Sunday, April 20

Transcendence Review

Dir: Wally Pfister
Starring: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Morgan Freeman, Paul Bettany, and Cillian Murphy

There is an abundance of big questions and thought-worthy theories proposed in Wally Pfister’s directorial debut. Pfister, an exceptional director of photography for many of Christopher Nolan’s films, guides the wayward science fiction film “Transcendence” in a few different directions leading it into a position of narrative confusion that it unfortunately can’t escape from.

Genius scientist Will Castor (Johnny Depp) 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 once “impossibilities” of science into reality. However, an anti-technology terrorist organization coordinates an attack on the scientists working on this project, they fatally wound Will in the attack. Will’s wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall), a scientist who wants to use technology to protect the world, tries to save Will’s 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 starts his film somewhere in the middle with the ideas, implementing the advancement of artificial technology in a progressive way that becomes radically more advanced once Will Castor’s subconscious is inserted into PINN to guide the technology farther. However, Pfister’s dramatic tone remains completely straightforward while the theories and story expand 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 is able to keep the film stimulating with the mystery of the systems 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 falls into disarray amidst these inconsistent narrative choices.

The cast is packed with recognizable faces. Johnny Depp, who regardless of recent outlandish performances is a superior actor, is initially good here but is quickly relinquished to an image on a computer screen. Depp’s monotone delivery keeps intentions vague whether or not that was the objective. Rebecca Hall is good both when caringly in love with Will and achingly devoted when things begin to slowly unravel. Morgan Freeman is underused but is regardless consistently interesting whenever he is on screen with other actors.

Director Wally Pfister showcases potential and should continue to get better with his next films. “Transcendence” has a ton of good ideas unfortunately they are mixed into a film that despite a good cast and attractive photography never finds a bearing.

Monte’s Rating         
2.50 out of 5.00

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