Review: Transcendence

transcendence 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.

[easyreview title= "Review of Transcendence" cat1title="Rob's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="1.0" overall= false]

Review: After Earth

After Earth

I’ve always had a weird relationship with M. Night Shyamalan movies. For every one movie I think is pretty good, there is another I don’t like. For every Sixth Sense and Unbreakable there is The Happening and The Last Airbender. Two steps forward, two steps backward. In the case of After Earth, there isn’t a step at all. It’s not good but not horrible, just there. In the movie, the earth as we know it can no longer sustain human life and mankind has colonized a new planet, Nova Prime. For hundreds of years humans have been at war with the native Ursas who don’t take too kindly to mankind just settling on their planet. The Ursas can’t track humans by sight but can “smell their fear” in order to hunt down their prey. One legendary soldier of the Ranger Corp, general Cypher Raige, played by Will Smith, has perfected a technique called “ghosting” in which he (and only he, apparently) is able to suppress his fear enabling him to become invisible to the Ursas. Cypher brings his son, an up and coming Ranger named Kitai (played by Will Smith’s actual son Jaden) on a mission in hopes of mending their rocky relationship. The mission goes awry and Cypher and Kitai are marooned on Earth. Kitai must travel across the dangerous planet alone to locate a distress beacon so that he and the injured Cypher can be rescued.

Will Smith has become a very accomplished actor, a far cry from his Fresh Prince days. You wouldn’t know that from this movie, however. Both he and Jaden come off as robotic and wooden. The uneasiness that Cypher and Kitai display around one another makes sense in the context of the flimsy story but it but none of it feels natural. Part of this is due to the horrible accents that everyone has. I don’t know who thought it would be a good idea to have everyone do a horrible impression of Morgan Freeman doing a British accent but it will take you out of the movie.

Shyamalan sets up a world seemingly fraught with danger yet I never really felt as if our protagonist was in any real peril. At the same time, the film is very safe and predictable. The action sequences are ok, even though there aren’t many of them and we spend the majority of the movie watching Kitai run around the forest.

The best thing I can say about this movie is that it is indeed a movie. One hundred minutes of mediocrity. It’s completely watchable and somewhat enjoyable, but you won’t give After Earth an afterthought. The film feels like another Smith Family self-indulgent buisness project (story by Will, starring Will and son, produced by Will and wife and brother-in-law) but, if the Obamas of Hollywood are determined to make Jaden a superstar, they have to do a little better than this.

[easyreview title= "Review of After Earth" cat1title="Micah's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="2.5" overall= false]