Director: Wally Pfister
Cast: Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Morgan Freeman
Release Date: Own it now on Digital HD, Blu-Ray Combo Pack & DVD
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 7/10
Disc Rating: 8/10
In ‘Transcendence’, Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) is the foremost researcher in the field of artificial intelligence, working to create a sentient machine that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known with the full range of human emotions. His highly controversial experiments have made him famous, but they have also made him the prime target of anti-technology extremists who will do whatever it takes to stop him.
However, in their attempt to destroy Will, they inadvertently become the catalyst for him to succeed—to be a participant in his own transcendence. For his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and best friend Max Waters (Paul Bettany), both fellow researchers, the question is not if they can…but if they should.
Their worst fears are realized as Will’s thirst for knowledge evolves into a seemingly omnipresent quest for power, to what end is unknown. The only thing that is becoming terrifyingly clear is there may be no way to stop him.
‘Transcendence’ tells the story of a man who has made it his life’s work to create artificial intelligence, a project which he himself prefers to refer to as transcendence. Following a tragic accident, the realization that the missing element of his work may have been simply the lack of an already existing and developed brain, his work is implemented into bringing the brain and all of the elements of a deceased individual back to a conscience state as AI. Soon things start to escalate and it becomes questionable whether the apparent good being done is in fact the whole plan or if something more sinister is at work here.
‘Transcendence’ marks the directorial debut by Wally Pfister, longtime collaborator of Christopher Nolan. Pfister does a solid job taking the helm as director for the first time and the number of talented individuals that comprise the cast is certainly impressive in itself. The cast includes such talent as Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Morgan Freeman, Paul Bettany, Cillian Murphy and a number more. There are also a couple of actors I’m personally a huge fan of, Clifton Collins Jr. and Josh Stewart, both in more minor roles.
I’ve seen a lot of individuals that have apparently been incredibly disappointed by ‘Transcendence’ though I must say I would have to disagree. While ‘Transcendence’ is certainly not a flawless film, I enjoyed it quite a bit and found it to be a unique take on something that borders between the edges of reality and merely an idea these days and a situation and technology that we can (at least to a degree) imagine being plausible in our time.
The one large flaw that the movie suffers in my opinion is the mistake of dropping critical information on the viewer at the beginning and then jumping back in time. While this method certainly works well for many films, it unfortunately does a significant amount of harm when so many drastic elements concerning the conclusion of the film are presented at the beginning. Unfortunately that is the case here and their reason for doing so, I can’t begin to say I understand as it really seems to have no affect by doing so other than revealing unnecessary spoilers. Regardless of this flaw and a few other minor issues, I for the most part still very much enjoyed ‘Transcendence’ and found it to be an exciting, thought provoking and surprisingly emotional film.
The Blu-Ray release of ‘Transcendence’ features a full 1080p High Definition presentation utilizing the film’s original 2.4:1 Cinemascope Aspect Ratio. My first viewing of the film was via this Blu-Ray disc and my first impression was that everything looked pretty fantastic overall. Since then, I have come across the fact that the director shot in 35mm and also avoided any form of digital methods, even during post production, and while the Blu-Ray does look sharp, clear and pretty great, one can’t help but notice that it does appear much more like one would expect a digitally shot film to be presented, not one shot entirely on film. I felt this should be noted as I’m sure some fans and film enthusiasts will certainly take issue with this fact as I’ve already begun to see occurring to a degree.
The Blu-Ray release features a lossless 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This lossless multichannel soundtrack is definitely the most notable element of this release and it sounds pretty fantastic. The calm and composed moments of which there are many are properly tame and the more action oriented sequences have no hesitation in hitting quite hard and full taking advantage of all five channels, as well as really shaking the room at times with the level of bass present. I’m pretty confident that the fellow audiophiles along with the casual viewers will all be quite pleased with this DTS-HD MA track.
The Blu-Ray release of ‘Transcendence’ includes a number of extra goodies, although while they do provide some interesting insight and interviews from the cast and crew regarding the making of the film, most of them are fairly short featurettes. Included on the release is: ‘What Is Transcendence?’ ‘Wally Pfister: A Singular Vision’ ‘Guarding The Threat’ ‘The Promise of A.I.’ all of which are short behind the scenes looks/featurettes, although a few of them oddly seem to repeat comments and bits from interviews used in prior segments. Also included are the Viral Videos: ‘It’s Me’ ‘Singularity’ ‘R.I.F.T.’ and trailers. While it’s not nearly as loaded as a lot of Warner’s phenomenal releases, it still provides a decent amount of worthwhile extras that fans of the film are certain to enjoy.
*Please note that the above images are taken from the Blu-Ray and resized. They additionally will suffer quality loss as a result of .jpg compression. Larger versions of each image can be viewed by clicking on the image. All images and content included on this Blu-Ray release are the property of their respective owners.