Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Film Review: "Transcendence" (2014).




"What if a new intelligence was born?"
Which is what Transcendence attempts to ask. This science fiction film directed by cinematographer Wally Pfister in his directorial debut, and written by Jack Paglen. Dr. Will Caster is the foremost researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence, working to create a sentient machine that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known with the full range of human emotions. His highly controversial experiments have made him famous, but they have also made him the prime target of anti-technology extremists who will do whatever it takes to stop him. However, in their attempt to destroy Will, they inadvertently become the catalyst for him to succeed-to be a participant in his own transcendence. For his wife Evelyn and best friend Max Waters, both fellow researchers, the question is not if they can...but if they should. Their worst fears are realized as Will's thirst for knowledge evolves into a seemingly omnipresent quest for power, to what end is unknown. The only thing that is becoming terrifyingly clear is there may be no way to stop him.

Paglen's screenplay was part of what is known as the Black List, a list of popular but unproduced screenplays in Hollywood. However he and producer Annie Marter pitched the film to Straight Up Films. The pitch was sold to Straight Up. By March 2012, Alcon Entertainment acquired the project. In the following June, director Christopher Nolan, for whom Pfister has worked as cinematographer, and Nolan's producing partner Emma Thomas joined the film as executive producers. By October 2012, actor Johnny Depp entered negotiations to star in the film. Pfister met with Noomi Rapace for the film's female lead role and also met with James McAvoy and Tobey Maguire for the other male lead role. The director even offered a supporting role to Christoph Waltz. In March 2013, Rebecca Hall was cast as the female lead. By the following April, actors Paul Bettany, Kate Mara, and Morgan Freeman joined the main cast.  Filming officially began in June 2013, and took place over a period of 62 days. The majority of the movie was filmed in a variety of locations throughout Albuquerque, New Mexico. Continuing his advocacy for the use of film stock over digital cinematography, Pfister chose to shoot the film in the anamorphic format on 35 mm film. The film also went through a traditional photochemical finish instead of a digital intermediate.

The film stars Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Kate Mara, Cillian Murphy, Cole Hauser and Morgan Freeman. Despite the stellar ensemble, the performances were one of the least impressive qualities of this film. The cast, especially Depp, were as emotionless and soulless as Dr. Caster. Absolutely in every way, you can not believe that Depp is convincing as a scientist. The first moment on screen, you'll sell the idea.

Soulless and silly, Transcendence powers through the movie's logic gaps with cheesy science plus Johnny Depp's presence – and mostly fails at it. Plenty of films and novels have envisioned what would happen if we gained artificial intelligence, but that it's hard to recall one whose ideas were more laughable than this one.

Simon says Transcendence receives:


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