Transcendence 2014 ***

While much of the technological tech-talk ends up adding up to one big pile of ‘who-cares?”, Wally Pfister’s debut as director has some interesting things to say about modern life, even if the plotting is as inconsistent as any B movie, and the actors offer little in the way of character. Transcendence is supposedly the story of Will Caster (Johnny Depp), a brainbox and philosopher who finds himself facing the grim reaper when shot with a toxic bullet. His loving pals, including Evelyn and Max (Rebecca Hall and Paul Bettany), upload him to the internet where Caster assumes the mantle and powers of a god, leading to infighting between terrorist forces and government agencies. Cillian Murphy and Morgan Freeman stand around looking at screens while the drama is refocused on a desert community where a virtual Caster is building a stronghold and healing the sick. This sinister locational aspect relates Transcendence to the 1950’s sci-fi dramas of Jack Arnold, where the interiors of Caster’s underground lair recall 70’s paranoia about machines-taking-over-the world such as Colossus: The Forbin Project. While Pfister’s film has elicited plenty of hate from audiences, perhaps because of the lack of sympathetic characters who a strong emotive through-line, there’s enough details to keep genre-fans watching; a spry reference to Alan Turing suggests a more articulate, better movie is fighting to get out.


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