Transcendence: a slow moving science fiction film. I believe this is the first time I’ve ever combined the words “slow moving” and “science fiction” in the same sentence. While there are positive aspects to this 119 minute movie, dosage it is a long 119 minutes. The film has an excellent cast. Johnny Depp as the lead with Will Caster. However for the first time ever, Depp’s performance bored me. While his Tonto can be criticized on many counts, boredom is not among them. At its foundation, Transcendence has an intriguing premise: artificial intelligence using the brain of a single individual. The opening sequence shows Caster giving a Steve Job type presentation about where his research is heading. As he leaves the auditorium, he is shot but not killed. The bullet is laced with radiation and it guarantees Caster’s death over time. The assassination is part of an organized eradication of people involved with artificial intelligence. From this initial premise, where scientists are the bad guys, the story winds through a series of implausible events that are told with too much verbiage and too little action. Sci-fi/ thriller threads, a love story between Caster and his scientist wife, Evelyn, played by Rebecca Hall, and while Caster and Evelyn’s love for each other is eternal, there is no comparable chemistry between Depp and Hall and the connection falls flat. Morgan Freeman appears briefly as a colleague but his role is limited. Also underused is Paul Bettany who plays Caster’s neurobiologist partner. Roger Ebert often talked about the need for a film to be believable within its defined framework. Transcendence falls far short. This failure along with the film’s painfully slow pace leads me to say for the first time ever about a Johnny Depp movie: it is not worth seeing. The script, written by Jack Paglen, raises fundamental issues about the potential power of machines and it is easy to understand what attracted Depp to the movie. Unfortunately, the director, Wally Pfister, fails to overcome the script’s defects. I hope Paglen and Pfister do not work together again.
Steven Guttman, Esq. BLOG: guttmansgarage.blogspot.com