Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Transcendence (2014)

Well of course Johnny Depp thinks he’s God!

Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) and his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) both believe in technology being used as a resource to help the planet, rather than continuing to destroy it. Evelyn believes in preserving the environment; whereas Will never necessarily disagrees with her, but cares more about making technology the prime, supreme force in the world. Their other science-buddy Max (Paul Bettany) doesn’t really know what to think, but then again, he doesn’t have much time to once Will is shot with a lethal injection of radiation by a bunch of rebels looking to take him down. He has only about a month to live, and that’s all Evelyn and Max need to transport all of Will’s mind into a computer hard-drive, where they could still talk to and interact with him, as if he was really there; except for, you know, the fact that he’s inside of a computer. While Max doesn’t like what he initially sees with this new programming software Will is in, Evelyn doesn’t care too much and decides to keep Will alive and happy through this computer, where he, all of a sudden, has the world, literally at his finger-tips. This is also, incidentally, around the time when Will decides that it’s time to take the world into his own hands, where he has the ability to repair and posses anyone, giving them hope and invincibility at the same time. Sound like somebody else we all know of?

Yeah, as you can tell, the religious-tones of this movie aren’t at all subtle; then again, nothing of this movie is, or what it’s trying to say is. Throughout the whole two-hours of this movie, you can almost hear director Wally Pfister yelling at the top of his lungs, “Too much technology can ruin one’s mind!!’ It’s a point that he makes abundantly clear in the first 20 minutes, and decides, “Aww, what the heck! I’m already there, so I might as well”, and hammers this point into our heads for the next hour-and-40-minutes. In all honesty, all of this preaching and ranting wouldn’t have been so bad had the movie been able to actually keep its the audience’s pulse, as well as its own, up and moving.

"He has how many years to live? Two? That means like only three-and-a-half Pirates sequels!"

“He has how many years to live? Two? That means like only three-and-a-half Pirates sequels!”

But nope. For some odd reason, Wally Pfister (making his directorial-debut after years and years as an amazing cinematographer) thinks that it’s best to harp on these ideas he has, and totally forgets that this isn’t a college class where kids are supposed to be falling asleep in the back of the room, or inconspicuously playing Candy Crunch on their “notebooks”; this is a movie, for Christsakes! Better yet, it’s a two-hour, sci-fi thriller blockbuster, that has huge names like “Johnny Depp”, “Morgan Freeman”, and, ehrm, “Kate Mara”. She’s a big name now, right? House of Cards anybody? Oh wait! Cillian Murphy is in this and he’s a pretty big name from wherever he’s from. So that counts, right?

Anyway, you get the point! This is a big-budget, sci-fi thriller that is supposed to deal with the big questions one must have about day-to-day society, the technology that runs so rampant around in it, and whether or not we should let that said technology get the best of ourselves and make us forget exactly who it is we are, what we were put on this world to do in the first place, and why, as a species, it is that we matter. There’s no problem with dealings with those questions and trying to find the best, most suitable-answers possible, but there’s a better, more efficient-way to do so than what is presented here.

And it’s not like I’m some sort of caffeine-junkie that can’t wait two more weeks until the summer blockbusters start coming around every damn weekend and needs his action now, now, NOW; but it’s more that I just needed an extra “oomph” to the material that was presented here. That said extra “oomph”, rarely came around. Even when it did, it was near the tail-end, which was also a bit too late and only had me assume that Pfister realized he had to add some sort of action in there, so he decided to have guns shot, people murdered, cars flipped-over and streets exploding from the ground-up. Yeah, it sort of comes out of nowhere, and while it may be damn pretty to look at, it almost amounts to nothing. Just a bunch of smart people, talking about smart things, and trying to be smart, while also a bit bad-ass as well.

Note this, Hollywood: You can’t be a total smarty-pants, and also be a bad-ass as well. Sure, it works for our beloved superheroes, but they aren’t real people. They’re just a bunch of freaks. The same could be said for our modern-day, ordinary, regular-people scientists that roam the Earth, however, THEY ARE real people, which makes it all the harder to see them pistol-whip a baddie, while simultaneously be spewing out coded, scientific-numbers and such.

I’m sorry, but it just doesn’t work. Not for real-life, human beings that is. They’re just too, real. Man.

