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Showing 1-10 of 1,594 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 1,778 reviews
on July 30, 2014
Good sci-fi has always been about ideas, and TRANSCENDENCE does have some. Still, visuals end up trumping the compelling questions which it could have at least attempted to answer. The story is about Will Caster, an AI researcher who is attacked by an anti-technology group known as RIFT (Radical Independence From Technology). They only graze him with a bullet, but the bullet was laced with a lethal substance and now he only has a month to live. Desperate to save his life by any means possible, his wife (and research partner) tests an experimental procedure which uploads his consciousness to a computer. From there he evolves and grows to a point practically beyond human comprehension, all with RIFT on his trail.

Watching this, at least for the first two thirds, I kept wondering why on earth this flopped so hard. It might not be the smartest sci-fi out there, having a decent amount of logical issues and extraordinary suspense of disbelief towards the end, but at its core is a compelling relationship and the age-old question of whether humans can create something as, or more, intelligent than ourselves. However by the end, with its typical action climax and really failing to probe the issues at its heart, I can understand why it might turn some people off. For my money, it was a good, well-intentioned effort by first-time director Wally Pfister (Christopher Nolan's longtime DP, who also has a producing credit). None of what is wrong with the film can really be laid on his shoulders. That would be first-time writer Jack Paglen. At times, it isn't clear what he intended the message of the film to be, since the results are a bit mixed. Is it anti-technology or not? Who are the real villains supposed to be? The answers to these questions seem to change as the film progresses.

Another major weakness I found was the footage that bookends the narrative. Set five years after the events of the film, it essentially gives away the endgame and removes any and all questions as to how the film might turn out. Still, the journey there is interesting and extremely cool to watch. Speaking of things that are cool to watch, I must say that the film is very well designed and filmed, and has some awesome visual effects. Granted, these don't really make up for the faults in the writing, but at least it was pretty to look at. One minor issue I will point out is the pacing, as there is a two-year jump in the middle of the film which not only throws off the narrative thrust (as slow as it might be), but also raises a lot of additional questions that the writers probably don't want viewers to be asking, the least of which is given how powerful that Will becomes in terms of the things he can do, how this didn't revolutionize the technology and medical fields anywhere else. Also, are we supposed to believe that RIFT or the FBI didn't make much of any headway in the intervening time period?

Anyway, I digress. Despite a lot of these questions periodically coming up after I started to think about what I was watching, I still enjoyed myself. Why? Mainly because it wasn't boring, which is the worst crime a film can commit. Even though the tough questions aren't really given their due, the cast did a good job and the film was visually pleasing (although I kind of wish that some of the supporting cast had been given more screen time). Overall, as long as you lower your expectations a bit I see no reason why this wouldn't be a good way to pass two hours.
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on May 5, 2014
If you're reading this review, you probably skipped this in theaters and wonder if it's worth a buy on Blu-Ray. It is. This is the most under-rated movie I am aware of ... I suspect it will become a quiet cult classic and I look forward to watching it again.

After watching the movie, I read a handful of critical reviews to see what the problems were. Mostly, critics panned "plot holes" and "logical errors," but every specific complaint I read was actually addressed within the movie. (Explicitly even, through dialogue.)

I suspect the problem is this: the movie is a slow-burn drama and open to several channels of interpretation. One of the central questions of the story is whether or not Dr. Caster was successfully "uploaded," or if the machine is something else altogether. The movie provides a couple of suggestions, and it does favor one over the other, but it allows you to draw your own conclusions.

Such is the nature of a lot of the plot points. You get to decide who the villains are and who the good guys are (if there are any). You get to decide how a machine can (or can't) reconcile love. You get to decide the meaning of the "religious" imagery that enters the movie partway through. The film is brilliantly nuanced, and it seems to have compelling arguments for both sides on pretty much every issue it presents -- which bothered a lot of the people in the theatre. My interpretation of the movie was satisfying, yours may not be. I've read a lot of comments on the internet as to why someone hated the "message" or the "plot" and almost every single time I find myself thinking, "But that's not the way I saw it."

