Transcendence

Critics Consensus

In his directorial debut, ace cinematographer Wally Pfister remains a distinctive visual stylist, but Transcendence's thought-provoking themes exceed the movie's narrative grasp.

20%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 220

37%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 64,218
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Movie Info

Sci-Fi Thriller. Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) is the foremost researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence, working to create a sentient machine that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known with the full range of human emotions. His highly controversial experiments have made him famous, but they have also made him the prime target of anti-technology extremists who will do whatever it takes to stop him. However, in their attempt to destroy Will, they inadvertently become the catalyst for him to succeed-to be a participant in his own transcendence. For his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and best friend Max Waters (Paul Bettany), both fellow researchers, the question is not if they can...but if they should. Their worst fears are realized as Will's thirst for knowledge evolves into a seemingly omnipresent quest for power, to what end is unknown. The only thing that is becoming terrifyingly clear is there may be no way to stop him.(C) Warner

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Cast

Johnny Depp
as Dr. Will Caster
Paul Bettany
as Max Waters
Morgan Freeman
as Joseph Tagger
Cole Hauser
as Colonel Stevens
Cillian Murphy
as Agent Buchanan
Cory Hardrict
as Joel Edmund
Xander Berkeley
as Dr. Thomas Casey
Lukas Haas
as James Thomas
Wallace Langham
as Dr. Strauss
James Burnett
as Meth Head #1
Sam Quinn
as Meth Head #2
Sam Webb
as Red Hooded Teenager
Christopher Gartin
as Tech Conference Coordinator
Abraham Jallad
as Rift Hacker
Lauren Sivan
as Reporter
Laramie Cooley
as BDC Greeter
Nancy Jeris
as BDC Servant
Colin Jones
as FBI Agent
Dylan Kenin
as FBI Agent
Chad Brummett
as Solar Field Worker
Antonio Del Prete
as Will In Hybrid
Jon Kristian Moore
as Will In Hybrid
John Trejo
as Special Forces On Roof
Matthew J. Berkovitz
as Campus Security
Darren Patrick Leis
as Medical Lab Tech
Donna D. Brown
as Rift Surgeon
Zackeriah Carpenter
as Rift Medical Tech
Christina Lancellotti
as Rift Medical Tech
Kristen Rakes
as Computer Programmer
Seth Adkins
as Miserable Student
Dean Bailey
as Edge Driver
Gary Dionne
as Biscuit Driver
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Critic Reviews for Transcendence

All Critics (220) | Top Critics (53)

