Movie Review: ‘Transcendence’ Is The First Major Disappointment Of 2014

Review By Nathan Ligon

I would be lying if I told you that I expected anything less than a really good movie out of Transcendence. I know that this is only the first film for director Wally Pfister, but this is the guy that worked with Christopher Nolan for the last decade and won the Oscar for cinematography with Inception. Surely, he learned how to make great movies from working on one great one after another, right?

Apparently not. He seems to have gotten down the whole casting, atmosphere, and cinematography part, but the pacing part that makes Nolan’s movies so great is sorely missing. Not to mention the fact that some of the characters decisions seem a bit ridiculous when we are given forever to think about why they are happening. That’s the thing about pacing that most people don’t understand. If you utilize editing and music in the right way you can make an audience overlook the fact that a main character  just became a terrorist with the same group that murdered all his friends.

Hell, I could have overlooked a number of implausibilities in this film if the thing would have moved with some purpose in the last act. A lot of the script is actually quite well written and a number of very interesting concepts are tackled within the confines of rather intelligent dialogue. However, when a person magically becomes a billionaire over night, buys an entire town, adds more dishes than are known to man, and you don’t see them for years, then you would think her closest friends would visit before 2 years. Instead, they wait until they see a crazy video on YouTube.

There are all kinds of little things like that in the second half of this film and it really is a disappointment because the first half is so interesting. The movie opens by basically showing us the aftermath of what happens in the movie. This is the first ill conceived idea that leaves little wonder as to how things are going to eventually turn out. We quickly jump back several years in time to Will and Evelyn Caster (Johnny Depp and Rebecca Hall). These two doctors are on the brink of a breakthrough in technology that will allow computers to become self aware.

Sadly, on the day that it seems they may have broken through the final barrier, many of their researchers are killed in a massive terrorist attack. The attack comes from an anti technology group known as RIFT. These people have some decent points about the dangers of what the Casters are doing, but they are only smart enough to kill people in order to make their point. In the chaos of the day their are only a few survivors. Those people are the Casters, Max Waters (Paul Bettany), and Joseph Tagger (Morgan Freeman).

At least, we think they are the only ones killed in the attack. It turns out that the bullet Will got shot with wasn’t a fatal shot, but it had enough poison in it to take him out over time. So, knowing that she cannot live without him, Evelyn takes the technology out of the super computer they have been working on and mixes it with the data of Will’s brain. Luckily, one of their fellow doctors figured out this was the key to their research just before he died. Anyways, everything up to this point is actually kind of interesting.

It is at this point in the film where things seem to be starting to pick up and it feels for a few minutes like the movie is going to become exciting. Then it just falls off the edge of a cliff and never returns. We fast forward two years in time and the movie turns it to a slow ride to grandmas tech conference. I won’t tell you anything because I know that a lot of you will still want to see the film, but it really feels like the movie is a computer that’s been booted up and then freezes. All the supposed climatic moments move in fits and starts that never seem to pay off the way they should.

The whole thing could have been so much better with a few little script corrections (it’s a fairly smart script) and an editor that could actually make this thing fly or move with some purpose. It also would have helped to have a score that made the thing feel like it was moving as well. All these little things might have added up to a better film, but as it is, the film feels rushed. It feels thrown together much to haphazardly and the audience pays the price for the filmmakers cutting corners. Which really stinks. There was a lot here to explore.

Nathan Ligon
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