Movie Review: Transcendence

Rating: PG Director: Wally Pfister Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: PG
Director: Wally Pfister
Genre: Science Fiction

Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) is the foremost researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence, working to create a sentient machine that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known with the full range of human emotions. His highly controversial experiments have made him famous, but they have also made him the prime target of anti-technology extremists who will do whatever it takes to stop him. However, in their attempt to destroy Will, they inadvertently become the catalyst for him to succeed-to be a participant in his own transcendence. For his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and best friend Max Waters (Paul Bettany), both fellow researchers, the question is not if they can…but if they should. Their worst fears are realized as Will’s thirst for knowledge evolves into a seemingly omnipresent quest for power, to what end is unknown. The only thing that is becoming terrifyingly clear is there may be no way to stop him.


This unknown movie surprised me in a big way. I really and truly enjoyed watching it and am so glad I got the chance to. Sure, the science isn’t a hundred percent accurate, and sure, there are some other aspects that you could pull apart if you wanted to, but overall Transcendence was a damn good movie.

Transcendence asks many philosophical questions and forces you to decide who is right and who is wrong. Is a human without a body still a human? Is technology the harbinger of the apocalypse or is humanity?  Are there limits to the power of technology? Is violence as a means to an end acceptable? And so many more. You are never sure whether you should be rooting for Will or the anti-technology extremists; both sides are presented equally leaving it up to you to decide. On the one hand, science means cures for human ailments, ways to repair the world, ways to unlock the greatest potential of the human mind. On the other, it can easily get out of control leaving technology ruling the world. There is so much depth to this movie – a subpoint alone could spark hours of discussion.

It is also a love story – a highly realistic one at that. Love is what motivates the plot from Will transcending to the denouement. Can you be blinded by love? Evelyn and Will’s story is powerful and beautiful. Transcendence poses yet another ‘what if’ –  what if the person you love becomes a computer? How will your relationship change? Are AIs capable of love and emotion? It is not your typical movie relationship. In fact, it is far from it. But it is one of the few movie romances that I’ve cared about and possibly the only I’ll remember. The acting is well done all around, but I thought Depp played Dr. Will Caster brilliantly and Hall was a perfect Evelyn.

The structure of the plot was extremely well thought out. It is twisty in the most unconventional way.It begins at the end so you know what happens. You know that the internet has been shut down as a result of Will transcending. You spend the rest of the time trying to figure out how and why. Due to the excellent pacing and attention to detail, each time something new is presented you think that that must be the answer but then something else happens disproving your theory, leaving you unsure what to believe. Only at the very end, are you able to form an opinion – an opinion, not a definitive answer for there is none. With beautiful cinematography and clever use of visuals, it also makes the most of every inch of screen space. Another thing to note is that the movie takes place over a period of five years – unlike many rushed sci-fi thrillers.

There are touches of action throughout, culminating in the intense climax of the movie, but the action was not a necessary part of the movie. Ultimately Transcendence is a thought provoking movie that is not meant to excite or astound, but rather to open questions and provide an unusual way of viewing technology. There are so many many ways to view this movie and I think I possibly need to watch it again because there is a lot I missed. I’m not sure why it never became popular and why it is so hated on, but it seriously needs more exposure. 

Highly recommended!

Have you watched this movie? What did you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


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