Monday, 21 April 2014

REVIEW - TRANSCENDENCE (WALLY PFISTER)


I think I can divorce my expectations from my experience. I thought I might need to with this film, and it's usually a smart thing to do, but it turns out that I had no such need. Transcendence is a dreary and disappointing film in comparison to director Wally Pfister's past work, but it's piss-poor sci-fi even in isolation from them. Chief among my disappointments is the film's visual language, which is seemingly non-existent. Pfister is not a director by trade, but a cinematographer, and one with a knack for complex, detailed compositions unlike those found in most other blockbusters for their symbolic and narrative significance. Transcendence is all design without purpose, soulless, expensive digital imagery shot on film, presumably to capture an aesthetic depth that just isn't here. There's no sense of wonder to Pfister's filmmaking, no awe when events on screen ought to be awe-inspiring, so they end up coming off as silly. A serious strain of nonsense quickly infects Transcendence soon after it has taken its first futuristic leap, and writer Jack Paglen has no intention of following through what might have been an interesting debate on pertinent scientific ethics. The grandeur of his conceit is in globalising the issues he establishes, something which neither he nor Pfister has an appreciation of how to capture, and in attempting to rival other big-budget sci-fi products with a swift slide into action movie theatrics. You see, even at this film's core it seeks to abandon its own uniqueness, and prey on your expectations, and to humiliating effect. And Rebecca Hall and Johnny Depp, normally so full of vitality as performers, amble through this dirge in apparent acceptance of its mediocrity. It's never offensively bad - and my expectations were beginning to veer toward that, having read reports to that extent - but Transcendence is a major letdown on all levels, be they based on expectation or not.