Also, something else to mention about this movie isn’t the fact that this movie doesn’t make much sense, but how it never really seems to stop at a certain-point and realize that this is in fact the point they want to leave its audience with. For instance, the character of Dr. Will Caster comes off a bit like a normal, everyday science-geek. He loves technology, he loves playing around with internet-connections and he even loves playing old-school, vinyl! Yup, so you know he’s a bit of a weirdo! Anyway, with Will, who seem to starts out unlike any other character we’ve seen Johnny Depp in the past decade or so (in other words, “normal”), once he gets shot and is transported into that trusty old computer of his, things start to get a little shaky for this character, as well as this movie. Depp is fine here, but I can’t help but feel like he couldn’t show up to all of the filming for this movie, so just got on his Webcam and decided to act from there. That’s sort of what the role calls on him to do, but it feels like a waste of someone who has finally found some time in his hectic schedule of partying with Tim Burton.

Seriously, those two need to stay apart for a long, long time.

Only cool guys put their hands in their pockets when they're delivering scientific exposition.

Only cool guys put their hands in their pockets when they’re delivering scientific exposition.

Anyway, with with Will, firstly, it seems like he becomes a total, longing-for-the-almighty-power nut-job, all because he “thinks it’s the right thing to do”. Sure, I could see why somebody would want to create a God-like figure, let alone, use themselves as the subject, but after awhile, this movie makes you think at which point did anybody decide that letting Jack Sparrow-speaking Siri start healing people with infinite powers, and taking over their souls was a smart idea? Apparently half-way through, Evelyn just stops caring and is like, “Yeah, whateva. He’s my hubby and I love him for what he is. Even if he is just a computer that can’t touch, feel or bang me. Yup, that’s him alrighty.”

I know I’m making light of this, but this movie’s plot truly is careless. Not much of it makes sense, and the movie never realizes whether or not it wants to condemn technology for being, well, technology, or wish that everybody would take a chill-pill and go back to the old days of smoking on peace pipes and playing Pong for hours-on-end. The movie is somewhere caught right up in the middle, leaving not only its audience with too much info jiggling around in our minds, but never, ever too sure whether or not the movie itself ever knew what it wanted to say. Instead, we’re just left to get in our cars, go to our homes and sit in front of our lap-tops for the rest of the night.

Ah, technology. What a beautiful thing to waste. Or not waste.

Eh, whatever.

Consensus: Filled with more ideas than it can probably handle, Transcendence may get by on its ambitions, but never seems to take-off in terms of its plot, its tone, or even its feelings regarding what it is that it’s speaking out against, or for. I’m still not sure.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

What happens after too much partying with Hunter S.

What happens after too much partying with Hunter S.

Photo’s Credit to:


52 responses to “Transcendence (2014)

  1. angie chui April 18, 2014 at 4:41 am

    Because its a Johnny Depp movie and it has Paul Bettany and Cillian Murphy in it, I would probably still give this one a chance. Thanks for the heads up though, it really helps me manage my expectations better 😀 great review!

  2. Matthew A April 18, 2014 at 6:06 am

    Love Wally but really had no desire to see this. Thanks for the confirmation.

  3. daviruz April 18, 2014 at 6:12 am

    Wow. Did not see this review coming. Thanks for the heads up Dan. At least I would know how to manage my expectations for the movie.

  4. tensecondsfromnow April 18, 2014 at 6:38 am

    Will check this out, but from what I hear, you’re spot on; sounds like a cinematographer’s movie.

  5. Joseph@thecinemamonster April 18, 2014 at 7:04 am

    What an absolute waste of talent, both on and off camera. Should’ve known the second Depp became attached ;).

  6. The Geek Mind April 18, 2014 at 9:09 am

    Damn it! I was kinda looking forward to this lol. Oh well…

  7. timneath April 18, 2014 at 9:12 am

    Interesting review. As soon as i saw the trailer I knew i didn’t want to see this film, You just cemented that decision.

  8. lukebbtt April 18, 2014 at 10:07 am

    Oh dear… I predicted this for film of the year.
    *Hangs up film credentials.

