Transcendence (12A)

Fellow geeks will either be intrigued by Transcendence, or will be too busy nit-picking the technical mistakes to enjoy it.

Wally Pfister’s big-budget feature debut has been described in the press as ambitious and thoughtful. In my opinion Transcendence is more of a sci-farce than a sci-fi. Grand ideas rather than spectacle lie at its heart.

As Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) works toward his goal of creating an omniscient, sentient machine, a radical anti-technology organization fights to prevent him from establishing a world where computers can transcend the abilities of the human brain.

Will is shot early on in the movie by members of RIFT, a group of technophobes willing to use violence to halt the evolution of artificial intelligence.

Whilst Will survives the shooting, the bullet that hits him contains radioactive material that will kill him in a matter of weeks. So his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) decides to upload his brain into a self-aware computer that they have invented, leaving him to appear on a monitor throughout the rest of the movie.

From his screen, the technological marvel builds an empire, but despite his initially positive intentions, he goes overboard and as the saying rings true- Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Morgan Freeman stars in the movie playing the part of Will’s Caster’s mentor and tries to convince Evelyn to leave the town where she’s helping her computerized husband build this digital empire.
He hands her a note that says “Run from this place” – which, coincidentally, is exactly what I was thinking during the movie.

As you watch a dreary-looking Johnny Depp play an implausible genius in this unclever sci-fi movie you can’t help but laugh at the irony. How can a movie about artificial intelligence be so dumb?

This movie is trying so hard to be super cool that it forgets to make sense. It’s overly daft. There has been a definite rift between Pfister’s desires and his expectations. The brilliant cinematographer behind Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy has lost focus somewhere along the way.

Anyone with a fondness for broad canvas, idea-heavy sci-fi should give this movie a chance, just don’t set your expectations too high. Transcendence isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination but it is an ambitious first feature from a film-maker who hasn’t had Hollywood diminish his lustre as yet.

Psfister has both the technical skill and artistic vision to aim for the stars. He may not be there yet, but here’s to hoping that he does.

In the end geek or not, Transcendence is just as pretentious and vacuous and as you think it would be.

By Ruth Walker
★★☆☆☆

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