Since its release, Transcendence has received a mixed bag of a reaction, sparking mostly negative reviews, particularly in the US. Wally Pfister (best known for cinematographic work alongside Christopher Nolan) makes his debut in the director’s chair and his first project is a carefully put together, thought provoking piece of film.
Johnny Depp plays Dr Will Caster, a techno scientist alongside his wife, Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and friend and colleague Max (Paul Bettany) who are attempting to create a computer mind powerful and intelligent enough to solve the world’s most potent issues. Due to Dr Caster’s controversial experiments and accusations that he is bidding to “create a God”, a group of anti-technological extremists set out to stop Caster by any means necessary. Their efforts result in the murder of the Doctor, who ultimately, with the help of his co-workers, resurrects himself in computer form. After Caster raises a number of ethical questions following his experiments from a computer screen, the attempts to stop him become more and more apparent and he has no choice but to react.
It’s important to note that you do not need a subscription to Wired magazine in order to comprehend the events of the film. It appears the underlying connotations of the movie have been lost amongst many and is ultimately misunderstood. Nevertheless, Pfister creates a dystopian like atmosphere and fills the film with brain busting morale queries. It should also be added that the film is shot brilliantly, with some incredible locations on show including the world of Caster’s underground labs. What a shame therefore that the awing set pieces we’ve come to associate Pfister with from Inception and The Dark Knight series is evaded in Transcendence. Fortunately, a huge name cast also including Morgan Freeman and Cillian Murphy give the film that added quality needed.
Transcendence does lack a cutting edge; a film defining scene, which the audience is screaming out for. It seems there the film is constantly building up for a mighty spectacle only for it to fizzle out in a relatively anti-climactic manor.
For a directing debut, Pfister’s Transcendence is a safe take on an ambitious and complicated, yet intriguing tale. By no means an epic, but a strong cast and some beautiful visuals make this film a satisfying first outing in the director’s chair for Pfister.