Alright; we were all warned…explicitly. The reviews were not kind, at all. The people we all know who are supposed to love this kind of stuff walked away baffled that anyone would like it, and in that we had our answer; right? If the target audience couldn’t even appreciate this, then why would anyone else? In fact, of everyone that I’ve talked to that has seen this; I’ve only come across two people who had anything nice to say about it.
And yet, I still decided that I needed to see it for myself.
It’s so weird to me, because I feel like the best point of comparison for a film like this (film/expectations) would be ‘Drive’, and yet, that was a good movie. ‘Transcendence’ tries to be this thinking man’s action film, and yet it winds up being this sluggish bore of a film that never reaches the potential it had and never really identifies itself past some skeletal framing of ideas. These huge themes of love, science, god and faith feel rusted in writer Jack Paglen’s script, and almost dead inside Wally Pfister’s direction. It doesn’t help that none of the relationships feel remotely believable. This apparent love between Will Caster and Evelyn Caster, his wife, feels stale and never truly developed, so when she starts sacrificing her own sanity to be alongside him it makes no sense.
I feel like I’m getting ahead of myself.
‘Transcendence’ tells the story of a scientist intent on perfecting artificial intelligence, at any cost, even his own life. Sure, he doesn’t want to die, but then again, he’s not really dead, even when the lesser Mara shows up with her clan of ‘The East’ inspired rebels (just far less interesting) and actually shots him dead (well, they drag that out a lot, but eventually he dies, sort of). Yes, the very intelligence that Caster was working to perfect takes hold of him, uploads his consciousness into the computer and soon he’s able to pretty much rule the world. Yup, he becomes God because when computer intelligence combines with human intelligence you’re able to heal wounds and regrow limbs and become immortal.
So, the plot makes no sense really, but it’s the execution of the plot that makes this all the worse. For a guy who framed such intensely created films like ‘Inception’ and ‘The Dark Knight’, this film is such an incredible bore. First, it takes forever for anything to really happen (like, can Johnny Depp die already?), but once it does actually kick off, it’s so contrived and senseless that it becomes numbing to actually watch. Outside of a few really cool visual effects, the film is just flaccid.
Yes, I just said that.
The finale also feels like a ridiculous cop out, sacrificing any real themes it could have developed and creating an ending that reads false and lazy, like everything Pfister and Paglen thought they wanted to say was completely scraped for this ‘love lives on’ type ending that felt so uninspired and dumb.
And let’s not forget that the acting here is so dreadfully mundane. Everyone is literally sleepwalking through this one. Depp has been doing that for years, so that’s to be expected, but all of those Nolan regulars that pop up here (Freeman, Murphy, Hall) are just phoning it in so hard here. What happened to Paul Bettany? He had such promise back in the early aughts, when he was working with Russell Crowe. Now he’s just drained of all that promise. He’s like a blank canvas, with nothing interesting painted on it. Hall also had such promise. She should be a star. Does anyone know who she is? Kate Mara is embarrassing and Clifton Collins Jr. is utterly ridiculous here (as is his stupid character and sub-plot).
Oh god, I’m feeling dumber just talking about this movie.
I thought I was going to give this a D, and maybe I should. Like, I'm dolling out way too many F's already this year, right? No, on second thought, this deserves what it deserves so F's all around.