Even if you go into this movie not caring so much about the philosophical aspects, it functions as a beautiful, yet oh-so-messed-up, love story that brought a tear to my eyes.

The movie does have a couple of failings ... there are exactly two moments that come across as cheesy. One of these moments is at the beginning (this won't spoil anything): a student asks Dr. Caster if he's basically trying to create his own "god" through technology. The line itself was a bit cheesy, but the acting was so over-the-top, I don't understand why the studio didn't mandate a re-shoot.

Some of the technology may seem a bit "fantastic" to those who have never picked up the tech section of the New York Times, and I'm hoping that a second viewing will answer a question I had about the nature of an injection that happens in the third act of the film. Be warned: this is NOT an action film, and you will have to pay attention to the dialogue and form your own opinions as you go along to have a pleasant viewing experience. Even then, your opinions will be continually challenged, and it's a fun back-and-forth if you like that sort of thing. (I do.)

UPDATE: The quality of the Blu-Ray itself is a disappointment. It appears they've applied a fair amount of DNR to the image, which *does* affect the level of detail, contrary to what you may read elsewhere, and it affects it drastically. It's especially disappointing, because the detail and grain were part of what made the image so intriguing in theatres.

The audio mix is excellent, so no complaints there. But the special features are essentially non-existent -- you'll get through everything in 15 minutes. (Literally.) The "viral" videos are included, which is nice. A commentary with the writer would have been a fantastic addition, but I suppose you can't fault Warner for not wanting to spend time/money on a film that flopped in the box office.

