Renowned cinematographer Wally Pfister made his directorial debut with the film “Transcendence.” The film tackles some interesting topics, like technology’s long term effects on the world today and how it could potentially evolve into something more advanced that society may not be ready for. The film paints a future that is both beautiful as well as scary. Unfortunately, the film falls apart in some of the more crucial departments of basic film making.
“Transcendence” follows Dr. Will Caster played by Johnny Depp, a researcher in artificial intelligence, or AI, on his journey to create a machine with all the knowledge in the world as well as human emotions. One day on his way home from a conference detailing his AI research, he gets attacked by an anti-tech activist group known as Rift played by Bree (played by American Horror Story’s Kate Mara).
Once hospitalized after the incident, Will is given the news that he only has one month left to live, forcing his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and his closest friend Max Waters (Paul Bettany) to do exactly what Will was researching. The two upload his mind into a computer with his research on it, creating a “Transcendence,” a true version of an artificial mind.
After the experiment is considered a success, there is a tear between Evelyn and Max. Evelyn is filled with the joy that her husband’s life was preserved while Max on the other hand is not so thrilled by his friend’s AI conversion. He believes that the computer containing him should be shut down. By the time attempts are made to shut down Will’s AI, it’s too late.Through the internet, Will is virtually everywhere in the world making him impossible to track down.
Five years go by since Will’s new birth into artificial intelligence and he has gained god-like abilities that allow him to do things like creating human bodies that act as surrogates and even cure the disabled. Will eventually meets opposition, fending off against the joined force of Rift, Max, FBI Agent Buchanan (Cillian Murphy) and Joseph Tagger (Morgan Freeman).
With nothing but blockbuster movies that force you to wear annoying clunky 3D glasses for two hours, it’s nice to see a film made with the 2D viewing in mind. Pfister did an amazing job from a visual and cinematographic standpoint. “Transcendence” is easily one of the best looking films so far this year. However, the biggest issue the film faces are with its script, written by Hollywood screenwriting newcomer Jack Paglen.
While “Transcendence” may seem like a film filled with action based off of trailers, it should be said that it has very little of it. From the start of the film the audience already knows that something bad is bound to happen. Thing is, nothing happens almost 30 minutes into the film. Overall, the movie is a very boring affair.
The lack of action comes as a huge disappointment. The film spends most of its time repeating the same dull dialogue, restating what the audience already knows every time a new character is introduced. It’s as if the director didn’t believe audience would be able to keep up with the concepts introduced in the film.
“Transcendence” prides itself on telling the story of a not so far off future. There are moments in the film that are very impactful. One scene in particular teases a thought provoking hypothetical future.
At the beginning of the film audiences are shown a glimpse of the ending. Max gives a monologue about a world where the Internet is gone and how different the world today would be without it. It leaves you wondering what a non-always connected world would be like. The impactful concept only get a few minutes screen time though, somewhat of a wasted idea made second Will’s story as an AI.
Ultimately “Transcendence” tackles a lot of interesting technological theories. The film is also presented with great direction and, to no surprise, impressive cinematography. But with a story that leaves you with more questions than answers, it fails to offer an overall worthwhile experience.