Saturday 19 April 2014

Review: Transcendence

World of Blackout Film Review

Transcendence Poster

Cert: 12A / 119 mins / Dir. Wally Pfister
WoB Rating: 3/7

There's something faintly ironic about the film industry's pre-occupation with scaremongering about technology, whilst delivering its message in digitally projected high-definition. Almost as if an audience that has nothing better to do on a Friday night than sit in a darkened room not talking to each other, is going to leave the auditorium and eschew the modern ways to live in a cave and grow sunflowers.

Actually, to be fair, that's not the message in Transcendence, if only because it hasn't really got a message, other than Johnny Depp turns into a bit of an arsehole if you plug him into the mains. I suspect that director Wally Pfister had grand visions of making a film about science, conscience, society and the nature of identity; sadly, writer Jack Paglen had other ideas. The latest Depp vehicle limps along for two hours after hamstringing itself in the opening scenes, having character name redacted narrate the story for us from the end of the film (so not only do we know how it ends, but we also know who's around to talk about it). So bang goes any real tension, throughout.

The film's approach to computer science, physics and biology is either staggeringly naive, or willfully stupid, and the occasional nods towards religious symbolism make Noah look positively agnostic. The only person with any real acting to do is Rebecca Hall (which she manages with ease), while Depp, Bettany and Freeman phone in the performances that their pay-checks allow for. At least Cillian Murphy looks relieved his role is a relatively minor one. This is a film which will be on few CVs, I imagine.

An interesting premise is clumsily handled, ticking every box on the techno-thriller checklist, albeit with illegible handwriting. Transcendence never goes so far as to be actively 'bad', but manages to maintain a constant level of 'not that good', which is somehow worse.

If you harbour a vague distrust of computers and have ever wondered if a programmed simulation of Johnny Depp is noticeably different to the real thing, 'Lawnmower Man 3' is the film for you…

Is the trailer representative of the film?
The trailer works better than the film, largely because it doesn't attempt to explain itself at every turn.

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?
Nowhere near enough.

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?
Not likely.

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?
This is a '3 DVDs for £10 at Asda' movie.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
A little.

Will I watch it again?

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
Didn't hear one.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

And my question for YOU is…
Did anyone else want to punch some kittens when Evelyn checked into a hotel under the pre-arranged pseudonym 'Turing'?

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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