Saturday, April 19, 2014

Transcendence review

Sometimes, having expectations for a film can be a killer. As I thought about Wally Pfister's new sci-fi thriller Transcendence, I wondered if my inflated expectations for the film had caused me to be disappointed or if the movie was just flat-out bad. I've settled on the latter option. Transcendence is a dull, boring movie with little to offer the audience but a bunch of scientific talk spoken between lifeless characters and a borderline incomprehensible plot. It's one of 2014's first disasters. Transcendence is a film that promises so much, but delivers so little. None of the actors give much of a performance and the script is a mess. This movie never grips you in the beginning and never really does throughout the entire runtime. The film takes a strong anti-technology stance. What's ironic about that is that the movie feels like it was made by a computer.

Transcendence is the story of Will and Evelyn Caster (Johnny Depp and Rebecca Hall), two acclaimed scientists who also happen to be husband and wife. After giving a speech about artificial intelligence at a conference, Will is confronted by a man who shoots at him before taking his own life. Eventually, we learn that an anti-tech group called RIFT conducted a series of attacks against AI labs and only Will, Evelyn and their friends Joseph (Morgan Freeman) and Max (Paul Bettany) survived. Will was only grazed by the bullet, but it contained polonium, which will give Will radiation poisoning and cause him to die. Distraught when she learns that her husband will die, Evelyn remembers a study conducted and decides to upload Will's brain onto a computer. The experiment works and Will becomes a sentient, intelligent being on a computer program. However, he eventually begins to amass more power and builds an army which threatens all of humanity.

Transcendence is a movie with so much potential, but it never delivers on any of it. I've read a lot of reviews for this movie and I agreed with pretty much everything that other critics said. Transcendence is a lifeless movie with tedious characters, awful pacing and a dull, uninteresting storyline. Some people have said that the movie gets by on its ideas alone. I disagree wholeheartedly with that statement. The film has interesting ideas and intriguing themes, but there's no way that you'll be interested in these themes while you're being bored half to death by this movie. The pacing and the directing is awful, the acting is dull and the film never really has anything going on.

The first problem with Transcendence is the pacing. This movie has long stretches where nothing goes on, followed by a brief moment of excitement, followed by another long stretch of nothing. For long periods of time, this movie is so boring. Every once in a while, there would be a moment where I thought "Hey, that looked cool!" or "Hey, that's something that Chris Nolan would have done!" but the simple problem was that they were few and far between.

Another problem that Transcendence runs into involves the acting and the characters. Look, I'm not saying that Inception or some of the other Nolan have the most developed characters in the world, but every time I watch Inception, I'm invested in Cobb's story. In Transcendence, I never cared about a single one of the characters. Johnny Depp is pretty bland, Rebecca Hall is okay, and although a lot of people have been praising Paul Bettany's performance, I didn't think he was great. The supporting cast delivers some interesting performances, but the characters are terribly written. Cillian Murphy's character is so criminally underdeveloped and Morgan Freeman isn't given much to do (although I did enjoy his performance). Kate Mara is decent (her character actually has some kind of backstory) and Clifton Collins Jr. gives a solid performance in his limited role. In general, the acting is sufficient. But the main problem is that this film is dull and the characters are both dull AND poorly written. You never cared about them. However, that wouldn't have been a huge problem for me if the rest of the movie had been more thrilling or at least have made sense.

The biggest problem this movie runs into is that the script sucks. Actually, I don't know if the script sucks. According to a lot of people, the script was on the blacklist for years and the original script was fantastic. However, the script that was put on the screen sucks. It really really sucks. It's just stupid. There are things that happen that are never explained in addition to underdeveloped characters and poor pacing. The second half of this movie is ridiculous because it explains nothing. Let's go into that some more.

For years, I've listened to people say that Inception is a confusing movie because it's complicated. And for years, I have said to those people that the movie is not confusing and that you just have to pay attention. On the other hand, Transcendence IS a confusing movie. This movie makes so little sense that it's breathtaking. There are so many things that are so stupid and ridiculous that it frustrated the heck out of me. The film all of a sudden jumps ahead three years at one point in the movie and Will goes: "Hey, we just invented new nano-technology!" Suddenly, the movie becomes a mess of flying particles, reconstructed bodies and indestructible superhumans. And none of it is explained. None of it is explained logically by the plot and don't even get me started on the ending. This movie pulls a Peter Jackson and never ends. There are so many places where this movie could end, but it just goes on and on and on and on and on and on. And the final scene just made me mad.

In the end, Transcendence is terrible. It's a boring, nearly incomprehensible mess with weak characters, bad pacing, and a script that explains nothing. This movie has good ideas and moments of entertainment and it does look cool sometimes. Some of the action scenes were alright. However, that doesn't mean that it's good. This movie is a disastrous slog at times with an ending that tries to be mysterious and interesting, but just ends up falling flat because the previous two hours were awful. All I can really say at this point is that you shouldn't see this movie. It's the most boring, dull movie that I've seen in theaters all year and that's saying something. Hopefully Nolan's next directorial feature, Interstellar, is much better.

THE FINAL GRADE:  D                                              (4.2/10)

1 comment:

  1. It wasn't the greatest movie, but I really was interested in the whole concept of AI (Artificial Intelligence) along with using someones mind/intelligence (Which isn't that far fetched being that the brain is run on millions of electrical signals and connections knows as synapses so the brain in itself is it's own a type of computer) and the already infancy stage of a growing nano-technology, mainly in the medical arena made this movie not a too long stretch of disbelieve. I could see someone hating the movie if they don't have any interest or very little knowledge of computers, networking, AI or nano-technology. Yet the biggest question that came up in the movie, that could or couldn't tie all those things together, is "Free Will" possible in this scenario? I think the strange ending to most who watched was answering the question that the movie never really answered out right. The director wanted you to think it does exist, with the water and flower scene at the conclusion, as if the Dr. and his wife lived on through the nano-technology that he released into the atmosphere as moisture in the clouds, rain, dirt, wherever they wanted to go really. Anyway, I found the movie thought provoking and in my opinion a very possible reality in the future. Not near future but not super far off future.

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