Do you know how many times I had to run the word “Transcendence” through the spell check to make sure I got it right? Thankfully, Adam Sandler does not use big fancy words in his movie titles, so my summer will be much easier.
Johnny Depp and Rebecca Hall star as Will and Evelyn Caster – two groundbreaking scientists working on artificial intelligence for computers. Their pal, Max (Paul Bettany), is very worried where this branch of study could lead, and has been a vocal opponent to any computer replacing humanity. However, all of that is about to be challenged.
A group of anti-technology zealots have decided to carry out a terrorist act against the companies working on advanced sentient programming and computer evolution, which leaves Will injured and with no hope of recovery.
However, Evelyn and Max work together to do the unthinkable to save their pal. They find a way to upload Will’s brain into a system that allows him to evolve and communicate, while taking in an unlimited amount of information.
Once this new Will starts to grow and realize new, unheard of powers, can he be stopped?
Is it really Will?
Transcendence is a movie that sneaks up on you dramatically and emotionally. Director Wally Pfister and writer Jack Paglen smoothly and slowly progress the plot in understandable and fascinating ways if you are willing to jump in and go with the flow. Then, suddenly, you have entered a realm of science fiction that challenges ethics and morality, which is the deeper part of the story, but not really the main attraction.
Pfister delivers enough action and thrills to pick up the pace and impact of Transcendence, but it feels like we all get lost along the way to the end. The story becomes a little too muddled, and, before you know it, is this supposed to be a love story? Really?
Depp is nice and creepy with his mostly vocal performance successfully helping the audience question Will’s motivations and desires, but the real stars of the movie are Hall and Bettany (they just don’t look as cool on the movie posters, and they don’t sell as many tickets). While Depp gets paid a hefty sum for reading, those two get the heavy lifting as we see them struggling with Will’s impending doom, the ethical questions about whether or not they should move forward with this plan, and what to do when Will starts to go crazy with God-like powers. Even Morgan Freeman (another guy who sells more tickets and looks better on the movie posters) doesn’t really have much to do in Transcendence, so be careful with expectations.
Transcendence might not be all you ever hoped for, but it is far better than most movies out there.
Transcendence is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, some bloody images, brief strong language and sensuality.