With that in mind, I'll step down the recommendation to "worth a buy, but make sure you get a good price for it."
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on April 7, 2015
I'm a sci-fi guy, not a romance movie guy. This film is simply a love story disguised as a sci-fi film that centers its "plot" on merging humans with computers and the dreaded "singularity" that is a common theme in all computer focused sci-fi these days. However, that stuff is just the dressing for the main course, romantic love. While I don't mind that when I know that is what I am getting into, I don't like it when it is hidden in the trailers and I am misled intentionally to get my bucks. I would rent/stream this movie. It is worth a watch but does not call out for a re-view. Guys: You can watch this one with your gal that doesn't like sci-fi and she will like it if she likes romance films.
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on June 19, 2016
So far to my knowledge this is the greatest movie depicting a potential world with Artificial Intelligence. Me and my partner loved this movie and enjoy the SciFi and Tech genres along with movies that make you think what if? What I really love about this movie is the open and endless questions they inspire within you and it's a great conversation to have with those around you. Otherwise the acting was brilliant, computer graphics were believable and stunning, and the script was intelligent & entertaining. Look elsewhere for cheap tricks and stupid senseless babble, this makes sense and has a wondrous story telling way about it. 10/10
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on July 5, 2014
I can easily envision it happening the way it happens in the movie - when a human chooses to change their substrate into digital form rather than become nonexistent and be certainly and forever separated from the ones they love. At least with that first experiment there are plausible possibilities for reunion. Not only that, but a human in digital form could theoretically process information at the same speed as the fastest computers, plus utilize human-style reasoning and problem-solving skills - which computers have not previously achieved. The inevitable and shockingly fast jumps in technologies, including physical human evolution - and the fears and doubts that accompany it - are explored emotionally and intellectually with engaging performances by the actors. The performance that stands out most in my mind is that of Rebecca Hall who plays Evelyn, the wife of main character, Will (Johnny Depp's character). It was easy to feel what seemed like her genuine emotions - conflict, relief, love, grief, fear, uncertainty - you name it. Her performance reminds me of the enthralling work of Olivia Williams as Anna in The Sixth Sense. I think this movie will be among those (such as Gattaca) that we will think about when trying to sort out what future technologies will mean for us when we are faced with them. Good performances, good visual artistry, beautiful and smart special effects. I loved the movie.
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on July 28, 2014
This is a great sci fi on an emergent singularity. Its a bit clunky in its approach to how this event materializes even if the idea of the singularity is a possibility. This is a film about human evolution and how human beings, as we presently exist, will fight any advancement it cannot wrap its monkey brain around and, crippled with fear, lash out in violence. The singularity is personified by the character Will; the pun in this characters name wasn't lost to me. The humans who do not understand what has happened to 'Will' decide to do what humans do best, destroy. It wants to destroy what was created. Throwing all scientific inquiry out the window the humans don't bother to ask Will the real pertinent philosophical and moral questions and since inquiry isn't pursued with Will, the humans just mistrusts and fears the entity that had done nothing more than improve, save and evolve the conditions of mankind for a new kind of human kind. In genuine monkey fashion the humans try and preserve their imperfections through the murder of anything surrounding the entity Will. In the end the Luddites win and the earth improved through Will's efforts continues but without the benefit of contemporary technology, thus going back to the only state an un-evolved human can exist, that world of pre-existing emergence. I guess they were too content with the world of poverty, sickness, war and ignorance. This is a pro singularity film warning us that the only thing which can come between present day man is evolution is fear and ignorance.
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on September 30, 2016
I started watching this, because it was a cheap rental. The all-star cast, combined with all the negative reviews, made me curious. I began watching it apprehensively, thinking I was probably going to write a negative review about it. But, I was very pleasantly surprised. Yes, for the naysayers, it is quite cliche at various points, but what story isn't? All in all, it was fantastic story about what we all would do for true love and how we all would help the world, if we had the power. It's a beautiful piece of work, and let's face it: Johnny Depp and Paul Bettany and Morgan Freeman? It's kind of a dramatic-thriller-scifi-romance, and it's very pleasant. The naysayers who call it Hollywood trash have likely just watched so many movies that they've lost the ability to imagine the possibilities presented in this movie. It was totally worth the dollar, and I'm glad I watched it. I probably would have paid more.
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on March 24, 2015
It's difficult to express what went wrong in this movie without being a spoiler, and I have seen much worse movies. The previews do show that the character's consciousness was uploaded to a computer, so that shouldn't spoil things for you, and the first question anyone would have I suppose is this: is it really him? The movie tries to answer it but doesn't do that well. There is too much inconsistency between the adroid-like computer consciousness that is suppose to be him and the "him" who was him, and you never see the human side again, in my view. The screen-play provides a moment, something that is supposed to be a sort of reveal, but the problem was if it had been him all along he'd not have to say as much, it would have shown a long time before it became a question. The "if this weren't me I wouldn't make the decision I am making" is quickly negated by the "I've really been an ass for the last hour." issue. I don't think that will spoil it for you either, the movie is an American movie - of course there is going to be a reclamation - you knew it was coming long before I said anything about it. There is the implication of a sequel, its hardly there, but there is the tiny shadow of a promise, they drop it in. Literally. That could be done better.
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on July 19, 2016
I totally missed this movie at the theater.... it was shown on TNT the other night.... it was so interesting that I then watched it on TNT-W.... not being able to keep the story, the people and the love story out of my head and wanting to figure out what all the subtle messages were I decided to purchase the movie here on Amazon even though I had just watched it twice the day before on the TV for free.
This movie has very important complex messages that really need discussing.... the love story is so involved.... when he gives her the biggest gift she ever dreamed of... she doesn't even recognize it..... I felt a connection to most of the actors in this film...
I read the critics reviews after I watched this movie... I have to wonder if people just don't enjoy thought provoking movies any longer.... recently I attempted to watch The Wolf of Wall Street which was nominated for Oscars.... I never even got to the first commercial .... why do so many movies depend on foul language and sex to sell? If you enjoy Wolf of Wall Street type of movies... Transcendence isn't for you...
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on July 30, 2014
I had to choose to go to only a few of the movies that came out this summer and, because of the reviews of this movie I hesitated, even though the trailers really piqued my interest.
I can say this. As science fiction movies go, this is one of the best movies ever. At the end of the original Lawn Mower Man, the star loads his consciousness into the world wide web in 1992. This movie takes that idea to the next step and more. Nanotechnology is something that is covered here and another coming wave of technology that will transform our lives. Definitely see this movie. The critics were WRONG.
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