Let’s be honest. When a film starring Johnny Depp (“The Lone Ranger”) is announced, it’s hard not to be a little pre-biased about the movie. Depp is one of the greatest actors of Generation X, with an amazing taste for characterization in all of his roles. He ritualistically studies his character and has enough talent to label him a true artist.
This was my mindset before watching his latest flick, “Transcendence,” a sci-fi thriller with a technology-driven plot that puts it in on par with many recent films (“Iron Man,” “Her,” “Robocop”). For this reason, I was careful not to overindulge in Depp’s onscreen magnetism and decided to go in as clear-minded as possible.
The movie goes like this. Will Caster (Depp) and his gorgeous wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall, “Closed Circuit”) are a scientific duo making phenomenal jumps in nanotechnology, artificial intelligence and the like. Will creates the smartest artificial intelligence machine known to mankind. Anti-technology extremists led by a woman named Bree (Kate Mara, “Deadfall”) will do anything in their power to destroy this machine, with its ability to “transcend” human ability. Some asshole with radiation-laced bullets shoots Will, leaving him sick and dying with four to five weeks to live. On his deathbed, Evelyn and Will decide to upload his consciousness to the artificial intelligence system in an effort to salvage Will’s consciousness. It works, Will turns into God, the government and tech rebels turn against Will and chaos ensues.
By the time Will begins answering existential questions about consciousness and the nature of the universe, I thought to myself, “I wonder if this film was released on the weekend of 4/20 purposefully, because this seems right up stoner alley.” Depp does the best he can with the screenplay, bringing to mind an eccentric professor. However, his performance isn’t enough to sell the movie as a hit. It’s adequate, but nothing groundbreaking.
Here are some pros: good movie, cool effects and, most of all, interesting concepts incorporated in light of technology trumping human ability.
Here are some cons. It seems a bit cheesy at points, like when Will takes control of multiple human beings who develop understated superpowers. The movie starts off with Will’s abilities existing within gizmos and gadgets (the Internet, smartphones and iPads) but gets weird and unnecessary when Will begins to control all organic life — healing people, controlling them, changing weather patterns. This leap isn’t handled smoothly; I couldn’t tell if it was the same movie or a remake of “Alien vs. Predator.”
Like I said, it might help if you’re high.
“Transcendence” tries too hard. With large-scale motion pictures, rarely do you find a film that can give their concept the benefit and integrity it deserves without drowning it in pointless side plots and “twists.”
2.5 out of 5 stars