Direction: Wally Pfister
Actors: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall
Over the years, cyber-flicks have grappled with the promise and peril of artificial intelligence, be it a robot housekeeper (Bicentennial Man, 1999) or the more recent advanced computer operating system. Now veteran cinematographer Wally Pfister, who worked his magic on Memento and several other films by Christopher Nolan, steps into the director’s chair for the first time to craft a cautionary sci-fi yarn about the misuse of technology.
Johnny Depp disappoints in Transcendence
Despite its love story underpinnings, Transcendence is strangely devoid of emotion. While there’s no denying Pfister’s visual pizzazz, it’s the script with its confusing dramatics and tedious techno jargon which is a let-down.
At the outset, a genius scientist (Depp, disappointingly dull) is left critical after an assassination attempt. His grief-stricken wife and research partner (Hall) is determined to upload his consciousness into a super computer before he dies.
Naturally, neither she nor their long-standing colleague (Paul Bettany, bland) is prepared for the omniscient capabilities of the newly-minted sentient machine. The rushed last act devolves into a conventional ticking-clock thriller with a group of anti-technology activists attempting to shut down the virtual abomination.
There are too many arty flourishes such as slow motion water droplets but scarcely any nuance in characterizations. On the other hand, the gleaming production design is complemented by a thunderous soundtrack.
Of the cast, it’s Rebecca Hall who displays an intensity that the others, including Morgan Freeman as the artificial intelligence guru, lack. Living up to his reputation of an ardent advocate for the use of celluloid over digital formats Wally Pfister shot the film with 35 mm cameras.
Considerably more adventurous than the wannabe holiday blockbuster, Transcendence is worth catching up with.