Review: Johnny Depp looks bored by the silly science-fiction ideas of Transcendence
Well, there ya go.The film is handsomely made for the most part, but considering how big the story they're trying to tell is, there's something sort of low-rent about the way they actually imagined it. For all of the world significance that these events supposedly carry, everything seems to happen between a few characters in one of the blandest settings imaginable. The big climax to the film boils down to a couple of characters standing around in a solar panel farm arguing while things blow up. I feel bad for the cast. Rebecca Hall tries to give some sense of inner life to a character that exists mainly to react to expository dialogue dumps, but it's a battle she can't win. Bettany doesn't fare much better, and poor Kate Mara is stranded as the leader of the terrorist group. She has to glower a lot and snarl a few speeches, but it's a terrible role, and she's unable to make it work.
More than anything, I find this kind of film dispiriting. Science-fiction is an amazing genre. Our greatest authors have used it to look forward and imagine all the ways that we as a species might flourish and evolve, while this sort of thing falls closer to the people who believe that evolution is a lie and cavemen rode around on dinosaurs, scared to death that science might offer answers that simple faith cannot. This is a movie that is terrified of the future, and it seizes on all the worst possible versions of the ideas that it attempts to discuss. "Transcendence" implies something wonderful, some moment where we become something else, but as a film, this is resolutely grounded, afraid to fly, and it offers up the most pedestrian, familiar version of a story that deserves better.