Review by Mark Schwab
The directorial debut of Christopher Nolan DP Wally Pfister is certainly a mixed bag of ideas and execution. A surprisingly tepid and (literally) boxed-in Johnny Depp stars as artificial intelligence scientist Will Caster with Rebecca Hall starring as his devoted wife Evelyn. Paul Bettany is Max, Will and Evelyn's right hand man and Morgan Freeman and Cillian Murphy star as...well...window dressing.
The Good: This movie looks amazing. The effects are organic and believable and Pfister does a fine job getting past the 2D flatness of computer monitors to give his film a "big screen" visual palette. The ideas of the dangers of technology replacing humanity are presented with intelligence and thoughtfulness.
The Mediocre: The character motivation and development are pretty thin here. Depp looks the part but comes off a bit bored by the proceedings, especially once his consciousness is uploaded to the internet. The pacing is also a bit too deliberate for a movie marketed as a techno-thriller.
The Bad: There are some massive logic and believability lapses here. A state of the art computer facility (built for Depp's program by his wife) that garners no world press and no interferance from the government until everything is going to hell in a handbasket? A single FBI agent assigned to this case? I could go on. It also feels as if there are key character motivation scenes that were simply hacked out artlessly to meet a 2-hour running time.
The Summation: "Transcendence" is trying to be intelligent sci-fi and that is a most welcome thing. But the execution and storytelling are simply not up to snuff. I doubt you'll be bored by it and the visuals really are top-notch - especially on a big screen. It makes you wish that Netflix had hired the makers of House of Cards or Orphan Black to make this story into a 13-episode series to really dig into these ideas. Now THAT could have been truly absorbing.