Audience Reviews for Transcendence

  • Jun 22, 2016
    This actually was better than I thought it was going to be. Pretty interesting storyline as I can potentially see this happening in the next 20 years or so (which is a scary thought). Rebecca Hall is great in this one. Script is very well thought out and written. This is probably how the future in the Terminator franchise will actually start.
    Patrick W Super Reviewer
  • Sep 13, 2014
    Everyone has been asking for a new sci-fi thriller from Christopher Nolan, and now, finally, he presents a film... directed by his cinematographer. Wally Pfister is finally moving on up in the big leagues of sci-fi filmmaking, ostensibly on the back of nepotism that I like to think doesn't so much derive from Nolan's name, but from Wall-E's name. Seriously though, Nolan as an executive producer, Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Cilian Murphy, Morgan Freeman, and $100 million are attached to an ambitious sci-fi project, so this can't possibly go wrong, right? Well, I reckon we know why this film's script was blacklisted for so long, but at least Richard Roeper dug it, even more so than me, and as far as everyone else is concerned, I think that this is the "Inception II" that it ostensibly wants to be. Speaking of which, I may be that jerk who actually likes this film, but even I have to note the irony in the fact that when a man entered his dreams, he faced action, action and more action, and when this man enters the digital world, not much happens. Johnny Depp has explored many a surreal world, and few of them have been of a science fiction nature, oddly enough, probably because after "The Astronaut's Wife", in 1999, he became very strict about his sci-fi projects. One can imagine how frustrated he is to see how his big comeback to sci-fi films has turned out, but hey, I like it just fine, though not nearly as much as Richard Roeper, for a number of reasons. Jack Paglen's script makes a number of errors in judgment, notably in how it structures the narrative, whose hiccups are subtle, but distinct, in how they undercook a number of character motivations and rush through certain places where there should be slow-downs, which remain frequent enough for the film to find itself meandering limply. Uneven pacing is even an issue with Wally Pfister's direction, which is adequately engaging more often than not, but breaks up long periods of subtle momentum that, with a little more ambience than kick to atmosphere, is reminiscent of Chris Nolan's urgent pacing style with brief dry spots which retard a sense of momentum enough for you to take notice of just how repetitious and overdrawn this thriller is at just shy of two hours. That runtime isn't especially lengthy, and therefore emphatic of how thin this film's subject matter kind of is, because although there is a lot of interesting material to touch upon, there's hardly any action, and not even that much bite to the subtle intensities and dramatics, despite Paglen's trying a touch too hard to manufacture something of relatively considerable intrigue. From an angle focusing on an anti-technology terrorist organization, to humanized melodramatics, there are some promising elements that feel kind of forced into the context of this, at its heart, minimalist sci-fi opus, - which has enough trouble selling its overblown, underdeveloped and largely farfetched mythology - partly due to Paglen's particular laziness when it comes to their handling, and largely due to a heavy-handedness to Pfister's directorial storytelling which encompass contrived tensions and sentimentality to try and salvage an investment that only loosens as the plot heavy-handedly unravel. There's either too much ambition, or too much laziness, but whatever the case may be, this is a narratively rocky and dramatically misguided thriller that could maintain momentum much more comfortably if it didn't succumb to so many conventions. For every potentially refreshing element in this film, there is mounds of tropes, many of which are downright trite, resulting in a predictability to severe that the element of surprise is even too slim to obscure missteps in the structure and narrative value of the storytelling, and natural shortcomings in the story itself. I was hoping for a lot more out of this rather forgettable sci-fi project, but to say that this is as flat as many say is inaccurate, because for all its shortcomings, the film offers some value, even that of an aesthetic nature. Really, although the name of Mychael Danna still carries some weight after his Oscar-winning efforts on "Life of Pi", his score, being largely ambient and almost consistently formulaic, is barely worth praising, although there is enough subtle color to capture the delicacy of this thriller, without intensifying an atmospheric dryness that would exacerbate the film's blandness. The subtle strengths in the score work go a fair distance, kind of like the visual effects, which are short in supply for a $100 million film, but, upon being incorporated, blend into everything seamlessly and, in a lot of ways, majestically, with a certain visual aesthetic quality that is, of course, more prominent within the cinematography of Jess Hall, who is not as gifted of a photographer as the already, in some places, flat director of this film, but does do a certain justice to Wally Pfister's tastes in enough places to create some memorable well-defined visuals. Quite frankly, even the style of this pricy piece is a little lacking, and I'm sure most all of us can agree that we were expecting that to hit home if anything in this film was to do so, but technical proficiency is sound here, livening things up, arguably with a little more consistency than the telling of a promising story. Well, I don't know how promising this story is, for conventional and slightly inconsequential elements work to beef up a story that is short on action and immediate urgency, yet its subject matter, no matter while not wholly scientifically convincing, paints an intriguing portrait on themes regarding what separates humanity from artificial intelligence, how greatly technology can corrupt good visions, and whether or not humanity truly is the purest form of intelligence. If there is a dramatic factor to flavor up this subject matter, then it thrives, not on the storytelling, but on a highly esteemed cast of talents who have hardly anything to do, but sell their respective roles solidly, with Johnny Depp capturing the intimidating presence of an artificial intelligence, while the lovely Rebecca Hall projects the emotional depths of a woman who loses her husband, only to get him back for the sake of noble intentions that ultimately go horribly awry. Beyond the onscreen talent, there isn't really anything of consistent worth, but there are a number of elements to commend, and they go orchestrated with as much effectiveness as they can be by Pfister, whose debut directorial performance in flimsy in pacing and certain other elements, while proving to be underwhelming in certain technical aspects, but also carries a number of promising attributes, ranging from stylistic proficiency, to a dramatic tastefulness that evokes some resonance, particularly with a resolution that is touching enough for you to overlook certain holes. There are a lot of holes throughout this film, and Pfister does not have ability to overshadow them through and through, thus making for a final product that really does drop the ball in so many places, which is unfortunate, because there is some potential, and it is done enough justice to make a reasonably engaging sci-fi thriller, even though much more could have been done. To shut everything down, a lack of coherency in structure and pacing challenge one's patience with a minimalist story concept that is further thinned by desperately contrived elements and, of course, thorough predictability, thus, the final product falls as an underwhelming betrayal of some intriguing ideas, which are done enough justice by decent score work, visual effects and cinematography, and by solid acting and directorial highlights to secure Wally Pfister's "Transcendence" as an adequately engaging sci-fi study on humanity and artificial intelligence, in spite of all the disappointments. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Sep 12, 2014
    An interesting concept that falls through due to terrible execution. You will sit through this movie feeling and thinking nothing. And, you will likely be walking away from this feeling as though you completely wasted two hours of your life. I know I did.
    Nikhil N Super Reviewer
  • Sep 07, 2014
    I don't know why everybody panned this film...it's actually pretty good. I would've given it an even higher rating, but the ending is pretty stupid. Aside from that, it's a pretty cool film that brings up raises some interesting issues that are sure to be hot topics within the next 20-30 years.
    Stephen S Super Reviewer

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