When it was announced, I frequently confused Transcendence with Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, but was quick to come back to my senses. I learnt that it was being directed by debutante Wally Pfister, Christopher Nolan’s favorite cinematographer and I considered it to be a plus. The movie would undoubtedly look good and Nolan was bound to have rubbed some off on Pfister right? Moreover Nolan also was also the producer and I kinda had a hunch that he wouldn’t rack up money on something unworthy. From the looks of it everything was right in place and expectations for Transcendence were high, that was until the movie began.
It starts out well, and makes you feel right at home with intriguing ideas and concepts of AI, singularity and Transcendence itself, thrown around. Johnny Depp plays the lead Will Castor, an artificial intelligence researcher who aims to build a self aware sentient machine with all the knowledge in the world along with a full range of human emotions aka PINN. And things start to crumble when RIFT, an anti-technology extremist organization shoots him with bullets laced with radiation poison. With no options left, Will’s wife connects him to PINN in an attempt to save him. Soon enough it goes awfully out of hand when the machine takes over bank accounts and details of almost everything on the internet.
We are definitely not short on AI-oriented movies. Transcendence reminded me of Shodan from System Shock, while Shodan had evil intentions it was hard to tell about PINN, was it well intended? Another reminiscent AI would be VIKI from I, Robot who had similar intentions as well. Finally there was last year’s beautiful AI romance flick, her, which brought to limelight the sensitive side of things than just going all sci-fi.
What could possibly go wrong? One, despite its very interesting ideas its incoherent and it all goes down the drain by the end of it. It would have seemed brilliant on paper but on film it feels halfbaked. Add to it an unsuccessful attempt at marrying romance with sci-fi makes it look all the more cheesy. While the first act sure took its own sweet time to proceed through the events, the second and third act moves way faster than it should, time and years passes by in a jiffy and it leaves you baffled.
I’d almost forgotten what Johnny Depp looked like without makeup and its good to see him here with his still-boyish looks and he does act the part of Castor convincingly well. I was always a sucker for Rebecca Hall. I dont know what draws me into her, so much so that I wouldn’t let myself take my eyes off her when she’s on screen. Playing Castor’s wife, it seems Rebecca got the best of Transcendence and there were sequences that left me truly wanting more (of her). Then again, with so many stars squeezed into one, her performances got a little bit overshadowed. Transcendence also boasts of the aforementioned exuberant cast which rockets expectations sky high. While Morgan Freeman & Paul Bettany seemed to do justice to their roles, Cillian Murphy was left a hapless few minutes of screentime. And despite the time allotted to the stars, I still felt that their performances were wasted, bringing nothing more to the movie than star value. Was there any need for this many high caliber actors?
I watched it on its opening day and I was questioning myself, if I should waste my time writing about it? Transcendence /trɑːnˈsɛnd(ə)ns/ A state of being or existence above and beyond the limits of material experience. Visually it was gorgeous but I found it to be a tedious watch and towards the end it just left me questioning the existence of a movie with so much wasted potential. I couldn’t fathom why Nolan, of all people, decided to give this one a go. His name attached to this movie made all the difference prior to its release but it wouldn’t be the same anymore now that I’ve seen how disappointing it is. I guess I ‘ve learnt my lesson.