Director: Wally Pfister
Starring: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Morgan Freeman
Release Date (US): 18th April, 2014
Company: Warner Bros
“Imagine an entity with a full range of human emotion. Even self-awareness. Some scientists refer to this as ‘the Singularity.’ I call it ‘Transcendence.'” – Will Caster
Having spent much of his career working behind the camera for Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight), acclaimed cinematographer Wally Pfister (Inception) finally steps into the director’s chair with Transcendence. The film stars Johnny Depp (The Lone Ranger) as Dr. Will Caster, a revolutionary scientist left dying after a terrorist attack by an anti-tech group. His only hope is uploading his consciousness into an A.I. host, where he shows an even greater thirst for knowledge. But how much of his humanity has been preserved?
Disappointingly, Transcendence‘s central narrative ends up lacking in most departments. While the philosophical questions and doubts are preserved about the dangers of technology (and mankind’s need to become gods themselves), the execution is very poor. After the opening fifteen minutes, the story’s momentum rapidly decreases. The biggest problem with the film is that not enough happens. Simply put, it’s incredibly dull.
First-time writer Jack Paglan’s characters are too poorly fleshed out to ever compliment his script’s potentially fascinating concept. Instead, a large bulk of the movie is focused around Will and Evelyn Caster – restricting what ought to have been a much larger scale story to just one married couple. Morality issues with all of the characters makes it very difficult to root for anyone, while any emotional impact is also lost.
“So you want to create a god? Your own god?” – Audience Member
“That’s a very good question. Isn’t that what man has always done?“ – Will Caster
Perhaps the greatest let-down about this film is Johnny Depp. Known for being a very versatile actor with a wide variety of Oscar-worthy roles under his belt, Depp fails to cover himself in much glory here. Will Caster is cold, monotonous and exceedingly dull – and that’s just when he’s human. Obviously, there’s a case that, as part-machine, he needed to act detached, but this portrayal simply felt half-hearted at best.
The rest of the cast fare a little better. Thanks to Depp’s absent performance, Rebecca Hall (The Town) ends up having to carry most of the movie on her own, and, for the most part, she does a good job. Paul Bettany (A Beautiful Mind) turns in another high calibre effort, but Kate Mara (House Of Cards), Morgan Freeman (The Dark Knight) and Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins) are all wasted thanks to limited screen-time.
Direction & Tone
While Wally Pfister’s directorial debut never really lived up to its full potential, it is, at times, exceedingly beautiful. The master cinematographer includes some truly wondrous scenes that make you wonder how this film would have faired under the reins of the Nolan brothers, with Pfister only as the director of photography. The movie’s tone is its greatest failure, void of any humanity or emotion at all – much like Johnny Depp’s character.
- The last few years haven’t been too kind to Johnny Depp’s movie career. It’s kinda worrying when your best role in recent times was cameo in 21 Jump Street…
- This movie truly wastes its incredibly talented supporting cast. Right now, I can only recall Morgan Freeman and Cillian Murphy’s roles in the movie as ‘Colleague’ and ‘Agent’ respectively.
- Perhaps the most saddening thing about this movie is that its existence deprived Wally Pfister the chance of working on Interstellar. Already magnificent, Nolan’s latest film would have easily taken the title of ‘World’s most beautiful movie. Ever.’
Wally Pfister’s directorial debut features a fantastic cast and some gorgeous visuals. However, a disappointing performance from Johnny Depp and dull execution of an intriguing premise prevent the film from ever delivering on its immense potential.