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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Transcendence | Johnny Depp | Rebecca Hall | Paul Bettany | Morgan Freeman | Review

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Jacqueline  Monahan

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Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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Transcendence | Johnny Depp | Rebecca Hall | Paul Bettany | Morgan Freeman | Review

The premise is promising enough. In the not-too-distant future a dying scientist uploads his intelligence into a computer, all for the ultimate good of mankind, you understand.  Some people don’t like that.  Conflict ensues.  

Prominent artificial intelligence (A.I.) expert, Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) survives an assassination attempt only to find he has been contaminated with Polonium and is dying of radiation poisoning.  Aided by his scientist wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and trusted colleague Max Waters (Paul Bettany), the trio succeed in digitizing Caster, and loading his entire consciousness onto a super-computer known as PINN (Physically Integrated Neural Network).

Caster proceeds to freely roam the global grid, creating fantastic wealth for his spouse while directing her to build a remote technological empire, all for the ultimate good of mankind, you understand.  Can human and ecosystem manipulation be far behind?

Years pass, and Evelyn’s emerging empire quietly takes shape, troubling sympathetic friend and researcher Joseph Tagger (Morgan Freeman) as well as Waters, who becomes the target of a small, armed group of anti-tech zealots who call themselves Revolutionary Independence From Technology (RIFT).   

Ironically, RIFT utilizes all manner of sophisticated computer technology to calculate and track their adversaries; hardly Luddites, those RIFT guys – and gal.  Bree (Kate Mara) is the female face of RIFT, which still doesn’t give her much to do.  Also just showing up is FBI agent Buchanan (Cillian Murphy).  

Seems everyone wants to know what Will Caster’s been doing since his death, so it’s puzzling why the second half of the film falters even when violence, bloodshed, and hybrid life forms flood the screen.  There’s action but no excitement, revelations but almost no interest.  The Casters may be in a uniquely mixed marriage, but the audience is not engaged and the film plods along at a pace that flirts with boredom.

Rebecca Hall’s character Evelyn seems to be a total contrivance, called upon to be coolly scientific, yet falling to hysterical pieces when…appropriate?  Convenient?  A character out of character can be annoying to those trying to follow along.  Caster can tell when his wife’s serotonin levels are off – why doesn’t he tell her that her actions don’t always compute?  That’s for the audience to discover.

Director Wally Pfister helms his first feature, working from a script by Jack Paglen (his first screenplay) and the pair show promise.  They are just not “there” yet.  Pfister, known for his cinematography work (The Dark Knight, Inception) provides some compelling futuristic images while Paglen can turn a phrase or two between the Casters into (sometimes) moving believability.  Christopher Nolan is listed as a producer.

Altruism, information and regeneration should be more interesting than this.  Maybe next time.  Maybe not.

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