Movie Reviews

Published on April 18th, 2014 | by Ryan Guerra

0

Transcendence

First time director and Academy award-winning cinematographer Wally Pfister (Inception, The Dark

Knight Trilogy) takes on an ambitious film both visually and thematically for his first attempt at the

director chair. And while he hits all the visual cues you would expect from someone who has worked

so closely with Christopher Nolan on several films, he does less so when it comes telling us a story

that works in the world that he is presenting to us on screen. And thus this film falls flat, muddled and

fragmented in its story.

 

Visually the film provides you with framing and movement that that is easy to follow and pleasing to

look at. Along with the score, the look of the film constantly feels like it is taking you somewhere grand

or eye-opening. However it never quite gets there as the passage of time is not clear which creates a

fragmented sense of reality.

 

Furthermore, because of the structure of the film, the viewer is expecting a form of payoff or definitive

stance from the message of the story. But instead the story falls flat upon itself by not clearly defining

the characters motivations on screen. That is not to say that the film is acted poorly, it is just that

there really isn’t any reason to believe the motivations of the characters because they were never

shown to us. We are supposed to believe that the love between Johnny Depp as Dr. Will Caster, the

leading artificial intelligence researcher and his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) is the reason why the plot is

developing. But we are never truly shown the reason why their love is so strong. Furthermore, when Dr.

Caster is shot to stop him from furthering his research, his own wife Evelyn barley even sheds a tear.

 

Why then would I believe her ridiculous motivations to follow a self-aware artificial intelligence that she

believes is her husband, down the rabbit hole for years without constant reassurance that it is in fact her

Husband, which we never really get any explanation of? Nor do we get any reassurance that she loves

him, other than an occasional had touching a computer screen. I get that people greave in different

ways, but not all ways work on advancing a story on film.

 

Perhaps the biggest disjointed story development is when the Caster’s close friend and colleague Max

(Paul Bettany) is kidnapped by extremists for two years and no one is looking for him. Furthermore,

when he reappears after being told that two years has passed, he is now trying to stop the evolution of

AI that he helped create without more than a mere sentence. The film keeps reminding us that people

fear what they don’t understand, which is right. I fear I don’t understand the motivation behind the

characters without being shown or explained what happened to them or why they are doing something.

 

As if this was not enough, at no real point did any of ancillary characters matter. Cillian Murphy

represents the government at large as the lone FBI agent in the film. But his purpose is meaningless as

he does nothing to stop anything suspicious until the final act. What is worse, is that he was brought in

to stop the extremist (that are mostly forgotten after the first act) but then sides with them to attempt

to stop the AI. The same AI he let grow out of control in the first place.

 

I am not even going to go into the “pod-people” plot as it seemed as a way to try to advance the story

to an ending. As if these good scientists, who are just trying to help the world, have crossed the line or

something. This, which Evelyn still doesn’t see a problem with and continues to allow for years until

Morgan Freeman shows up and tells her to get out of her situation and away from the AI. At which

point, she mulls it over for perhaps a day and decides she is done. Ugh. You have come this far with no

reason, why stop? Just keep going?

 

I, like most movie goers, am willing to suspend my disbelief as long as the reasons for what I am

watching on screen make sense in the world shown to me. A few scenes here or there that provided

explanation or reason why is should care about these characters would have been appreciated and

helped this movie be less disjointed and muddled. Because of this, I really cannot recommend this film

to anyone except those who want to think abstractly about AI. But be warned, thematically, there is no

clear stance on weather that is good or bad either.

 

1 out of 5 stars


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