Transcendence film review


There are some films that considered to be ahead of their time such as the James Bond film License to Kill which marked Timothy Dalton’s second and final performance as Double O Seven and Darryl F. Zanuck’s 1962 war film The Longest Day, based upon on Cornelius Ryan 1959 classic work The Longest Day: 6 June 1944.  However, the recently released Johnny Deep film Transcendence is a film that came after its time. In the 1990s American cinemas saw the release of the thriller film Hackers, starring a young Angelia Jolie and a young Johnny Lee Miller, as well as the Denzel Washington virtual reality thriller Virtuosity. It was also the decade that spawned The Matrix trilogy.

But unlike The Matrix trilogy, Transcendence does not attempt to have an epic scope but instead follows a small group of scientists whose research has for decades focused on the development of a self aware computer, other wise known as artificial intelligence. At the start of the film there of these researchers Max Walters, Evelyn Castor and Will Castor, the main character and wife of Evelyn, conduct presentations of their work at a summit attended by researchers and engineers as well as potential sponsors of their research. After the summit ends, Will Castor, whose work focuses on the creation of an artificial brain through the use of advanced quantum computers is targeted by a member of a radical terrorist organization named Revolutionary Independence From Technology or R.I.F.T. The members of R.I.F.T. are ideologically opposed to both artificial intelligence research and the World Wide Web, which over the past decade has expanded into every aspect of modern life through social media sites.

Fearful of what dark and terrible developments may arise if Doctor Castor is able to complete his research he is shoot by a member of R.I.F.T. However, this is no simple bullet instead its laced with radiation to ensure Doctor Castor’s death should he survive the initial shooting. In desperation to save the life of her husband Doctor Evelyn Caster utilizes her husbands research to upload his brain and his memories into the prototype artificial brain that he has develop to ensure that he might survive despite the death of his physical body.

Although it seems that the two lovers have been reunited Evelyn is soon forced to flee the lab after it is targeted for destruction by R.I.F.T. to prevent a sin akin to the opening of Pandora’s Box and their friend and associate Max Walters is kidnapped on the orders of Rift’s leader whose is a young woman name Bree, played by the young actress Kate Mara who starred in the first season of the horror television anthology series American Horror Story and in the first two seasons of the Netflix original series House of Cards. But her organization is forced underground to avoid an ongoing investigation by the FBI into the assassation attempt on Doctor Castor, which was merely one slave of a coordinated attack on artificial intelligence research labs.

The film Transcendence boosts a strong ensemble cast. The main character Will Castor is portrayed by Johnny Deep best known as the star of the television series 21 Jump Street and as the rather eccentric and the scatterbrained pirate Captain John Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

However, Morgan Freeman an actor whose numerous supporting and co-starring roles have forged an exceptional acting career further complements this impressive cast. Despite his long resume Morgan Freeman is perhaps best known for portraying Lucius Fox, the mentor to Bruce Wayne and the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Wayne Enterprises, in Christopher Nolan’s Batman film trilogy. He is the also the host and narrator of the Science channel series Through the Wormhole. He portrays Doctor Joseph Tagger the mentor of Max Walters and the Casters.

Morgan Freeman’s imposing voice enables his character to both consume the scenery of any scene he is present in while providing as a reminder that scientists have a duty to be both moral and responsible for the affects their research have upon both humanity and the world. In this film he shares frequent screen time with FBI agent Donald Buchanan whom he assists in the investigation and pursuit of R.I.F.T. Agent Buchanan is portrayed by another Batman film alumni namely actor Cillian Murphy, who played the Batman super villain Scarecrow.

Despite Morgan Freeman’s imposing voice and acting ability he shares the role of moral authority figure with Doctor Max Walters, whom is portrayed by the British actor Paul Bettany who previously worked with Johnny Deep in the 2010 film The Tourist portrays Max Walters, Will’s friend and associate. For the last six years he was portrayed the voice of J.A.R.V.I.S., the artificial intelligence who serves as both Tony Stark’s assistant and butler in both the Iron Man trilogy and the 2011 film The Avengers. It was during the filming of Iron Man 3 that he worked with Rebecca Hall who played a former love interest of Tony Stark. In this film she plays Doctor Evelyn Castor the wife and associate of the Will Castor and is quite appropriate that his character is also a student of Doctor Joseph Walters for it was Christopher Nolan’s success with Batman Begins, the 2005 reboot of the Batman film franchise that inspired Marvel to launch Marvel studios with the 2008 movie adaptation of Iron Man.


The film Transcendence is partially a romance film and is partially a procedural thriller. However, it is also a commentary on the current financial state financial and economic fate that have befallen many small towns and cities across the United States over the past five years after the businesses which were the thriving economic and social centers of these towns were forced to closed. It is also a commentary at the fate of many of once thriving and successful chains such as West Coast Video, Blockbuster Video, and Borders Books, which ceased to exist through a combination of poor business decisions and a failure to adapt to a world being changed by new technology.


But the film Transcendence is primarily a commentary on the Pandora’s box that is scientific research. For such research has great potential in the right hands to help solve many problems that currently plague humanity such as starvation, pollution and climate change. However, in other hands this technology can be easily use to kill and destroy as effectively as it would heal and repair.


Although it has an impressive cast and its ambitious scope the film Transcendence is ultimately undercut by the poor plotting of the story it is attempting to tell to the audience. For it is R.I.F.T.s act on Doctor Will Castor that’s lead to the creation of what they fear the most a self-aware computer. It is also this act and the attacks on other artificial intelligence research labs that bring R.I.F.T. to the attention of the FBI and causes them to be labeled as a terrorist organization. Despite this Transcendence is an impressive directorial debut for director Wally Pfister, who worked with Christopher Nolan on Batman Begins and its two sequels.

Transcendence receives a PAR

Rating:
P…Horrible
PA…Tolerable
PAR…Good
PARL… Kinda Great
PARLÉ… Classic


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Kevin Benoit

Kevin Benoit is the editor of Parlé Magazine. He founded the magazine while in college and continues to run it today. Follow him on IG: @parlewithme Read more articles by Kevin.

Kevin Benoit has 1777 posts and counting. See all posts by Kevin Benoit

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