HOLLYWOOD—When was the last time you saw a movie that played with your mind? Last film I think of was 2010’s “Inception,” but “Transcendence” is looking to give that flick a run for its money. This mental thriller stars Johnny Depp, as Dr. Will Caster, an artificial intelligence researcher. His goal in life is to develop a machine with an intelligence that is hard to precisely pinpoint with words. It’s a machine that does things that only man can imagine.
That quest to push technology in a new direction makes Dr. Caster a target of extremists who shoot him, placing him on the verge of death. This is where things take a turn to the unexplainable. Driven to save her hubby’s life, Evelyn (Rebecca Hall), with the assistance of Will’s best friend and colleague, download his mind into a computer to preserve it and save his life. There’s just one tiny problem: our doctor becomes a mad scientist driven for power and threatens the survival of mankind as we know it.
“Transcendence” is a movie that asks the audience to suspend reality. It’s not an easy task to do, with such a subject matter that comes across as a bit foreign. The film asks multiples questions like how detached from technology are we? As well as, to what degree does technology impact our daily lives? When Will finds himself as a digital blueprint on a computer, he sees himself as very much alive, not a digitally enhanced computer image. This makes the title character quite dangerous to have all the intelligence of every single individual in the world.
It’s a love story at the core between Will and Evelyn. She doing everything in her power to keep the man she loves alive and ticking, not realizing she’s performing things that are morally, ethically and politically incorrect. But as a spectator, can you blame her?
Wouldn’t we all want to do the same thing for the people that we care about? Bettany has a meaty role, playing a captor to the group of extremists led by Bree, a disturbing and riveting performance by Kata Mara. That woman sure knows how to sink herself into a meaty role, without blinking twice. The movie is helmed by longtime cinematographer Wally Pfister, who excels at staging the special effects that are awe-inspiring at times, but on a narrative front the film lacks the punch of super smart high-tech thrillers that have come before it.
“Transcendence” delivers a load of smart ideas, theories and concepts to the viewers, but none of those things completely link in a cohesive manner that compels the viewer to think about the possibility of such actions taking place outside of the movie theater.
If we’re presented with a possible threat to mankind in a fictional tone, we’d like to think to some degree it can possibly happen. Depp brings a calm, nerdy vibe to his character, while Hall brings the emotional awareness to the viewer, but more is needed from the plot to connect all the pieces effectively. “Transcendence” plants the seeds into the viewer’s mind, but it doesn’t allow them to effectively grow into fruition.