Transcendence - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Transcendence Reviews

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½ November 7, 2017
"Transcendence" Lacks Execution. While cinematographer Wally Pfister (The Dark Knight trilogy and Inception) had great intention in his directorial debut, sadly Transcendence never came full circle.

On paper Wally Pfister's Transcendence looked and sounded great. It had solid actors (Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Paul Bettany and Morgan Freeman), a Sci-Fi thriller premise, a convincing plot and visually stylish camera shots. However, the real problem lies much deeper within the film. Transcendence in the end had disappointing performances, large narrative gaps and lacked execution. I was excited to see this film because it was Pfister's directorial debut, but ended up being in a slum after the film ended. The plot begins with Dr. Will Caster (Depp), a researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence, who is working on a machine that combines collective intelligence of human emotions. There is only one problem ... anti-technology extremists want his head. Before they kill him Caster downloads everything he knows and feels to a computer.

The performance of Depp, once a promising actor who has declined over the years, is dull and emotionless in this film. Scarlett Johansson's voice in Her was more star-worthy than Depp's entire acted performance in this film. So when Caster's devoted wife (Hall) misses him she can just log on and Skype him. Sadly, Hall's role is wasted in this film and she deserves better. Caster's knowledge evolves into a power hungry force and after that the film turns into a total bore. Newcomer Jack Paglen's script is surprise free and lacks the execution it needs. In the end, the potential of Transcendence is completely wasted. It's time to wipe the slate clean and move on. Time to select the file and delete. Erase all.
October 29, 2017
amazing movie have no idea why this movie was rated poorly
October 27, 2017
I am shocked at the bad ratings as I really enjoyed this movie. Better than most of the movies I have seen in awhile. It had an actual story which I appreciated.
October 17, 2017
Chrisopher Nolan's long time cinematographer Wally Pfister directs his first film and a very good looking one indeed. It explores some interesting futurists idea and themes even though they do seem very far-fetched and yet still didn't seem they got deep enough into the those themes. Still the very core of the story is a message of love and humanity.
½ October 17, 2017
Huge disappointment which made me super angry for sitting through the entire film in the theater and would never re-watch unless I was paid a pretty penny.
October 10, 2017
Probably the most realistic movie about AI
½ October 1, 2017
this film is super confusing. You really have to concentrate to actually get your head around what's happening. Not one of johnnys best films.
September 21, 2017
Elon Musk should've been hired as a consultant.
September 9, 2017
One of this year's more underrated sci-fi films, transcendence, may not be a groundbreaking science-fiction drama, but delivers what it intends to do. The film is smart, the plot is both simple and complicated in different levels. The performances are good. The photographic visions are mind blowing. And the scripts idea and conclusion, is challenging in both intellectual and moral aspects. So while the film may not be the sci-fi masterpiece of the year, it's definitely not as disappointing as many critics have claimed. It mostly looks like there's a negative atmosphere around this movie between film critics that looks ugly, whatever it is. Suggestion for sci-fi fans or anyone who enjoys smart ideas and intelligent movies: Ignore the damned critics, don't miss this film.
August 27, 2017
I liked it. I liked that this feels like the new Godzilla or The Signal. Like they make the threat also the promise. $8.50
August 21, 2017
GREG: (Greg Smith, Founder of Agile Writers of Richmond, VA) Scott, it s time to rise above it all and review Transcendence.

SCOTT: (Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond) Rising is the yeast we can do. Let s recap.

GREG: We meet quirky, super-smart computer scientist Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp). He has a plan to make super-smart computers that are self-aware. This is a state that Caster calls Transcendence. No sooner does he unveil his plans than he is shot with a bullet laced with a radioactive substance that gets into his blood. He has a mere matter of weeks to live.

SCOTT: Caster s wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) devises a plan to immortalize Caster by uploading his brain and consciousness onto a computer. The plan works, but the same terrorist organization that shot Caster is now intent on thwarting Evelyn s plan. She barely manages to complete the task and she evades the terrorists, but her good friend Max (Paul Bettany) is not convinced that the uploaded version of Caster is actually him. The rest of the movie consists of Caster expanding his powers in big, frightening ways.

GREG: Scott, Transcendence was a disappointing rehash of a number of science fiction tropes. With Caster becoming one with the computer he becomes more powerful than anyone can imagine. And since he is wired into the internet, he can be everywhere at once. We saw this played sweetly in last years Her where Scarlett Johansson voiced a computer operating system that eventually grew self-aware and left Earth for places unknown. However, in that movie, the super-aware computer didnt become a fearsome monster. It seems that people fear technology growing more powerful than mans ability to control it. You can go all the way back to the original Godzilla or even to 1927s Metropolis to see examples of this. There was little of interest in this movie and even Morgan Freemans presence couldnt save it.

SCOTT: I agree, Greg. Transcendence fails to transcend; in fact, the movie should be called Regression. There s no new ground here, just some recycled ideas from Star Trek, such as the idea that (1) consciousness can be imported to a computer, (2) an enhanced race of super-humans can be developed and deified, and (3) a menacing race of villains with a collective mind can threaten earth. And as you mention, we have a re-hash of last year s Her, another movie that treats these issues with more originality and style. What is new is the idea that nano-technology can infiltrate the natural world, affecting clouds, weather, soil, and water. This added menace certainly takes the disturbing abuse of technology a big step further. But the idea isn t developed or pursued at all. One other criticism: the movie is slow-paced. It takes quite a while for the plot to move forward, and so when we finally get to the meat and potatoes, and we are disappointed to see that the meal is the same one we ve been served before, although not as tasty as before.

