Transcedence – Review & Analysis

by SC



Transcedence is a science fiction film whose imagination far outstretches its execution, with a mono-tone pacing and lack luster characters, Transcedence is a film which has the illusion of an epic, but leaves much to be desired. My expectations coming into this film was around average, the trailer was engaging with its up tempo, driving musical score combined with quick cuts of weapons and explosions which gave me the impression that was going to be a mix of Die Hard (1988) and Her (2013). At the same time I couldn’t help but snicker at the premise, Trascendence’s plot was unrealistic and cliche, and the unengaging story was a large reason by I felt disconnected from the film.

The story follows Dr. Will Caster and his wife Evelyn (beautiful name) as two married scientist who attempt to revolutionise technology, allowing artificial intelligence to play a larger role within society. The pair are trying to embed a consciousness into the technology, allowing the machinery to think and rationalise without extrinsic help. Will states “Imagine a machine with a full range of human emotions, it’s analytical power will be greater than the collective intelligence of every person in the history of the world.” Whilst the motives of Will and Evelyn are pure, their work slowly blurs the distinction between humanity and machinery, morality and immorality. On the other hand, R.I.F.T (Revolutionary Independence From Technology) an extremist group whose goals are the polar opposite of Will’s and Evelyns, fears the power of technology as Will and Evelyn try to mix humanity with machinery. R.I.F.T attempts to assassinate Will and he is shot with a radioactive bullet, meaning he only has one month to live. Evelyn unable to let go of her husband decides to use their research to save Will and after a month of work she manages to upload Will’s conscious on a computer. Though out the difficult procedure Max, Evelyn’s friend, warns her about the dangers of her task, stating that if they miss a single memory or emotion from Will’s past they would of instead uploaded something foreign, something alien.

My two biggest complaints about this film was, firstly how predictable it was and secondly, how boring the film was due to a lack of pacing, a lack of strong characters (the audience doesn’t know who to root for because we constantly have to question Will’s actions) and the film’s plot was ridiculous and over the top, creating a sense of disbelief in the audiences. Firstly they GAVE AWAY THE ENDING WITHIN THE FIRST THREE MINUTES, for a film which was fundamentally a character study of Will, this immediately took the tension out of the entire film, since the audience knew the eventual outcome. The point of the film was the battle between Will’s humanity and his new found artificial powers, by revealing the ending, it hinders the audience’s ability to emotionally connect with the film. It’s like unmasking the Scooby-Doo villain before the episode starts or spoiling Hamlet’s actions before the play begins. The audience became spectators since we ultimately know the final outcome of this film, hell even when Max gets kidnapped by R.I.F.T there was no tension in the cinema since we knew he will survive because of his monologue at the beginning of the film. This was so baffling.

It is important to create a consistent world especially within a science fiction film where the boundaries of reality are constantly being bent, the audience needs to know the boundaries and the director can’t over step these unwritten barriers without destroying the plausibility of the film. Firstly you’re telling me that Evelyn and Will somehow managed to create some technological utopia without anyone knowing? For two years, not a some member of R.I.F.T found out? If Will and Evelyn were totally isolated and without human contact this might be realistic but they built their laboratory next to a run down town, they hired labourers to create their home and scientist to run it, how did word NOT get out? Secondly this was an absolute deal breaker, Will becomes so powerful that he slowly gains the ability to heal the sick, introducing a horribly obvious religious motif in the film; Will has transcended humanity and acts like Jesus and he’s going to eventually give his life to better this world… Yay, this really couldn’t of been more simplistic and predictable (Was it an accident that Evelyn is similar to Eve? I think not Sherlock!). Will’s power continues to grow and it is only when R.I.F.T and the government attack his home that his ‘transcendent’ skills are put on display. (also why didn’t the government drop a bomb on the solar panels? Why send fifteen soldiers with RPGS?) Will can now heal the scientist and labourers defending his home by extracting nutrients from the ground, not only that HE CAN ‘HEAL’ INANIMATE OBJECTS LIKE SOLAR PANELS TOO. I kid you not.


The world the audience was first introduced to was a reality which mimicked life in the 21st century, this is the framework to which we viewed the film. You can’t start off with everyday life filled with cars and televisions to internet deities miraculously bringing people from the dead and recreating the matter needed to replenish inanimate objects. There are unwritten and unspoken laws of nature which every person obeys and acknowledges such as gravity, life, Newton’s laws of action and reaction. If you break these laws you sever the audience’s connection to the film as we can no longer believe what we are seeing. It’s like replacing Achilles’ spear with a lightsaber or giving Caesar a machine gun, ultimately this film attempted to chase grandiose ideas and wanted a big, large and ‘important’ climax but was this ultimately how the film should of been directed? For me it would of been much more interesting if Wally Pfister had focused upon the decaying relationship between Will and Evelyn as his powers ‘transcends’ that of a humans, instead of the clash between Will and R.I.F.T. Instead we got a protagonist we really struggled to connect with because he was more machine than human for a majority of the film, we couldn’t root for the antagonist either because we knew nothing about them and because their choices such as assassination were very questionable. At its core this film was a character study on Will, yet it tried to incorporate the flashy and ‘dramatic’ epicness of a Lord of the Rings battle or the final Terminator showdown and sadly it failed to achieve either one of its goals.

Transcendence is a film which takes reoccurring and cliche themes within the science fiction genre and attempts to add a Frankenstein-esque spin on it, seen through the clash of science and humanity and both the protagonist and antagonist’s objectives are unquestionable. The film was saddled with an unrealistic plot, over simplistic themes and boring characters. There’s really not much to celebrate about this film, the action scenes were mediocre, the script was mediocre and the acting was largely mediocre with the only ‘bright spot’ being Rebecca Hall who played Evelyn and maybe Paul Bettany (Max) after a few shots of Tequila. I would maybe recommend this film for fathers who enjoy the science fiction genre, younger children will generally find this film boring due to its slow pacing and because there’s really not much action, maybe a Sunday night rental at best, without any real defining characteristics, it’s a film you will quickly forget. I certainly will.


Genre: Science Fiction
Certificate: 13
USA Release Date: 18th April 2014
Runtime: 119 minutes
Director: Wally Pfister
Writer: Jack Paglen
Starring: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Kate Mara, Cillian Murphy, Cole Hauser, Morgan Freeman.
Synopsis: Will’s conscious gets uploaded to the internet and his wife begins to question his humanity.