Transcendence Blu-ray Review
“They say there’s power in Boston. Some phone service in Denver. But things are far from what they were…I knew Will and Evelyn Caster better than anyone. I knew their brilliance, their dedication to what they believed in and to what they loved.”
Flash back some time earlier, with Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) and his wife, Evelyn (Rebecca Hall, IRON MAN 3), getting ready for a presentation in their field. Evelyn takes the stage, informing the auditorium that technology can help end poverty and cure illnesses. Will is handed the mic and discusses the limitless intelligence of A.I. He asks the crowd to “imagine such an entity with a full range of human emotion, even self-awareness.” It’s an idea that Will calls “Transcendence.” In the lobby, Will is shot as part of a national plan by an extremist group called the Revolutionary Independence for Technology (R.I.F.T.).
The radiation in the bullet starts catching up with Will and he’s given about a month to live. Despite a case against it by friend and fellow scientist Max Waters (Paul Bettany, who voiced J.A.R.V.I.S. in the IRON MAN trilogy and THE AVENGERS and will play Vision in AVENGERS: THE AGE OF ULTRON), Evelyn pushes the idea to upload Will’s consciousness into his creation, PINN. Evelyn, blinded by her undying love for her husband, is the only one who doesn’t immediately recognize the dangers.
TRANSCENDENCE raises some interesting ideas, like, Is Will, while “inside” of PINN, a human? If so, how? If not, why not? What, then, makes a human a human? But the viewer starts to realize it doesn’t really matter, because we know Will will soon pose a serious threat and not be the sort of caring machine from HER.
This is the first screenplay by Jack Paglen, and unfortunately, it wasn’t written decades ago, when the idea would have seemed much fresher. In a time of Siri and refrigerators that can (probably) predict which candy bar we’ll reach for next, the idea of implanting one’s subconscious into a computer doesn’t seem all that revolutionary (although many will argue that something like that could never happen).
There also seems to be some confusion as to what category TRANSCENDENCE should fall under, as it has the premise of a horror/science-fiction hybrid yet the inclusion of many action elements, perhaps to keep the audience in their seats when they’re bored with the plot. All the while, the familiar supporting cast of Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy and Kate Mara go through the motions without attempting to do much with their characters.
TRANSCENDENCE is the directorial debut of Wally Pfister, the Academy Award-winning cinematographer known for his work with Christopher Nolan (Pfister was nominated for BATMAN BEGINS, THE PRESTIGE and THE DARK KNIGHT; he won for INCEPTION). The cinematography is by Jess Hall, who seems to have taken a number of notes from the director.
With that, TRANSCENDENCE arrests the viewer more with visuals than ideas. And that’s where it really suffers. The movie starts off quite strong, but falls victim to the first-time director’s own desire to show off gorgeous cinematography and not concern anyone too much with the story.
TRANSCENDENCE BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 2.40:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. This is a fairly strong high-definition transfer that features excellent colors, deep black levels and an overall smooth surface (although this sometimes takes away from the intended look of the movie).
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; French 5.1 Dolby Digital; Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitles in English, French and Spanish. The audio transfer is excellent, with crisp dialogue, pristine sound effects and a clean Mychael Danna score, all of which immerse the viewer.
What is Transcendence? (5:20): Cast and crew members, including Johnny Depp, Morgan Freeman and Wally Pfister, discuss the plot and ideas of TRANSCENDENCE.
Wally Pfister: A Singular Vision (2:52): Cast and crew talk about working with first-time director Pfister, who Depp calls “seamless.”
Guarding the Threat (2:18) again features key cast members touching upon the plot.
The Promise of A.I. (2:34): Artificial Intelligence is briefly highlighted.
It’s Me (1:02), Singularity (1:09) and R.I.F.T. (0:58) are all teasers.