After the huge disappointment that was The Lone Ranger, another quirky, make-up heavy Johnny Depp performance would have probably sent everyone running in the other direction. Thankfully, the Christopher Nolan-produced Transcendence sees the actor trying something a little bit different.
The film sees poisoned and dying scientist Will (Depp) as he has his consciousness uploaded into a super-computer Lawnmower Man 2-style and starts to show-off his new, seemingly endless, power, with shady, potentially catastrophic consequences. Add to that some confused FBI agents played by a third of the Batman Begins cast (Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy), a bunch of anti-tech terrorist rebels and Will's wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall), who finds herself at the heart of it all, and you've got yourself a pretty ludicrous sci-fi flick with all the ingredients which make up a good old B movie yet which still remains somewhat slick and A-list. The whole thing is definitely out there and that's both the best aspect of Transcendence and the worst.
On the one hand, here is an ambitious film which explores some genuinely interesting sci-fi themes and which doesn't shy away from a large scale Invasion Of The Body Snatchers-esque crescendo. Transcendence plays like a serious thriller but, every so often, it throws some random, kinda goofy stuff at you, adding some fun schlockiness to the proceedings. You've got Johnny Depp as the internet, super-strong mind-controlled soldiers, self-healing solar panels, and it's all just as entertaining as it sounds. There's a sinister Stephen King-style vibe to the film which lifts a little whenever something crazy happens, so you're never bored. I do appreciate a sci-fi film which goes for it and builds-up to a near-epic climax rather than settling for indie schmaltz, by the way.
Here's looking at you, Her.
On the other hand, this is very much a clever plot stupidly told. Transcendence is definitely underwritten and that's a real shame because there was some real potential here to build on. Unfortunately, subplots and side threads are left hanging, are rushed or are under-explained leaving handfulls of plot-holes and the end "twist" is ultimately undermined by flaws which could have been easily ironed out in a more polished extra draft. This means that viewers will be less likely to buy the OTT premise as a whole and will probably shun the cool ideas the film has because it failed to give them the weight they deserved.
All that said, I did personally enjoy Transcendence. It's definitely one of those sci-fi films like Surrogates or Source Code you sit back and have fun watching but which kinda falls apart when you start thinking about them for more than a minute.
No masterpiece then, but the film certainly has its merits.
Flawed but enjoyable.