Transcendence Aims High, Falls Flat

Wally Pfister film stars Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 18, 2014 10:49 AM CDT

(Newser) Transcendence, starring Johnny Depp and Rebecca Hall, tells the story of a dying scientist whose wife uploads his brain onto a computer. Wally Pfister's directorial debut (he's been Christopher Nolan's longtime cinematographer) raises worthwhile questions about technology, identity, and good and evil, critics say—but they're not entirely won over:

  • "Transcendence looks and sounds like a Christopher Nolan film that got attacked by malware," writes Peter Hartlaub in the San Francisco Chronicle. It's definitely not boring, but its "narrative flaws and logical leaps sabotage sustained enjoyment." Meanwhile, it paints scientists as "oblivious dimwits who dive headlong into potential catastrophe with no safeguards."

  • The movie "explores its ideas with sincerity, curiosity, and terrifying beauty. This makes its failures all the more depressing," notes Matt Zoller Seitz at RogerEbert.com. "Too often ... the movie doesn't feel ambiguous or complicated, merely muddled and wishy-washy."
  • In the Los Angeles Times, however, Kenneth Turan does see ambiguity: "Justice is done to the complicated factors at play here. Determining with certainty whom the heroes and villains of this narrative are is not so easily done." Sure, it's not perfect, but it's "an ambitious and provocative piece of work that is intriguingly balanced between being a warning and a celebration."
  • In the New York Times, Manohla Dargis sees "modest pleasures" in the movie. "However predictable and ridiculous, the film raises the question of what—as the machines rise—makes us human and why, which certainly gives you more to chew on at the multiplex than is customary these days."

This photo released by Warner Bros. shows Johnny Depp as Will Caster in Alcon Entertainment's sci-fi thriller Transcendence, a Warner Bros. Pictures release.  The movie releases in the U.S. on April 18, 2014.
This photo released by Warner Bros. shows Johnny Depp as Will Caster in Alcon Entertainment's sci-fi thriller "Transcendence," a Warner Bros. Pictures release. The movie releases in the U.S. on April...   (AP Photo/Alcon Entertainment-Warner Bros. Pictures, Peter Mountain)
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A trailer for the film.   (YouTube)

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