Movie Review: ‘Transcendence’

Published by Clay Cane on Friday, April 18, 2014 at 12:00 am.

(Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

(Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Johnny Depp disappointingly returns to the big screen in a flick that is destined to sweep the Razzies — Transcendence. Directed by Wally Pfister (his directorial debut), the film cannot transcend its weak sentiments, implausible scenarios, unlikable characters and painfully boring pace. The only truly transcendent element of the film is how Johnny Depp, now 50 years old, transcends all signs of aging!

Transcendence starts off promisingly with commentary on a world obsessed with social media and technology. We are all connected and disconnected. The idea is nothing original — you can read ruminations on the ills of our society on any random Facebook status — but for an alleged sci-fi thriller, it’s expected that the 120 minutes running time will be a joy ride. Not at all. Outside of Depp’s ageless beauty, Transcendence is another example of how A-list is not always the best.

Depp plays Dr. Will Caster, a prominent researcher in Artificial Intelligence who believes we all “create a God.” After his unexpected death, his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) uploads his brain, which manifests a digital but dangerous version of Dr. Caster. He must be destroyed, as should everything he created. But the doctor fights back and the rest of the film all leads up to the one-liner, “We’re not going to fight them. We’re going to transcend them.” This “fight” happens an arduous 90 minutes into the epic 120 minutes. By this time, the audience is trying to transcend sleep.

Scene after scene, Transcendence stumbles with a troublesome script and unlikable characters. One epic low is Rebecca Hall’s character having a Lifetime movie moment, arguing with digitized Johnny Depp about her emotions — things aren’t what they seem! He is controlling her! She wants out. The theater busted out in laughter.

There are small roles with Morgan Freeman and Cory Hardrict. But even with a solid cast and the high-profile direction of Pfister, the film is a dud on every level of filmmaking. In one scene, Freeman gives Rebecca Hall a note that reads: “Run from this place!” If I could transcend time, I would hand the cast and crew a note that says: “Run from this movie!”

Transcendence is in theaters now.

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