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As seen at Haydn Kino: Transcendence

By Kostyantyn Steblovskyy

     Wally Pfister, who has efficiently functioned as a cinematographer in productions like "Inception", "The Prestige" and the Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, attempts to join the elite club of directors, with a strong cast and a screenplay taken from the Hollywood’s "Black List" pool. ("The Black List" is something similar to the pandora’s box of Hollywood’s most liked, but not yet produced scenarios.)

     "Transcendence" explores the subject of artificial intelligence, nevertheless leaves you wondering about some unexplained details, which just pop up during the film. For example, why do we see the "unplug" tattoo on the hand of the against-artificial-intelligence activist, when the group is actually called "R.I.F.T."? And were so many scenes of water dripping down the leaves really necessary? Why does it take Dr. Will Caster, played by Johnny Depp, longer to provide a better looking "profile picture" of himself, than it takes him to make millions out of high volume stock trades, or why he even shows up like a sick version of himself in the first place? And so on.

     Sadly, Pfister does not bring the energy of his previous influential motion pictures, and the special effects, which may seem interesting in the beginning, transform it into one of those unexplained details of the film, that just feels weird to watch. The film does however succeed in tackling one of the most important subjects that our generation and the generations to come will face, that of artificial intelligence, and whether the internet and technology do more harm than good. Although, of course, the film raises the concern, do not expect to go home with a concrete answer, as it is one of those topics, where the answer will always be: 50/50.

     Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall and Paul Bettany lift up the weight of the starring roles, while Morgan Freeman, Kate Mara and Cillian Murphy are there to add fuel to the fire of the screenplay, which seems to be based on the famous saying "Behind every great man there's a great woman".

     In the main role of Dr. Will Caster, we have as previously stated Johnny Depp, who is an artificial intelligence researcher striving to create a machine "with full range of human emotion and its analytical power greater than the collective intelligence of every person in the history of the world". Rebecca Hall, who portrays Evelyn Caster, Will's wife and a fellow academic, appears to be the reason the whole world is facing a grave danger, as she is the one who forces the two of the greatest minds of "our" times to experiment with a theory, that has previously only been tested on a monkey, but as the scientific arguments of the movie go, has correctly copied and reproduced the screams of the wild animal!

     Paul Bettany, who plays Max Waters, Will's best friend, spends half of the movie in a cage, while Kate Mara’s character Bree is quoting him his own quotes about the disadvantages of artificial intelligence, until he finally makes a decision. And yes there’s also Morgan Freeman, who stars as the government scientist Joseph Tagger, who writes the most "bad ass" note, of the movie and is basically guest starring to bring a bigger audience to the movie theatres.

     Science jokes, an almost-love-triangle love story and the sloppiness of the smartest scientists in the world forgetting to clear the hard drives, which saves an experiment that was based on research of a lifetime, will make you wonder even more how could the trailer for the film look so good, but deliver so little.

     To sum up, if you like science fiction films, "Transcendence" will provide you with points to talk about with your friends when you leave the cinema, however, if you want to see the usually magnificent Johnny Depp do his magic, you are out of luck on this one.

P.S.: The fact that Kate Mara, who plays more or less the "main villain" of the film, suddenly goes from brunette to blond, to become as unrecognisable as Superman when he puts on his suit and glasses, just adds to the elements that a film supposedly rasing the issue of artificial intelligence should avoid including.


Johnny Depp as Dr. Will Caster
Morgan Freeman as Joseph Tagger
Rebecca Hall as Evelyn Caster
Kate Mara as Bree
Cillian Murphy as Donald Buchanan
Cole Hauser as Colonel Stevens
Paul Bettany as Max Waters
Clifton Collins, Jr. as Martin
Cory Hardrict as Joel Edmund

Behind the film:

Directed by Wally Pfister
Produced by Broderick Johnson / Andrew A. Kosorve / Kate Cohen / Marisa Polvino / Annie Marter / David Valdes / Aaron Ryder
Written by Jack Paglen
Music by Mychael Danna
Cinematography by Jess Hall
Editing by David Rosenbloom
Studio - Alcon Entertainment / DMG Entertainment / Straight Up Films
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures (United States & Canada) / Summit Entertainment (International) / Entertainment Film Distributors (UK)


Watch it now at Haydn Kino:
Mariahilfer Straße 57, 1060 Vienna, Austria
Phone: +43 1 587 22 62 /
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Next Review: Check Austrian Times next week for the review of "The Other Woman"
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Also: "What is on at Haydn Kino this week? (24 April - 30 April)"

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