Movie Review: Transcendence

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TranscendenceWhat if you could preserve your consciousness and live on even after you pass? What if it’s possible to transfer your memories, thoughts and feelings into a computer and continue to grow? Would it still be you? How far would you take it? Would you make the world a better place given the chance? But at what cost and consequence? Is there such thing as a perfect world?

After Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp, “Pirates of the Caribbean”), a renowned researcher in AI (artificial intelligence), is shot by a tech-terrorist (Kate Mara, “Iron Man 2“) and dying from a radioactive poisoning, his loving wife and fellow researcher, Evelyn (Rebecca Hall, “Iron Man 3”) desperately tries to keep him alive, in cyberspace. Technology advances rapidly and Will/AI perform feats beyond human limitations, alarming their colleagues (Paul Bettany, “The Tourist” and Morgan Freeman, “Red“) and the FBI (Cillian Murphy, “In Time”).

Hall grounds the movie. With palpable emotions, she makes you believe Will is really alive and their relationship is far beyond virtual. The moment she first notices Will is more than digits is when he speaks to her and then she realizes what Will/AI could break down her body chemistry and exactly read her feelings. Bettany, whose character is a third wheel in Will and Evelyn’s relationship adds complexity with being torn between what he believes needs to be done and remaining loyal to his good friends, but both Freeman and Murphy are wasted in their minor roles.

More than man versus machine, the premise explores what it means to be human, by questioniing the existence of soul, humanity and ethical issues. A directorial debut by Wally Pfister, director Christopher Nolan’s (“Batman” trilogy) long-time and Oscar-winning cinematographer, the film is exquisitely photographed, and if executed right, had the potential to rival the critically lauded “Inception.”

But the biggest flaw is the massive leap of logic that transcends suspension of disbelief. After a compelling beginning, it jumps off the cliff quickly. The thought-provoking nature remains through the end, but with a script that lets events unravel illogically, the film fails to live up to its transcendent potentials.

Copyright (c) 2014. Nathalia Aryani.

Nathalia Aryani is a film columnist and has a movie blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter: She can be reached at

Nathalia Aryani is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic ( She has a movie blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at [email protected].

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