Review by Jonathan Godfrey for Mr. Will Wong
Transcendence: essentially, life after death. Religions promise it will come, and technology promises it will come quicker. And that’s the premise of a celebrated Cinematographer’s Directorial Debut: Transcendence.
Starring Johnny Depp and Rebecca Hall it is directed by Wally Pfister. The masses are familiar the latter’s eye; it is the same we all watched The Dark Knight Saga through. And now as the head-in-charge he’s helmed an ambitious Sci-Fi Spectacle, one bound to leave people thinking about the very idea of a thing. That thing, Transcendence, is no simple subject matter. It concerns eternity, and the power to wield it. Many writers would laugh at such an assignment, like it’s a bit too substantial to seem worthwhile. Jack Paglen obviously felt otherwise, seeing as he wrote the project and even weaved a Love Story into it.
Johnny Depp and Rebecca Hall are the two star-crossed Lovers. Will Caster (Depp) is a celebrated Cybernetic Theorist in contemporary America, and Evelyn Caster (Hall) is his applied science Attaché. The Two are in the midst of a scientific breakthrough just after the Movie starts, thanks in part to Experimentalists Max Waters (Paul Bettany) and Joseph Tagger (Morgan Freeman). The breakthrough: transferring ones neurological patterns into an active digital landscape. But a band of Revolutionaries led by a bleach blonde Kate Mara are violently opposed to those desiring to migrate.
Nevertheless Evelyn endeavours to get Will into this frontier space after an attempt on his life. He complies with her efforts. What follows are a series of Hypotheticals: from the development of a hive mind, to that of a self-repairing biosphere. The Film uses nanotechnology and array of other tools to discuss this omnipotence while the audience is made to feel omniscient. The Fountain of Youth may never flow over human lips and into the bellies of the obedient. It may instead be something far more synthetic, amorous and valiant.
Depp does well portraying the cold Character trapped in the computer, a situation that like the Film is filled with irony. Filled with binaries and the people that create them; filled with heart and the fearful who break them. Hall is equally compelling as the fiery other half, the pulse of the Plot that makes us second guess ourselves at every turn. And Bettany is good like Mercutio, but unlike his Shakespearean Friend we know from the start that he lives. See it yourself to see what all this multi-syllable rambling is about. See how Transcendence is evidence why one can still wax poetic about Science Fiction. Here’s to Pfister and his Crew for pulling-off such prestige!
Warner Bros. Pictures Canada release TRANSCENDENCE on Friday, April 18, 2014.