Transcendence: REVIEW

A beautiful waste. 

Christopher Nolan’s longtime Director of Photography, Wally Pfister, steps to the front for the first time in his career to helm Johnny Depp and co.’s latest.

When Artificial Intelligence Researcher Will Caster (Depp) comes under a life-threatening attack from enemies poised to stop his work, his “death” becomes the ultimate catalyst for creating a fully-sentient computer-person. But after his brain is uploaded onto the software and starts to make some dangerously controlling decisions, the question must be asked: Is it really Will Caster?

In typical fashion from the man responsible for the look of every one of Christopher Nolan’s films, Transcendence is visually spectacular. But  that might be one of the only things the film has going for it. This is the laziest Johnny Depp performance I can ever remember seeing, and the story is overflowing with head-scratching moments that make little to no sense.

Transcendence, while moderately enjoyable, is a movie that’s broken right down to the premise. Which is rare, actually.  Most movies are built around solid premises that have great potential — some just end up poorly executed. But Transcendence? It’s sort of already boring and uninteresting even from it’s own description.

Transcendence is not a bad movie, per se. It’s just utterly and completely forgettable.
When it’s over, you’ll have to work hard a few days later to remember it. It doesn’t stick with you, or have anything new or original to say. The most it might do is cause you to look up at the sky when it begins to rain and ask, “Johnny Depp… is that you?” 
(see, it’s a shame because you won’t even get that joke since you probably won’t see the movie)

+ Looks great
+ Great to see many familiar faces from Christopher Nolan films

– Self-serious
Worst Johnny Depp performance in years (perhaps of his career)
Incredible waste of such a talented group of actors
The premise itself is boring and uninteresting


review-grade5Transcendence could have been a deeply moving, though-provoking piece of action sci-fi — with a wonderful cast. But instead it opts for the dumb popcorn-flick route — head-scratching plot lines, vague villains, and characters with no real relatability — and along the way finds itself pleasing few in the audience. It has some intriguing concepts about artificial intelligence, and features some moderately enjoyable scenes throughout. But when it ends, who really cares?


Transcendence is rated PG-13 for “sci-fi action and violence, brief language and sensuality, and some bloody images.” The content is on the tamer side for this type of action-sci-fi PG-13 film, but it does feature some strong language and some intense scenes of violence, including a man being severely beaten (and his wounds being shown close up).

© Matt Tory, 2014. 

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