Dream cast can't save dire script
Review: Transcendence (M)
Directed by Wally Pfister
It really has been a glorious time to be a film reviewer. There's been good films, pleasant surprises, and even a couple of flat-out masterpieces ticking every box I have this past month or so.
So I really only had myself to blame, sitting down for a Wednesday night preview screening of Transcendence, that I was in a mood of some optimism. The film stars Johnny Depp, who along with George Clooney and Hugh Jackman is one of those rare male mega-stars who consistently demonstrates that they can actually act, and express a range of emotions that are recognisably human. And the support cast; Morgan Freeman,
Paul Bettany, Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara ... these are interesting, watchable workers, known for turning up - more often than not - in some pretty decent films. While Wally Pfister has never directed a feature before, he is known and respected as a great cinematographer, with pretty much all of Christopher Nolan's movies - from Memento to The Dark Knight Rises - on his showreel. What a shame then, with all that talent, all that experience, and a hundred million dollars to play with, that no-one thought to read the script first.
Transcendence follows Depp's brilliant scientist - a "neuro-engineer" - no less, as he falls victim to a neo-Luddite terrorist organisation. With his body dying, but his brain still ticking over, it is decided to use a radical and cutting edge technique, that Depp has oh-so-conveniently been working on, to upload the great man's consciousness into a computer.
And from there, hilariously, Depp will pour himself down the phoneline and out into the World Wide Web. Before you can say "Max Headroom", Depp is all up in your business, emptying bank accounts, manipulating stock markets, and housing himself in a vast underground solar-powered bunker from where he will solve the problems of the world. So far, so daft.
But Transcendence really falls off the rails when Pfister and his scriptwriter Jack Paglen get into the murky world of nano-technology. By the time Depp had transformed himself into a storm cloud, and was literally raining himself down on his cast-mates,
I was not even bothering to stifle my laughter anymore. "It's raining Depp, Hallelujah" I muttered to myself, but not so quietly that my fellow-reviewer sat next to me didn't hear, and soon the two of us were giggling like schoolgirls and quite probably ruining Transcendence for anyone in the audience still bothering to pay attention.
Listen, Transcendence looks bloody wonderful - as well it should - and that dream cast are always going to deliver their lines in an engaging and attractive fashion.
But the story is so silly, so ill-thought through, and so pretentiously delivered, that it becomes impossible to take seriously. Made for half the budget, and with Keanu Reeves in the lead, this could have been a likeably stupid movie. But with Depp and Pfister apparently oblivious to the silliness they are perpetrating, Transcendence is just an unlovely waste of time.
The Dominion Post