots were incredibly well framed, and the music was vibrant enough to keep you involved. Granted, that’s probably because the screen would go from black to white with a loud blast of music without warning. Maybe the film makers realized that this would wake people up when they fell asleep due to the slow-moving plot.

What was so upsetting about this film was that it wasn’t good. It wasn’t even bad. It just was. The story moved so slowly that you felt every minute of this movie pass by. The characters were so bland that when some of them changed their motivations halfway through the film, it wasn’t even a shock. After I left the theater, I’d forgotten what had occured in the film. It wasn’t even memorable in a bad way.

If you like Johnny Depp and slow-paced films, go ahead. If you don’t, and you aren’t a fan of falling asleep in movie theaters, I would give this one a pass.

Brie Garcia

Brie Garcia (COM/SMG '14) originally hails from Pennsylvania (where there is a cornfield behind her house) so forgive her if she is a little too obsessed with all things film and television. She can be found scribbling story ideas on notepads around campus and ignoring responsible things like "being an adult."

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