GREG: I ve noticed a lot of your metaphors deal with food. I should feed you before we write these reviews. The hero in this story appears to be Caster s wife Evelyn. She is the one whom we follow from the beginning to the end of the story. As such, she s a pretty weak hero. She displays a lot of the characteristics of the hero including selflessness and caring. But she just follows Caster s direction without much thinking about the ramifications of the ideas. And she doesn t really have any missing inner qualities to transcend either. She pretty much just sleepwalks through this film. The Max and Tagger characters (Freeman) are also heroic in their attempts to stop Caster. Max is the only one who transforms in any significant way as he realizes that Caster isn t the man he once was. As Max is quite the secondary character I don t count him as a hero.

SCOTT: Greg, I think we can agree that the movie starts out as a buddy hero story, with Caster and Evelyn serving as a duo working together to promote positive uses of technology. But as you note, Evelyn emerges as the lone hero while Caster evolves into the villain. The heroes and villains flip-flop half-way through the movie, with Caster turning evil and the terrorists anti-technology position looking increasingly smart and reasonable. Johnny Depp seems out of his element here, as he s miscast as a scholarly intellectual. Depp is effective in dark, mysterious, quirky roles but he seems out of place here. I felt badly for Morgan Freeman, who as you say is a good man and good actor trapped in a bad movie. The secondary characters do a pretty good job with their roles but there is so much that is derivative here that my attention was shot to hell half-way through the movie.

GREG: You make a good point, Scott. The villains at the beginning of the movie were pretty villainous. They shot and killed a man (Caster) to prevent what they thought was universal armageddon. That s a pretty heinous act. Then about halfway through they emerge as the good guys in the face of Caster s greater villainy. I found it hard to overcome their terrorist acts and see them as heroes. Caster as a villain really took a while to emerge. As you point out, we have seen this sort of villain even recently. Dr. Zola in last week s Captain America: The Winter Soldier was another scientist transferred into a computer system. And Caster was a pretty weak villain at that. One good thing about this villain that we haven t seen up to this point is the fact that we get a backstory to him. We saw that he was a good guy until his consciousness was transferred into the computer. Then the wealth of worldwide computing power corrupted him and he was bent on worldwide control. It s pretty rare for us to get a look at the Villain s Journey in a movie.

SCOTT: Transcendence is a derivative story of technology run amok. It s science fiction that would delight and amaze us only if we lived in the 1950s. The film is mildly entertaining in places, and it did make me think, albeit briefly, about the consequences of nano-technology taking over the natural world. But there s precious little new ground broken here, and with Depp miscast as a scholar, I had trouble swallowing much of the story. I can only muster up one single solitary Reel out of 5. The hero story is interesting insofar as we see our initial hero, Caster, devolve into a villain character. His wife Evelyn then assumes the role of the lone hero, but she s ill-equipped for the task, showing an inability to think critically about her husband s unbridled ambition. She s not much of a hero, and so all I can give her is a puny 2 Heroes out of 5. Greg, you are absolutely right about the one strong point of the movie being its focus on the step-by-step development of a villain from scratch. We must also ask ourselves whether Caster made bad choices or if his turn to evil was solely a product of his digitization. We know that power corrupts and so the answer may not be clear-cut. Because of this in-depth treatment of villainy, I m going to give Caster 3 Villains out of 5. Movie: Heroes: Villains:

GREG: There s not much for me to add. This was a pretty terrible movie and I don t see any reason to give it more than one Reel out of 5. The hero Evelyn was lost and waffling for most of the story. She pretty much does the bidding of the computer/scientist until the very end. It s a pretty dull hero s journey which I can only give 1 out of 5 Heroes. And finally, looking at Caster as the villain I was going to give him a score of just 1 Villain. But I m incrementing it to 2 Villains out of 5 because we see a bit of the villain s journey for the first time this year. Movie: Heroes: Villains:
½ July 20, 2017
It had a interesting story, but it lacked to tell the interest of the story.
July 19, 2017
Another awesome Depp movie as usual
½ June 6, 2017
please please someone put johnny depp out of my misery
½ May 20, 2017
This is a heavy movie. There is little action, mostly just talking heads. The fact that one of the heads is A.I. doesn't deter to the feeling of the plot being in quicksand without anyone or anything around to help it escape. Depp's aptitude for bringing odd characters to life couldn't help the mire presented here. Will A.I. be beneficial to humanity? There must be much more to the topic than what was presented here.
May 13, 2017
i actually liked this story but i watched it on tv with commercials while i was assembling furniture, so perhaps i wasn't as bored or frustrated as all of the critics who have smashed it. if i was evelyn i'd have got right on board and taken over the friggin world.
April 17, 2017
To be honest, this is a good movie. The concept of somebody's mind inside an computer is amazing. Depp shines as Dr. Will Caster, an eccentric scientist who gets infected with radiation at a convention. Throughout the whole movie, we are lead to believe that Caster is no more, that his humanity has been wiped away by the AI. But in the end, we truly see the briliance of this movie.
April 16, 2017
I don't know why this movie got bad reviews. It's one of the best movies I've ever seen.
April 16, 2017
Not as bad as critics suggest it is, but should have been a direct-to-TV lower budget movie.
April 15, 2017
a really good sci fi pic
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