Film Review: Transcendence

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Ever since 2003’s Pirates of the Carribean it seems like Johnny Depp has been drawn to a big franchise style of filmmaking. Prior to that first monster of a hit Pirates film—Depp seemed to shy away from large-scale Hollywood productions. The scale of his filmography enlarged and so did the manic nature of his performances. It has almost become formula for Depp to appear in a large budget movie and to bury himself in makeup and outlandish costumes. He has demonstrated this tendency in the Pirates film sequels, Alice in Wonderland and The Lone Ranger.

Transcendence stars Depp alongside Rebecca Hall, Morgan Freeman, Paul Bettany and Kate Mara. Depp plays Dr. Will Caster—a character that is determined to create a world of computers that can “transcend” the human brain. He finds opposition to his goals from a group of anti technology radicals.

The film deals with themes and concepts that are quite similar to other Sci-Fi films that warn of the dangers of technology—flicks like the Terminator franchise and Matrix trilogy. Unlike those action packed Sci-Fi sagas, Transcendence is practically devoid of any spectacle. It is an extremely somber picture that offers practically no exhilaration. The few moments of action in the film are surprisingly mundane and forgettable.

Depp definitely seems to be trying to play Dr. Will Caster straight and without his recent tendency of larger than life performances. The problem here is he goes so far the other direction that he seems to be practically in a coma for the majority of his screen time. Surprisingly, Depp has a far smaller amount of screen time than the various marketing campaigns would have you believe. It is nice to see him portraying a more grounded character—it’s just unfortunate that the script does not give him much to work with.

Transcendence is a boring and tired exercise that lets down its talented cast, especially its A-list leading man. It offers nothing fresh to the genre and is devoid of anything memorable or entertaining. It’s too cliché to work as a thought provoking film and far too boring to function as a Hollywood blockbuster. It’s shocking how truly pedestrian the whole project is.

Rating: D

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