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Transcendence is a mess. When producers pay Johnny Depp $20M (+ a percentage), as has been reported, one expects a significantly better product.

Will Caster (Depp) is a computer geek working in the world of Artificial Intelligence. He is shot by anti-tech activists who oppose his mission. He survives the wound, but the bullet is coated with materials that lead to his gradual demise.

His wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and friend Max (Paul Bettany), who work alongside him, transfer his intellect to computer drives. When Will communicates via computer screen following his death, the plot begins to unfold.

Sadly, the story is weak and poorly told. None of the characters in the film, including Will, are worth caring about. Transcendence lasts just over 2 hours but seems much longer.

For all the philosophical questions about the ascent of technology the film purports to raise, the framing of those issues is muted by a lack of basic film making skill. Yes, it has many cool images and some nice effects but they’re not sufficient to make the film compelling.

The name Johnny Depp will sell enough tickets to justify his huge paycheck. The name Christopher Nolan as a producer may attract fans of Inception and Memento into movie houses. The fact that rookie director Wally Pfister has worked as Nolan’s cinematographer may also lure fans to the box office. But Transcendence is not a good movie.

For the past 20 years, any Johnny Depp movie was, for me, a movie I wanted to see—just because his onscreen work has been consistently entertaining. Even films like The Tourist and The Rum Diary were made worthwhile by his presence. Now, after last year’s Lone Ranger and this new release, a Depp film is no longer a “must see” for me.

Transcendence is not the worst movie of 2014. But it is the most disappointing so far.



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