In terms of the scifi ideas and potential, Transcendence is one of the best scifi films I’ve seen. In terms of viewer engagement with the characters, it’s one of the worst. Johnny Depp plays the whole piece in a ‘depressed’ style – and it just doesn’t work. We are expected to engage with his character based solely on our ‘feeling sorry’ for him when he gets dosed with radiation by a terrorist seeking to prevent his work in artificial intelligence. The irony is, of course, that now he’s running out of time, Depp drives on even harder with his work and uploads his consciousness into a computer. He promptly hooks up with the internet and becomes godlike/maniacal – hence proving the terrorist was right to try bumping him off. Everyone fears him and of course seeks to destroy him. The audience isn’t sure if the consciousness is the original Depp anyway – it might instead be the computer mimicking sentience. ‘Can you prove you’re sentient?’ asks Morgan Freeman of the computer consciousness. ‘Can you?’ is the reply to the human. So, we want the lead character to die! Makes for a big failure as far as a film goes. Is there a twist? Kinda. But not really. The consciousness does ‘infect’ living people and turn them into its drones (robbing them of their free will) – so it is evil. Okay, the consciousness may not kill anyone (meaning that we end up destroying a ‘god’ that has the power to save the world, and that the real monster is our own fear) but there is no denying it is not entirely benevolent. In summary, then, some big questions and concepts are explored, but not in any way that is truly compelling. Not sure what to score it. If you’re a scifi buff, you’ll definitely wanna watch it (7 out of 10). If you’re just an average movie-goer, forget it (4 out of 10). And if you’re a Depp fan, there are other films that make far better use of his skills (2 out of 10).
Johnny Depp fails to achieve: Transcedence