Since the advent of the internet, Hollywood has been creating thrillers that played on audiences’ fear of the vast unknown within the World Wide Web. With films like “The Net” and “War Games,” the cyber thriller came of age. With the release of the new film “Transcendence,” the genre has instantly become old and tired.
The fear is no longer that you identity is going to be stolen, but rather how our reliance on technology will bring disaster to the world. The situation leads to our demise here comes when a domestic terrorist group attacks the leading technology research centers and shoot Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) with a radiation laced bullet. To protect his work and keep him alive, his wife (Rebecca Hall) and friend (Paul Bettany) upload his brain into a computer mainframe. But once they unleash Will onto the Internet, there is no end to his reach and the power he is able to harness.
“Transcendence” thinks it is smarter than its audience by passing off theories as scientific information. By not dwelling on it, it might be able to be accepted by viewers, but it doesn’t allow for a coherent plot. Instead screenwriter Jack Paglen has used films like “Virtuosity” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” as source material in his attempts to create something new. It comes across as a low grade Michael Crichton rip-off that adds nothing to genre and spends too much time to get to its point.
Depp used to be the type of actor who took risks and played quirky roles. Those days are long gone and now he takes generic roles in big budget films that surely offer a bigger paycheck than they stretch his acting chops. In doing so, his schtick has grown tiresome and in “Transcendence” he seems to be sleep walking through his few onscreen scenes. It’s almost as if he was replaced by an actual robot during shooting.
Depp leads an all-star cast that also includes Christopher Nolan’s repertoire players Cillian Murphy and Morgan Freeman. The high wattage cast, which includes recognizable actors in almost every role, is more distracting than helpful when it comes to bringing the film to life. Getting so many of Nolan’s regulars comes from director Wally Pfister, who has worked as the cinematographer on many of the acclaimed director’s previous films.
With an overly ambitious plotline that never quite comes together and a bloated running time, “Transcendence” is another big budget film that is forgettable as soon as the credits start rolling. Audiences have rarely taken to cyber thrillers in the past and there isn’t much of a case made with this one to change the trend.