Even with Christopher Nolan’s Producer credit stamped in the lower left hand corner of Transcendence, it could not have saved itself from a lackluster performance from some of the most well-known names in Hollywood right now.
Among them are Johnny Depp, who plays Will Caster, the world’s most prominent research on Artificial Intelligence. His goal throughout the film is to create a god-like computer that could access all the information on the planet while harnessing human emotions and becoming a sentient self-aware super computer. What a mouth-full that was!
So here’s the thing; the directorial debut of Will Pfister (who can typically be found amidst the credits of Christopher Nolan films as the Cinematographer) falls short of pretty much all angles. The performances were dull at best, even with the likes of Depp, Morgan Freeman, Paul Bettany, Kate Mara, Cillian Murphy, the list of stupendous acting talent goes on and on. But even with all that Hollywood star-power, it can’t save itself from poor writing, a hacked plot that took several downward spirals into the downright silly, most notably when Cillian Murphy’s character, Agent Buchanan claims the only way to stop Depp’s Frankenstein internet monster is to “Shut down the Internet”.
With Will Caster being targeted by anti-technology extremist groups nation-wide known as RIFT, he falls victim to an attack that leaves him with under a month to live. His wife Evelyn (played by Rebecca Hall) believes that through her husband’s accumulated research over the years, she could download his subconscious into a massive hard drive to save his brilliant mind.
Of course this turns out to be successful, but with unexpected chaotic results that lead Caster and his wife to a small town in the middle of nowhere to which they use Caster’s internet smarts to play Wall Street, make millions, and build an underground facility designed to take human evolution to a whole new level. Sounds a little like Mad Libs does it not?
From here the story takes an outrageous turn when a construction worker is mugged outside the facility and Caster takes him in to “heal” him. It is there that Caster miraculously uses the tech at their disposal to bring the near-death construction worker back to tip-top shape. But that is not all. In an effort to make him better than he was before, the construction worker is given super-human speed, strength and intelligence through a network created by Caster that links him to those he saves. When word gets around that the construction worker is by far better than before, people come from all over the world to be saved, believing that Will Caster has god-like healing powers.
It is at this point that the FBI and RIFT team together to take them all down and stop Caster before he gains control over the whole world by sending out nanobots into the earths atmosphere and infecting the entire planet.
All-in-all, Transcendence is a movie with a great cast, marginal performances at best from each of the big names you recognize, a plot that makes little sense plagued by constant left turns into “what the heck is happening right now” territory that leaves the audience confused and wondering just what kind of movie Transcendence was trying to be. A preposterous plot, boring performances, a director who should stick to cinematography and nothing more, and a score that sounds all too familiar to most other films with Christopher Nolan’s name attached to it.
Transcendence falls flat and ends up being one of those movies you are better off forgetting you heard about and curiously stumbling upon it on your Netflix subscription long after the dollar movie theaters have emptied their closets of copies of Transcendence 10 months from now. But even then, you may just want to skip over this one entirely and save your two hours doing something more entertaining such as watching paint dry.