‘Transcendence’: The Reviews Are In

The Johnny Depp sci-fi thriller is having a hard time with the critics.

It’s hard to deny that for his first directorial effort, Christopher Nolan’s go-to cinematographer Wally Pfister went big. “Transcendence” stars Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany and Morgan Freeman, among many others, and attempts to tackle classic sci-fi tropes.

What critics are calling into question, however, is how successful Pfister is at all of this. The reviews for the Oscar winners first film are far from transcendent.

See what the critics are saying about “Transcendence” starring Johnny Depp below.

The Story
“Depp, who essentially Skypes in his performance, plays Dr. Will Caster. He and his researcher wife, Evelyn (Rebecca Hall), have pioneered AI experiments inching the human race ever-closer to ‘transcendence,’ the ability to imbue a fantastically powerful computer with the personality, memories and foibles of a human being. Then anti-tech terrorists launch a series of attacks, and Dr. Caster is critically injured in an assassination attempt. At death’s door he enlists Evelyn and a fellow AI whiz (Paul Bettany) to digitize the good doctor’s big brain, thereby “saving” the best of the dying man and allowing him to live on in the form of a machine, all-knowing, all-seeing, thirsty for knowledge and with the attractive, implacable face of Johnny Depp.” — Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

The Human Element
“The urgency and intelligence of ‘Transcendence’ isn’t artificial. It feels sincerely animated by the frightful questions it poses about computing power and interconnectedness…. The excellent Hall, looking a bit confused by what she’s gotten herself into, does her best to emotionally ground Pfister’s increasingly unfocused and heavy-handed story.” — Jake Coyle, Associated Press

The Direction
“With ‘Transcendence,’ Pfister has certainly delivered a good-looking, well-produced picture, albeit one lacking in the memorable images he has supplied in excess in Nolan’s employ. (Pfister’s d.p. of choice, Jess Hall, is big on sun flares and slow-mo water droplets.) More critically, he’s made a movie empty of feeling, even as it labors to convince us that the entire future of the human race is hanging in the balance.” — Scott Foundas, Variety

Rebecca Hall’s Performance
“If there’s one solid take-away from ‘Transcendence,’ it’s Rebecca Hall’s performance as a computer genius (she’s not just Will’s wife, she’s his collaborator) so blinded by grief and by the possibilities of pushing science to the next level, that she aids and abets Will’s ambitious, terrifying agenda. She remains committed to the character even when the plot’s logic goes 404 — Not Found.” — Alonso Duralde, The Wrap

The Final Word
“Borrowing many of Nolan’s favorite actors, Pfister also co-opts some of Nolan’s weighty themes — of technology’s gifts and curses and questing intellect run rampant. But clever ideas early on go rogue, or go missing, in the gallop toward an action-film climax that then, perversely, doesn’t materialize. The movie’s intelligence is artificial, its affect solemn.” — Richard Corliss, TIME

“Transcendence” is playing in theaters now.