Review: TRANSCENDENCE (2014) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Review: TRANSCENDENCE (2014)

Despite the potentially intriguing premise, Wally Pfister's directorial debut is too preachy and too lifeless to qualify as an engrossing techno-thriller drama.

Over the last decade since 2000, Wally Pfister has proven himself to be one of the most gifted cinematographers working today especially when he collaborated with frequent director Christopher Nolan from MEMENTO (2000) to THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012). He has been nominated three times for Best Cinematography in BATMAN BEGINS, THE PRESTIGE and THE DARK KNIGHT, before he finally won his first Oscar for INCEPTION. So not surprisingly, it's interesting to see him finally branching out from his cinematography work and tries his hand on directing for the first time ever. The result is the curiously-titled TRANSCENDENCE, a sci-fi thriller about the dark side of the technology and the outcome of a man who tries to play God. Unfortunately this would-be intriguing movie is a clunky mess and an epic failure.


Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) and his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) is about to change the world with their revolutionary sentient machine called PINN (Physically Independent Neural Network), which has an advanced artificial intelligence system. However, Will is shot by one of the anti-technology terrorists group called RIFT, which run by a young woman named Bree (Kate Mara). He manages to live, but not for long when the doctor discovered that Will's body system has been affected by a radiation-laced bullet. With no other current medical technology able to save Will, Evelyn made a desperate attempt by uploading his brain to a computer with PINN hardware. The upload proves to be successful when Will finally appears as digital self. While Evelyn is happy for Will's comeback, her fellow colleague/researcher Max (Paul Bettany) thinks that the new Will is not the same old Will they all used to know. The new Will has an elaborate scheme of his own when he subsequently requested Evelyn to expand his digital self beyond the mere server and wants to seek more computing power.

Thanks to Jess Hall's arresting cinematography, TRANSCENDENCE is certainly a good-looking picture filled with elegantly-shot natural imagery and slow-motion water droplets.

Does nearly walking out of the cinema counts as the "Most Memorable Moment"?
As a first-time director, Wally Pfister fails to show any real directing flair when comes to handling a story or paces a movie well. Clocking at two hours long, the movie is awfully slow-moving to a crawl. Despite the techno-thriller premise, Pfister doesn't seems to bother about expanding the concept into something more dramatic and exciting. Instead, everything here stays as cold as possible. If that's not bad enough, the ending feels so anticlimactic that any chance of dramatic urgency or attention-grabbing moment is strictly out of the question.

Then there's Jack Paglen's bloated screenplay. At the heart of his story is a doomed sci-fi romance between Will and Evelyn, which could be heartbreaking if done right. Too bad Paglen and Pfister can only make their romance so gloomy until they are devoid of any real feeling to root for their characters.

Speaking of characters, it's such a waste to see a fine acting ensemble consisting of Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Morgan Freeman and Cillian Murphy are all reduced to underwritten roles. Depp is especially a major letdown. Although it's good to see him playing a regular guy other than the usual eccentric character he is famous for, he sleepwalks his performance here as Will. Rebecca Hall is equally disappointing as Evelyn, who seems to be acting with a fixed anxiety-looking performance throughout the movie. And because of their ineffective performances, Depp and Hall doesn't convince us as a couple who is deeply in love for each other. As for the rest of the supporting actors, the less said the better.


Seriously, TRANSCENDENCE has the premise that can turned into a successful Hollywood blockbuster. Instead, Pfister has made TRANSCENDENCE into a monumental waste of time.


1 comment:

Yashesh Joshi said...

Nothing exciting releasing this week here...this was the only film I was hoping to catch in theater (largely due to the cast). Reviews of course haven't been favorable and your review with a 1.5 star rating has me thinking now: to watch or not to watch!
Guess I'll skip and not give Depp more chances to fall from grace, in my book at least.