Blu-ray Review: The Internet is For Real in Goofy ‘Transcendence’

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Average: 4.5 (2 votes)

CHICAGO – The Internet is for real in “Transcendence”, a B-movie with grade-A production quality, loaded with terabyte-size open-ended questions, so long as one can accept it lastly with a scientific mindset. It is a film that perceives technology to be more expansive than a box of wires and computer chips, and actualizes the expanse of the internet as limitless to the realm of spiritual. Blu-ray rating: 3.0/5.0
Rating: 3.0/5.0

Like the notion of titling a wide-released movie “Heaven Is for Real”, the experience of “Transcendence” depends on believing in the possibility of the film’s philosophies, and through a mostly meditative state about what an internet connection can really achieve. Its hyper reality is to be accepted, do-or-discard. For some, it will play off as glossy Ed Wood, but for those who choose to roll with its prophesying, “Transcendence” will challenge and intrigue by raising questions beyond the usual blockbuster scope.

Presented as an image on various screens for 3/4ths of the film, Depp upgrades the famous sci-fi character of the supercomputer to having a vivid personality. His dialogue reasonably coming in flat like a computer’s intonation, he articulates a vivid sense of consciousness within technology. The film’s most significant performance, however, belongs to Hall, a woman who creates a monster out of love’s desperation, and for the most part pledges to that bond even when things are going haywire (even though the the script’s imposed naivete on her character made me laugh out loud at least once).

One of the script’s plainer flaws is its bloated list of characters, which seem to better service the idea of utilizing familiar faces, than actually drawing rich characters. The same intrigue that makes for the bizarre relationship 2.0 between Hall & Depp isn’t shared in particular with characters played by Freeman, Murphy, who are complicit in over-expanding what could have been a more intimate story albeit with huge theories.

For whatever immediate logic may casually glossed over by the movie, “Transcendence” creates a vivid progressive vision of its own hyper-reality, utilizing certain sci-fi elements with tact. Their inclusion may be comical at first (you’ll chortle too when a certain character opens his mouth), but these strange visual elements do settle into the experience, matched with the endless hallways shown as symbolism more than concrete feats of architecture and manpower. First-time director Wally Pfister and debut scribe Jack Paglen have a reasonable control over the genre tropes they throw into the big picture, (which are too surprising to spoil), providing them only as supporting details, and not the main idea.

Though made with the blessing of Nolan and his acting collaborators, “Transcendence” raises skepticism, like that tumultuous third act of “The Dark Knight Rises”, about the ultimate cerebral intentions behind the usage of specific creative stretches. Its script tells a story of a “new type of thinking,” but feels safer with standards, while eschewing the tight storytelling that universally leaves more of an impact (RE: Nolan’s “Inception”). Despite its creation by intelligent beings, the film’s own self-awareness to its flawed choices remains disturbingly questionable.

“Transcendence” was released July 22, 2014 on Blu-ray and DVD
Photo credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Before taking on a hyper reality, “Transcendence” begins as a contemporary take on our relationship with technology. Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) is a genius scientist who, along with his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) dreams of restoring the world with the assistance of evolving technology. In his provocative way, he dreams of creating a new god (“Isn’t that what we’ve always done?” he asks at a conference). Soon into the film he is shot with a poisoned bullet by an anti-tech terrorist group named R.I.F.T.(which stands for Revolutionary Independence from Technology, as led by Bree, played by Kate Mara), which weakens his body and gives him about a month to live. With the help of fellow scientist Max Waters (Paul Bettany), he and Evelyn download Dr. Caster into a computer, where his consciousness is uploaded entirely into a hard drive in something called “transcendence”. When Mara and her thugs race over to destroy this computer human, Evelyn uploads him to the internet, and the game completely changes.

From this point on, “Transcendence” fully kicks off into its B-movie mode, beginning with a wishful, but stupidly huge, two-year-long plot crater that may fully implode the film for viewers who approach stories with logic in firsthand. Nonetheless, the story within “Transcendence” then turns its focus to ruminating on the limitless expanse of the internet age, as Dr. Caster takes his new god-like potential as a supercomputer to biblical lengths. R.I.F.T. then teams up with the FBI (led by Cillian Murphy’s Agent Buchanan) and Dr. Caster’s scientist colleague Joseph (Morgan Freeman), and attempt to symbolically unplug the computer man before his internet control affects the entire world.

Special Features:

o What is Transcendence?
o A Singular Vision
o Guarding the Threat
o Digital Copy of “Transcendence”
o The Promise of A.I. o It’s Me
o Singularity
o R.I.F.T. o Trailers

“Transcendence” was released July 22, 2014 on Blu-ray and DVD.

By Nick Allen

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