  9. Writer Loves Movies April 18, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    Nice review Dan. The trailers for this one haven’t quite won me over yet. Still undecided about seeing it. Time will tell…

  10. Eric Marcy April 18, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    How frustrating! Had really high hopes for this one… perhaps I’ll rent it eventually to satisfy my curiosity, but the downright negative response this film is getting should keep me away from the theater.

  11. Nicola April 18, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    When I saw the trailer for this film in the cinema I thought it looked really cool, but then kind of random as well? I wasn’t really intrigued by it in anyway, it seemed like a cool concept but the only thing drawing me in to watch it was Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany and Morgan Freeman. Now I’m not too sure!! Great review though, it’s nice to read something honest and actually helpful in making movie viewing decisions! I also love your style of writing! 😀

  12. Tim The Film Guy April 18, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    Called it. Good review 😀

  13. Consumed by Film April 18, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    I had high hopes for this one. Pfister at the helm, a sprinkle of Nolan and an outstanding cast – splendid! Still need to see it of course, but given your review and many other disappointed reactions, I can’t say I’m too thrilled. Interstellar, it’s over to you! Great review Dan.


  14. Sarah April 18, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    Good review. I was hoping this would be good, but I didn’t expect it to be this bad. Too bad, cause I thought the cast looked good the premise had potential. Oh well!

  15. Tom April 18, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    This movie was pretty damn terrible. I was honestly surprised to see you give it even 5.5! lol

    It made no sense, it was dull and too long, the acting wasn’t great, the technology mantra was overkill, and the special effects at times were pretty useless and awkwardly placed. I couldn’t find much to like at all, so hold on to your butts when MY peace is said! haha

    Good review Dan

  16. gloganwriter April 18, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    Great review Dan. I really liked the concept behind this when I first started reading about it last year but have been put off by lots of mediocre reviews. Might still give it a go

  17. Tony George April 18, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    I like the cast and the basic idea, so I’ll give it a shot. My problem? I f**king love technology!

  18. jklmd2002 April 18, 2014 at 9:43 pm

    I was really on the fence about seeing this but some brutally cold weather, a rainy night and the potential of another good SHIELD episode helped me stay home. Glad I didn’t bother and good review man!

  19. Jim Turnbull April 18, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    Great review Dan! The first time I saw the trailer for this I was really excited, but it’s been the only thing I’ve seen for the last three months now and I already don’t like it haha. Certainly seems like it has ideas above its station, but I’ll probably go out and disappoint myself anyway. The joys of movie reviewing eh? Thanks for the heads up!

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  21. yyanchev April 19, 2014 at 7:23 am

    I am still going to watch it, hope I don’t get too disappointed.

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  24. Haricharan Pudipeddi April 20, 2014 at 6:47 am

    I expected a lot from it and what i got in return was not so satisfying. I felt Johnny exhibits a strong magnetism to his character’s arc.It could have been a brilliant film but it’s not

  25. CouchKurisu April 20, 2014 at 8:56 am

    After sitting through the bland trailer at least 5 times at the cinema I didn’t have a lot of hope for this, so I’m not completely surprised by your review. Enjoyed reading it though 🙂

  26. 55theintimidator55 April 21, 2014 at 2:48 am

    I appreciate the sacrifice you made to go see this. The trailer looked dreadful to me so I was staying far away from this one. Sounds like I was right.

  27. ianthecool April 21, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    “Yeah, whateva. He’s my hubby and I love him for what he is. Even if he is just a computer that can’t touch, feel or bang me. Yup, that’s him alrighty.”

  28. shazza91321 April 22, 2014 at 1:34 am

    Good review I saw your score and decided I will wait for the DVD. Johnny Depp, ain’t making happen these days. Poor Johnny :(. I went to see Bears lol, that’s a must see!!!

  29. thomasjford April 22, 2014 at 9:54 am

    Trailer looks terrible, reviews are bad, box office shocking. I’m steering clear, at least til DVD anyway!

  30. Joan Fuchsman April 23, 2014 at 9:11 pm

    I liked your review a lot. We are pretty much in agreement. The film had a lot of wasted talent.

  31. Mark Hobin April 24, 2014 at 5:35 am

    The chronicle takes itself way too seriously. I mean they’ve even given the supercomputer a boring name: PINN (Physically Independent Neural Network). Wouldn’t it have been funnier if they named it GOD (Good Orderly Direction)? Well that was a wasted opportunity.

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