Film Review – Transcendence (2014)

transendence - post

Title – Transcendence (2014)

Director – Wally Pfister (feature debut)

Cast – Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Kate Mara, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy, Cole Hauser, Clifton Collins Jr

Plot – Scientist Will Caster (Depp) has his consciousness uploaded into an artificial intelligence system by his partner Evelyn Caster (Hall) when he passes away due to a terrorist attack. The implications of this melding of human and machine takes a dangerous route when the lines between who is Will Caster and who is the machine becomes blurred.

 “We’re not going to fight them. We’re going to transcend them”

Review by Eddie on

Memento,The Dark Knight trilogy, The Prestige, Inception and Moneyball. There all pretty decent films wouldn’t you say? One thing that all those films had in common is the fact they were all overseen in a D.O.P sense by renowned cinematography Wally Pfister (don’t even try say that last name correctly), Christopher Nolan’s go to cinematographer until his recent upcoming Interstellar. Working with Nolan on his modern day classics would’ve taught you a thing or two about the thinking man’s blockbuster wouldn’t you say? Well sadly with Transcendence, it looks like Wally didn’t listen in class.

Looking to debut his directing career with a sci-fi not dissimilar to the large thinking themes of Inception, Pfister has gone for the knockout straight away and left himself completely exposed to the blows that a weak storyline, shoddy editing and mismanaged performances will deal out. Transcendence looks to delve deep into the modern day tech filled world that is increasingly blurring the lines between what it is to be human and human emotion being overtaken by artificial intelligence. It’s a high end concept and a concept no doubt ripe for exploration yet Pfister doesn’t lay hold on any firm grip of his subject that gets lost in an uninteresting love story, badly played jumps in time and a finale that not only feels rushed but feels horribly underdeveloped, much like the movies performances.

Stealing previous Nolan acting collaborators in the forms of Rebecca Hall (still crying out for a decent role), Cillian Murphy, Morgan Freeman and Lucas Haas it’s clear that Pfister was able to draw some serious talent to his tale, mix these actors in with Johhny Depp, Paul Bettany and Kate Mara and the recipe was all there to provide one of this year’s most unique and intriguing ensembles. The cast however here is universally terrible, working with material that is clearly underdeveloped the increasingly acting for hire type role by Johnny Depp comes off worse as Will Caster but there is no one staking a claim here for acting honour’s in what is a showcase for Pfister’s inability to draw out commanding performances, something his teacher Nolan has always been able to achieve.

Transcendence has a few neat visual tricks up its sleeve which is to be expected for a man who’s given us some of recent cinemas most iconic imagery but even these flourishes cannot paint over the fact that the film is a complete mish-mash of half cooked ideas, uninteresting dramatics and weak acting efforts. Somewhere deep inside this tale something is waiting to burst to life but this is one startlingly bad debut by a cinematographer that should be on the phone to some of his old mates begging for his job back, as his latest career move looks to have stalled before it really even began.

Half an abnormal raindrop out of 5

23 responses to “Film Review – Transcendence (2014)

  1. Wow, the was a murder letter to Pfister. You’re right the film was bad in a serious way. But I’m not sure it’s all Pfister’s fault.

    I blame Depp. Everything he touches turns to stone. He has the reverse touch and with nothing to play against the other actors fail to connect.

    Depp needs a long holiday on one of his islands.

    • Haha that is so true mate, lately his been horribly off song and needs a good old holiday! To bad his next few years seem packed with role after money hungering role.

      Not sure about Wally though, he might be better at his day job.

  2. Wally definitely deserves all the blame here.

    The movie was fucking boring. I mean the guy was the director and had free reins to go nuts with everything, but it was all so ordinary.

    At the very least, I could forgive the shoddy editing and crap screenplay, but I can’t forgive an Oscar-winning DP to let his movie look like a TV show. There wasn’t truly anything cinematic about it. Really disappointed. This movie should’ve went straight to DVD.

    Luc Besson’s Lucy on the other hand is like the complete opposite of this movie since they share the same Lawnmower Man-esque plot.

    For anyone reading this: Skip Transcendence. See Lucy.

  3. Transcendence looked fairly interesting, but I do think Johnny Depp can’t act much these days. Maybe he thinks he’s better than he is, so doesn’t really try, because everyone loves him for some reason.

  4. Good review Eddie. I’m glad the movie had so many interesting ideas, but it was so packed, that it didn’t really make sense of what it was trying to say with those ideas. It was just messy.

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  6. Oh dear… I like some films Johnny Depp is in (including the first 3 POC) but others I assumed were bad due to bad directing. I was going to watch this because it seemed like an interesting concept. Such a shame it didn’t make good use of that potential and… focused on romance??? It sounds bad, but I need to see this for myself. I can’t fathom how a director could spoil a good concept like that :/. I shall come back when I’ve seen it. Cheers for the review!

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