Transcendence…a movie review by Roz Tarszisz

April 24, 2014 by Roz Tarszisz
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Science fiction writer Isaac Asimov has a lot to answer for. More than half a century ago his super-bright robots posed the question of where to draw the line between man and machine. Transcendence is Hollywood’s latest answer.

The robots have been reincarnated as an omniscient computer which is taking over the internet, supposedly for the good of the world.  Mankind, it seems, needs a lot of saving- but not before some angst and action.

This well- worn genre has conventions.  There would be an unlikely hero or heroine trying to save the world. And you’d soon know who the bad guys were. There would be lots of broken stuff, deaths and upheaval.  But there would still be room for a little humour – and maybe a little romance. However, the main game would always be action and spectacular special effects .

Transendence dispenses with most of that old fashioned nonsense and takes itself very seriously.

The film opens with a quick look at a world five years after the action of the movie, a time where there are no more smart phones or computers. What has happened in the meantime?  Has the world ended?   Not quite, but after 120mins of computer generated flim-flam it might as well have.

The heart of the story is the deep love between a married couple and how that love is kept alive after the husband dies.

Dr Will Caster (Johnny Depp) is a leading researcher in Artificial Intelligence and an all round good guy. He is working towards creating an omniscient, sentient computer system. When his peers in other research institutions are killed and their research destroyed by anti-technology radicals, he survives the attack but not for long.  Fellow researchers – his loving wife, Evelyn and best friend Max Waters (Paul Bethany)- download his brain before he dies to continue the research.  Not quite  just another day in the laboratory.


Evelyn and AI Will create deep underground headquarters in the desert to house the enormous computer brain.  The murdering radicals and FBI soon work out what’s going on as computer systems worldwide are taken over.  We suspect trouble is not far away when Caster the Computer is able to heal sick folk by twiddling computer generating machines over them. When Evelyn gets tired of her never ending love story and being manipulated by the intelligent machine, we know the romance is fading.


Johnny Depp is believable and Rebecca Hall gets some sympathy as the grieving widow.  Morgan Freeman is there to give the movie some gravitas and heft but even he seems puzzled by the outcome.  Special effects are competent but not breathtaking and the score suitably dramatic when required.  The storyline has puzzling inconsistencies in regard to the continuing presence of the murdering radicals- but then this is science fiction.

Watch the trailer…

Director Wally Pfister    120 mins Rating M

Starring Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany and Morgan Freeman

2 out of 5

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