Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
Coming out of Transcendence, I felt privileged to have witnessed one of the largest box office disappointments since John Carter.
I don’t know what happened, I don’t know who messed up, but the movie is bad in a surreal way, as though everyone involved thought they were going to make the greatest film ever and then gave up halfway through.
The first major problem with the film way the writing does nothow the writing fails to live up to the premise: a Steve Jobs-esque computer genius gets his consciousness uploaded into an advanced AI. The script drags throughout the first third of the movie, yet by the time Johnny Depp’s character is uploaded into the computer everything feels rushed, as we have no connection to the characters onscreen.
The only high point is that Johnny Depp is so naturally charming that, even with bad writing, he heightens every scene he is in. As a computer, he is only seen on a monitor, which obviously limits his full-body acting. The quality of the scenes takes a nosedive after a “big twist” that was spoiled in the trailer.
Although the “man v. technology” premise is interesting, it feels like one that would be have been better served around the turn of the millennium rather than 2014. It feels odd that an AI-gaining-sentience plot is still common on the big screen—it feels anachronistic. The film also did not need as much CG as it used. Of all the movies that have come out this year, this film should have had actual sets and props. It probably would have helped cut down the $100 million dollar price tag. Considering that the film has, as of this writing, a $10 million domestic gross (only ten percent of the budget), they probably should have taken have intrimmed the fat as much as they could.
Transcendence is not a good film. It is a critical and financial flop that completely fails to capitalize on an interesting concept. Director Wally Pfister, renowned cinematographer mostly known for his work with super-director Christopher Nolan, failed to make anything of note in his directorial debut. He had a massive budget and great actors, but he squandered all of it. Don’t expect to see him in the director’s chair again anytime soon. His best hope is that this film is so forgettable that he gets a second chance at a debut by a studio that fails to remember that this movie even existed.