Thursday, April 24, 2014

REVIEW: Transcendence


Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall


April 18, 2014

Wally Pfister

Warner Bros. Pictures

1 hour 59 minutes



Wally Pfister, best known as the cinematographer behind films like "The Dark Knight" trilogy and "Inception," has now stepped behind the creative process with the new film "Transcendence" being his directorial debut.  The idea of a man having his brain being imported into a computer is not only intriguing and inventive, but also has the potential to be executed brilliantly.  Unfortunately, the idea is much better than the overall movie, as "Transcendence" is a disappointment and not a great way for Wally Pfister to make his directorial debut.  The problem with this movie doesn't rely in a mediocre script and below-average direction, although that attributes to the film's failures.  The main reason why I didn't enjoy the film is because, in a word, it's really boring.

When a 2 hour movie feels more like 2 and a half hours, you know that's not a good sign on the movie's part.  I honestly had to check my phone to see how long the film was, as I was to be going to another movie after "Transcendence" ended.  I understand that a movie should take its time to tell its story and to develop its characters, but here it felt as if the filmmakers were trying to make this thought-provoking and meaningful film by slowing the pace down and having its audience members squirm in their seats, just waiting for the credits to roll so they can venture to the bathroom.  In a world where movies tend to keep up the pace and try to keep people interested throughout its duration, this movie was kind of a snooze-fest, I must say.

It's kind of an ironic accomplishment to make Johnny Depp, one of Hollywood's most charismatic and entrancing actors, such a dull and uninteresting character that makes someone like Sheldon Cooper look like he has more emotion.  Sure, Depp is playing a digital version of himself throughout most of the film, but even when his character was a human he seemed dull and emotionless, aside from a smile here and there.  He's fine in the film, I guess, but I would have liked to have been more invested in his character.  Morgan Freeman and Cillian Murphy, who are Nolan regulars by this point, are wasted here and aren't given too much to do.  Kate Mara's performance consists of either yelling or staring at something, which made her my least favorite character.  Rebecca Hall and Paul Bettany might have given the best performances in the movie, but it was hard to tell considering the material they were working with wasn't anything great to begin with.

Screenwriter Jack Plagan, a first-timer in the film industry, executed his intriguing idea and put too much build-up, exposition, and useless material that felt like it was to be there to reach that 2 hour runtime.  If the film was just about HOW the world reacted to the world's first artificially intelligent humanoid computer, then the ideas could have been condensed down and explored throughout maybe the course of a year or so in these characters' lives.  Instead, Plagan thought it was smart to start in a dystopian future, bring us back five years to when Johnny Depp became a computer, and then jump again two years into the future to show the evolved progress of the computer and how it's begun to turn against humans.  Wouldn't it have been interesting to maybe have all of this placed in a single year, take out the useless subplots involving the anti-AI groups, and just show a story about a woman coping with the death of her husband by psychologically believing he's still alive in the computer?  That's just my opinion, though.

"Transcendence" really could have been a fascinating movie that expanded out of its clever concept with flying colors.  Instead, Jack Plagan thought it was better to put in multiple subplots, unnecessary exposition, and tell the story of the film by jumping throughout the course of five years for no reason. Wally Pfister might be a brilliant cinematographer, but as a director he needs to work on how to successfully direct his crew to make a solid film.  The cast tries their best with the material they're given, but their misdirection leads them to giving average to mediocre performances.  Overall, "Transcendence" is nothing more than a solid idea from a mediocre screenwriter that suffers from its bad script, mediocre direction, and too many subplots and moments of exposition that aren't needed.  What could have been a smart and simple sci-fi thriller instead becomes a muddled, boring, and disappointing movie that will surely be forgotten by the end of the year.


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