By Jack Rico
The “1-4-0″: #Transcendence has a smart plot that asks good Q’s on the future of man and technology, but it has flaws hard to ignore.
The Gist: What would you do for love? Johnny Depp plays the smartest scientist in the world who is killed by a poisoned bullet and is later uploaded in death by his wife as an omnipresent A.I computer to keep him alive.
The Highlights: Part romance, part sci-fi thriller, the debate between man and technology has been tackled by the film industry since the 1920’s and 30’s such as Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis,” “Just Imagine” by David Butler and William Cameron Menzies’ “Things To Come“. They have made some form of social or political commentary about our humanity alongside science and machines. In the case of Transcendence, helmer Wally Pfister brings to light artificial intelligence, the internet, the human brain and how our morality fits within these elements. This is a thought-provoking film that I applaud because it is not just cinematic escapism, it turns the gears in our heads to think deeper into our reality and our future. Take for example, Andrew Niccol’s “In Time” or Jonathan Mostow’s “Surrogates,” amongst countless others films that planted some interesting themes about science and our society, yet ultimately unraveled due to its poor script execution. Nevertheless, they were all intriguing enough for me to disregard its blemishes. Perhaps what Transcendence should have strived to be more like in conceptual approach is Andrew Niccol’s “Gattaca” which was intelligent and emotionally engaging up to the end. Alas, Transcendence raised our brow with its compelling proposition, but didn’t provide a strong enough resolution as entertainment to praise it as undeniable enjoyment.
The Lowlights: The complaints about this film are that it’s not exciting enough, it didn’t develop the more relevant elements of the story, the performances are subpar, it reaches levels of absurdity, too ambitious, etc, etc. Some of it is true, but when a movie is this complex, deep and thought-provoking, the writing at some point can become tenuous. But how often are these ambitious films released. The film is by no means a masterpiece, but it is also not worthy of the rebuke it’s receiving. Critics sometimes jump on the bandwagon even if they think differently of a film. In regards to the acting, Depp hands in one of his most subpar performances in his career. it was devoid of of any deep emotion or meaningfulness. He was monotone for the most part. Rebecca Hall was the better actor by a mile. Screenwriter Jack Paglen had an intelligent overall concept, but in Act II, the conflict stage, the story begins showing its flaws. After establishing some realistic scientific plausibilities in the beginning, the subsequent dilemmas become implausible. When that happens, shouting “bullshit” along with some unintentional laughter at the screen sounds like a good idea. Yet, the premise’s strength imposes its will on its foibles even if it doesn’t deliver on the high potential its ideas.
Pay or Nay?: I’m standing my ground here and saying I like it and enjoyed it for its intent and lofty thinking. But for the rising price of movie tickets today, you need to always see something fantastic, if not riveting at the theaters. Even though Transcendence proposes some captivating ideas about the gift and curse of artificial intelligence, it doesn’t provide “Minority Report” type of action, entertainment nor storytelling excitement to pay $15-$20. Five dollars is another story and on DVD you can get that. Nay for the theater, pay for the DVD.
Oh, if you’re paying to watch it at the Lincoln Loews IMAX theater in NYC, don’t. Only 3/4 of the screen is used as opposed to the whole 2 story screen. A robbery of your $20 if you ask me.
Release Date: Apr 18, 2014 Wide
Screenplay: Jack Paglen
Director(s): Wally Pfister
Starring: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Paul Bettany, Morgan Freeman, Cole Hauser
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Film Genre: Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy