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Transcendence can't transcend its own poor writing

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Transcendence (movie)


Transcendence: PG-13“ (2 Hours)

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Starring: Johnny Depp, Morgan Freeman, Kate Mara, Rebecca Hall, Cillian Murphy

Directed by: Wally Pfister

To start this off right, we just want to say that while this wasn’t a “bad” film, it certainly wasn’t a “great” film either. In fact if anything it was a not entirely uninteresting film with decent performances by accomplished actors, that were based on a fully derivative (and updated) script by Jack Paglen, who clearly saw, Stephen King’s The Lawnmower Man, and D.F. Jones Colossus: The Forbin Project (which were both not only much better books, but better films as well).

Paglen’s script has Dr. Will Caster (Depp) as the foremost researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI), working to create a sentient machine that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known to man, coupled with the full range of human emotions. His highly controversial experiments have made him (in)famous, especially with a group of neo-Luddites who are plotting to stop him and have made him the prime target of their anti-technology extremist views. Now these folk will do whatever it takes to stop him (including killing dozens of “innocent” people).

Needless to say, in their attempt to destroy Will, they inadvertently become the catalyst for him to succeed in creating his AI dream, that is to say, to be a participant in his own transcendence. After Caster is shot with a radiation-laced bullet (yes the anti-tech folk used hi-tech to kill the leading guru of Tech, just one of the randomly and rampantly ironic gaping plot holes in this tale) his wife Evelyn (Hall) and best friend Max Waters (Paul Bettany), both fellow researchers of Caster, the question is not so much if they can — but if they should upload Caster’s brain patterns to a computer hard drive. As expected (especially for any of us who have seen either of the previously-mentioned films, or, you know, Skynet) their worst fears are realized as Caster’s thirst for knowledge evolves into a seemingly omnipresent quest for power, to what end is unknown. The only thing that is becoming terrifyingly clear is there may be no way to stop him.

So, that’s the story, what bothers us is that Caster is shot in the chest, and then (apparently the next day) is up and walking around as if nothing happened. Then the Anti-tech terrorists who not only killed dozens of folks, and caused the problem created by Caster’s brain transforming into Skynet, wind up teaming up with the FBI to stop Caster. There is also the question of how once Caster’s intelligence hits the internet it somehow manages to infect every single computer in the entire world (We know for a fact that some secure computers located in secure rooms inside the Pentagon and other intelligence agencies around the world simply aren’t connected to outside sources where they can be infected and/or hacked.

There are other problems/issues we have with this film, but again, they just simply seem to pile up the closer you look at what is actually happening. So, again, I isn’t a bad/awful film, it simply doesn’t hang together and tends to violate our own sense of belief, making it something you could simply skip in the theater.


Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular articles and movie reviews.


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