After last Summer’s “The Lone Ranger”, I thought Johnny Depp couldn’t hit a new low in his career. But that was before I experienced “Transcendence”. This sci-fi romantic thriller immediately shoots right to the bottom of Depp’s long resume.
Depp plays scientist Will Caster, the technology wizard behind the theory of Transcendence – the state of ultimate Artificial Intelligence. His wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) is a strong supporter of his work. Following a speech at a prestigious conference, Will is shot by a member of a radical anti-technology group, one of a series of attacks that take place all over the country, specifically targeting AI research.
It is soon revealed that the bullet contained a deadly poison, which means Will only has a month or so to live. He decides that he’s not going to continue his research, and spend his final days with Evelyn. However, she comes-up with a wacky plan to save Will – or at least his mind – by uploading his brain to a series of computers. A recent experiment on a chimp using the same procedure worked like a charm. But monkeying around like this on a human could only lead to trouble. Will (his body) dies, but he is reborn inside these machines, and is able to see and talk with Evelyn and his former partner Max (played by Paul Bettany). But soon Will needs more power and data to feed his growing appetite as a super computer. And that’s just the beginning of the problems.
Evelyn and Will set-up a secret headquarters in a small town where he can grow and continue his work. But the anti-tech group finds-out what’s going-on, and sets out to destroy them, along with the FBI and former colleague and friend Joseph Tagger (played by Morgan Freeman).
“Transcendence” is likely one of the easiest films Depp’s ever made, since he spends most of the film standing and talking to the camera. And it’s also one of the worst. In one scene, a character secretly hands another character a note that reads “Run from this place”. At that point in the film I wanted to do the same exact thing. This is one of the dullest 2-hour movie experiences I’ve endured in a long time. The basic premise is uninteresting, and nothing happens along the way to put a charge into the flat-lined script. The age-old sci-fi dilemma: “Should it be shut down or not?” is incredibly predictable.
No suspense, no surprises, no excitement, and no attempts at humor (outside of the overall cheesiness). Even the visual effects are bland. And “Transcendence” is an early frontrunner for Worst Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. All the techno noises must’ve driven the editors crazy (my mind was on the verge of exploding). The multiple shots of Freeman (who basically plays the same character in every movie, but we still love him because he’s Morgan Freeman) wearing a jungle hat and dark sunglasses, lowering his binoculars down while his jaw drops to the floor, are priceless.
“Transcendence” is rated PG-13 for some sci-fi action/violence (it’s brief) and language. It’s appropriate for kids 12 and up. I tried to stay with this film as long as I possibly could, but eventually I had to pull the plug. When Freeman states that mankind wasn’t ready for this (referring to the technology), I interpreted it as him talking about the movie, and I couldn’t agree more.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Transcendence” gets a D.