Movies do well when they get you immersed in their world. Get you involved in their plots. Get you to care about their characters. Make you ask questions that you want answers to. Transcendence, a wannabe blockbuster that “explores” the concept of transhumanism (a real concept with a real Wikipedia entry) does none of those things. I love going to the movies for the immersion aspect of it all but I found myself looking at the audience to see how they were reacting. I never do that… but I had nothing else to entertain me while watching this.
If you’ve seen the trailers you know this film is about a scientist played by Johnny Depp having his personality uploaded into a computer as well as some weird looking effects that intrigue you and make you wonder what’s going on. If you watch the first five minutes of the film though you’ll know how it all ends. It starts in what looks like a post-apocalyptic Berkeley California which we soon are told through narration by Max, played by Paul Bettany and the only named character in this scene, that it is simply a post computer era. All tech is dead. No phones, no computer. Hell, we see a keyboard used as a door stop because it’s useless otherwise. Then we flash back five years to a time before all of this.
This is where we are introduced to Depp’s character of Will Caster, super smart dude working to create a true artificial intelligence. We also meet his wife Evelyn played by Rebecca Hall. Both super smart people speaking at a conference… where Will is shot with a radioactive bullet that poisons him. At the same time a tech company is bombed and another has their lead staff all poisoned. All done by an anti tech terrorist group led by Kate Mara of House of Cards fame. Will’s wife believes his only chance to do to him what they’ve only done with a monkey: upload his thoughts and emotions to a computer.
Now things get boring. The pacing of this film was already dragging but now that they’ve explained everything there is very little to keep you engaged. For example Will dies WELL before the AI of him is finished so you know that it’s simply a copy of him and not even remotely the real him. You know the terrorists are bad guys because they are killing people and willing to die themselves to do this stuff so you can’t empathize with them. Yet the movie makes a sad and strange attempt to ask if it’s really Will. Or if the terrorists are right all along. The answers to both are obvious. Also if you have an internet connection that takes a minute to download drivers you sure can’t upload an AI in an instant. It happens and it makes no sense. Also his CG image on the screen is always flickering and I HATE that in SciFi movies. If my Xbox can produce a CG image without constant flickering then you better believe the most advanced computer ever can!
Now it gets even MORE boring as this film slowly tells us about how electric Will amasses power, builds a base in the dessert and begins healing people and creating nanotech to do so. All with the real world help of his wife and all the money ever as he hacks bank accounts everywhere. What he’s doing short term is a bit creepy but his long term is done with the best intentions. However the government teams up with the terrorists to take him down without really talking to him about anything. There’s a brief moments of violence for no reason other than to make sure you know it’s a summer film and then the movie is over. However don't expect any surprises of any kind. Nothing happens that isn't explained before hand. Nothing comes up that isn't given a reason. It's like being spoon fed the entire bland plot of the film so you expect everything that happens and none of it is especially interesting to watch happen.
I’m having a hard time even writing about it. I just… don’t care about what I saw. If I were home watching this on Netflix I’d get up and wonder off and ask my girlfriend how it ended. She would have turned it off so I would have to look it up on Wikipedia. This is the worst kind of movie there is. It’s not terrible in the way that Hercules film was so awful. Hell, we’re gonna watch that on DVD and laugh at it. No, it’s terrible in that there was simple no reason to watch this. Some decent effects and ok acting were all this movie had. The sets were bland, the plot was hack and the characters may as well have been talking set pieces. Don’t watch this movie, people. Don’t even rent it as you have better things to do with your time. Read a book, go outside or even take a nap. Just don’t bother with this.
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