FILM FANS: Johnny Depp film 'Transcendence' is a disappointment

EDITOR’S NOTE: Film Fans features local residents reviewing the movie of the week: “Transcendence.” Want to be a film fan? Email features@gwinnettdailypost.com.

2 out of 4 stars

Johnny Depp needs to get himself a new agent. Last year’s fiasco “The Lone Ranger” was a major blemish on his resume. With “Transcendence,” I’m thinking that JD’s film career may have started circling the drain.

In “Transcendence,” Depp plays Dr. Will Caster, a leading researcher in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). Will wants to meld the combined knowledge of all mankind with the full range of human emotions, taking consciousness to a new level, as per the title of the film. Will’s research is so controversial that he becomes the target of an anti-technology terrorist group that wants to stop the research dead in its tracks. These Luddites send an assassin after Will but fail to kill him immediately. In a race against time to preserve his neural functions before his body dies, Will becomes part of his own research, “transcending” his thoughts, ideas and emotions into bits and bytes. His wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and best pal Max (Paul Bettany) — fellow researchers with Will — aren’t quite sure this combo will work, and even if it does, will it be ethical? Their fears are realized as Will becomes more and more powerful in his hunger for all knowledge. No longer bound by the constraints of a human body, he becomes less conflicted morally, as well. Will Evelyn and Max be able to ever shut off the monster they helped to create?

Even though “Transcendence” has a compelling story line, it suffers from a very weak script and poor film editing. The movie jumps around at times, leaving the viewer to scramble to fill in the gaps in logic and continuity. Depp basically sleepwalks through his role as Will, never giving the audience much to root for, either for himself or his relationship with Evelyn. Morgan Freeman and Cillian Murphy are mostly wasted in supporting roles that add little to the movie. My version of “Transcendence” would have me knowing all this information BEFORE I plunked down money to see it.

— Tim Weekley, Suwanee

2 out of 4 stars

“Transcendence” is a promising science fiction movie with many special effects that made the movie trailer attractive. Only two people at the movie showing should give you advance notice of what to expect. The movie is an intellectual pursuit of happiness, that is, if you were inside a computer. It is a mirage of shallow human characters with clever background snippets of sci-fi mantras. Beware the new kind of zombies called hybrids and take a few naps throughout the story since it is that slooooow. Only hardcore fans of Sheldon from “The Big Bang Theory” will appreciate the back-handed surprises coming out of the mind of the scientist in the machine. You’ll come out afraid of the Internet and the de-humanizing effect of the synchronicity when machines take over, or will they? Definitely wait for it to show on RedBox and drink a lot of coffee while watching.

— Alfred Richner, Duluth

2 1/2 out of 4 stars

Transcendence — “having continuous existence outside the created world.” This is the overall theme of this movie. It is fair to say this was an interesting, complex, thought-provoking and somewhat disappointing movie.

The story begins plausibly enough, with a team of brilliant researchers in artificial intelligence wanting to take their research to another level and create a “Thinking” computer. For their efforts, they are targeted by a radical group of naturalists, led by Kate Mara, who neither understand nor agree with their work and violently attack them for interfering with the natural order of things. In one of these attacks, they shoot the lead researcher (Johnny Depp) while attending one of his conferences. The shot doesn’t kill him, but the bullet is infused with radiation and Dr. Caster (Depp) in doomed to die.

With weeks to live, his research partners, played by Rebecca Hall and Paul Bettany, scramble to save him by “uploading” his consciousness into their research supercomputer. Inadvertently they infuse him into the Internet, and the fun begins.

Will and Evelyn (Hall) use all of their new-found resources to evolve their research into performing medical miracles, via nanotechnology, to cure the incurable and at the same time enhance their abilities and create an army of hybrid humans that Will controls. This is where the story goes from almost plausible, to really, really out there. I won’t spoil it, but if you are a fan of science fiction, and are a member of the HAL (from “2001: a Space Odyssey”) fan club, among others, then this is one for you. There are remnants of too many other movies to mention, but it all comes together with an obvious moral at the end and deserves its PG-13 rating.

— Steve Kalberg, Lawrenceville