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Transcendence (Blu-ray Review)

25 Jul, 2014 By: John Latchem

Box Office $23.02 million
$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray
Rated 'PG-13' for sci-fi action and violence, some bloody images, brief strong language and sensuality.
Stars Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Kate Mara, Cillian Murphy, Morgan Freeman.

There are a lot of big ideas about the nature of humanity at the heart of Transcendence, resulting in a noble effort that doesn't entirely come together in its finished form.

Transcendence marks the directorial debut of Wally Pfister, the Academy Award-winning cinematographer best known for his collaboration with director Christopher Nolan (whose Inception is the source of Pfister's Oscar). As could be expected from an 'A'-list cinematographer, Pfister has an engaging visual style that easily integrates the many visual effects needed to tell the story, though he seems a bit obsessed with shots that zoom in slowly on the subject of the scene. Unfortunately, the film suffers a bit from slow pacing and a bizarre final act.

Johnny Depp gives a very subdued performance as Will Castor, a brilliant computer scientist who, along with his wife, Evelyn (Rebecca Hall), is close to unlocking the secret of artificial intelligence. His research has angered a domestic terrorist group that believes man has become too reliant on technology. They shoot Will in an attempt to assassinate him during a simultaneous attack on several computer labs arond the country, but when it appears he could survive it it turns out they coated their bullets in Polonium, leaving Will to slowly die from radiation poisoning.

Unwilling to let her husband go, Evelyn convinces him to download his mind into a supercomputer that can continue his research unfettered by the limits of human existence. After Will dies, the computer seems to have incorporated his personality and memories, touching off a brief philosophical debate about whether it's really him. As expected, Computer-Will's knowledge grows exponentially as it invents new technologies on the fly and earns millions of dollars through stock transactions via the Internet.

Eventually, Computer-Will and Evelyn build a new research lab under a small town, where they develop world-changing technologies after a few years. Among Computer-Will's new tricks is developing airborne nanomites that can heal the injured, raise the dead and link people back to Will in a hive mind. Will's army of nano-enhanced humans plays like they could be an early version of villainous "Star Trek" aliens The Borg.

Needless to say, the anti-technology bunch gets wind of what Computer-Will is up to and makes plans to stop it, though the final twist is botched by how the film's story is structured.

The extras on the Blu-ray also are lackluster, consisting of a series of EPK-style featurettes culled from online promotional materials with behind-the-scenes footage, and other clips that gather the filmmakers and tech experts to discuss the themes of the film.


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