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Director: Wally Pfister
Starring: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Morgan Freeman, Paul Bettany and Cillian Murphy
Monte’s Rating: 2.50 out of 5.00
Movie Review — “Transcendence”
MONTE YAZZIE ~ THE FOOTHILLS FOCUS~ 4/23/2014
There was an abundance of big questions and thought-worthy theories proposed in Wally Pfister’s directorial debut of “Transcendence.”
Pfister, an exceptional director of photography for many of Christopher Nolan’s films, guided the wayward science fiction film “Transcendence” in a few different directions, leading it into a position of narrative confusion that it unfortunately couldn’t escape from.
The story involves genius scientist Will Castor (Johnny Depp) who has advanced the field of artificial intelligence, landing him in a loved and hated position amongst the scientific community. Will has created a super computer called PINN that has prospect of expanding the “impossibilities” of science into reality. However, when an anti-technology terrorist organization coordinates an attack on the project’s scientists, they fatally wound Will. Will’s wife, Evelyn (Rebecca Hall), a scientist who wants to use technology to protect the world, tries to save his life by any means possible. She is able to talk Will’s partner, Max (Paul Bettany), into uploading Will’s subconscious mind into PINN before he dies.
Scientific theory isn’t usually difficult to execute in science fiction films; however, if not paired with the correct narrative tone, the theories can come off as either too simplistic or excessively ludicrous. Pfister started his film somewhere in the middle with the ideas, implementing the advancement of artificial technology in a progressive way that became radically more advanced once Will Castor’s subconscious was inserted into PINN to guide the technology farther. However, Pfister’s dramatic tone remained completely straightforward, while the theories and story expanded into the realms of far futuristic science fiction and comic book fascination.
In some instances, specifically when dealing with Will’s true intentions and humanity within the system, Pfister was able to keep the film stimulating with the mystery of the system’s self-awareness. While in other points, like Will’s obvious neglect of his own systematic faults or an arc of joining forces with a terrorist cell, the film fell into disarray amidst these inconsistent narrative choices.
The cast was packed with recognizable faces. Johnny Depp, who regardless of recent outlandish performances, as a superior actor, was initially good here but was quickly relinquished to an image on a computer screen. Depp’s monotone delivery kept intentions vague, whether or not that was the objective. Rebecca Hall was good both when caringly in love with Will and achingly devoted when things began to slowly unravel. Morgan Freeman was underused but was, regardless, consistently interesting whenever he was on screen with other actors.
Director Wally Pfister showcased potential and should continue to get better with his next films. “Transcendence” had a ton of good ideas; unfortunately, they were mixed into a film that, despite a good cast and attractive photography, never found a bearing.