Johnny Depp is Big Brother.

F ear technology! Fear it, I tell you! Don’t mind that this is projected in super advanced digital IMAX Surround Sound; there is still much to fear. In the very least, nobody wants to end up in a world where Johnny Depp looks you up and down 24/7. Sure, 24/6.5 is probably ok. Even 24/6.7 or 24/6.8 you can probably live with, but 24/7? That’s just creepy.

Will Caster (Depp) is a celebrity science professor. Ah, this is a movie. Of course it is. See, he’s the leading mind on artificial intelligence in the world, so naturally he sells out lecture halls and probably goes on tour. Hey, maybe he could get together with the band from Almost Famous; they could tour as “Stillwater runs Depp.” Oh, I am sorry. Such a long, long way for a terrible joke. I promise that won’t happen again … for at least a paragraph or two. Anyhoo, after returning to thunderous applause for a second encore of lecture, Will is fleeing his adoring groupies when an anti-AI guy shoots him. This is a part of a coordinated attack, the anti group has sabotaged several distinct AI facilities all at once in an effort to bring back the age of jive.

Given the terrorism and the threat to Intelligence, the FBI then gets involved by sending one (1) guy to go protect Will and the Berkeley facility he represents. It’s ok, the guy is Cillian Murphy, and it gets Morgan Freeman to show up, too, for free! Will meets both in the outpatient process later that afternoon, and then, of course dies of bullet-tainted polonium poisoning. (As you know, polonium was available in every corner drugstore as of 1985) So, if you’re scoring at home, Will Caster, the leading mind in artificial intelligence, gets shot, then immediately released, and subsequently dies from the bullet imagewound, and the FBI showing a vested interest in technology and terrorism sends exactly one guy to the scene. And the movie is about artificial intelligence, you say? Well, it clearly wasn’t about real intelligence.

This is where Will’s wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) takes over the story. Maligning the possibility of dead husband, she uses the remaining time to download his brain to their internet based mainframe, and before you know it, Will becomes Big Brother. I find the result decidedly creepy – you come home and HDTV 40” Will ahead asks, “hi honey, how was your day?” Except he knows, of course. He was there. He’s always there.

The real plot to Transcendence takes forever to develop – somewhere down the road, Will becomes Lawnmower Man and then scores nano technology so he can start making sickly people into Wolverine from X-Men. I’m all for innovation, progress and healing, but the day humans figure out immortality, count me out. And this, of course, becomes the conflict: the healed folks not only don’t die, but have been uploaded with Will’s will. Hence, army of loyal super zombies. There was probably a decent horror here, somewhere. I think.

It’s hard to know what to make of an argument so ingrained in an anti-progress bent while being promoted in state-of-the-art technological entertainment venues. It’s also difficult to take seriously a film that wants to fear the hive mentality by encouraging the masses to come see why. Bottom line, though, is this is way more Johnny Depp than anybody needs. I swear if I lived in a society in which interactive Johnny screens addressed me at every turn, I might take a polonium laced bullet as well.

The future is rot
Big Brother is hot!

Rated PG-13, 119 Minutes
D: Wally Pfister
W: Jack Paglen
Genre: Fear the future!
Type of person most likely to enjoy this film: Technophobes
Type of person least likely to enjoy this film:  Terminators

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3 Responses to “Transcendence” Subscribe

  1. dawson May 28, 2015 at 9:28 am #

    Cillian Murphy bugs me. I expect this kind of hamming it up from Depp, but how can Murphy go from pure genius tv work in Peaky Blinders to films like this, tron and In Time. I’m really hoping the paycheck from one pays for the true art.

    As for Depp, Black Mass needs to be something special or else he will be the 3rd lead in the Police Academy reboot

  2. Jim May 29, 2015 at 6:24 am #

    Ha! Love to see Depp in a Police Academy. Eventually, there’s gonna be fall out; you can’t keep making bad films and still garner a $20M paycheck per; maybe he’d use the downtime to promote his daughter’s career.

    As for Murphy, I’ve always thought of him as somebody like Crispin Glover or James Spader, i.e. somebody who understands acting on an entirely different plane than the rest of us. These folks are capable of greatness and hammery all in the same scene, perhaps even in the same line of dialogue.

    • dawson May 29, 2015 at 7:48 am #

      Now I just want to see Murphy and Spader in a remake of Face/Off. Damn.

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