“Why don’t you just turn it off?” Rebecca Hall’s character, Evelyn, chides during TRANSCENDENCE’s opening.
part i | TRANSCENDENCE is full of bad ideas
What high school sophomore scribbled this story, eyes leering in bored desperation at the stains on the classroom ceiling, searching for a clear thought as his math and home-ec classes ooze and BLORP together? Truly, if a high school sophomore conceived of the story of a man that dies and is reborn again as a godlike computer through his wife’s pants-on, lights-on, Facetime-on-iPad love-facsimile, then it was most certainly proof-written by his gluten-free former-missionary Earth Sciences teacher.
I don’t think that anybody will ever like this movie, ever. It isn’t like talking about Love Actually, or RoboCop, movies that deserve to be deconstructed and / or high-fived repeatedly for their timeless subversiveness (try to guess which is in reference to what (hey, Love Actually is alright (kinda))). No, TRANSCENDENCE isn’t bad in the way that’s fun. It’s bad, tragically. I’d go into how Christopher Nolan did his buddy a solid and let him direct a movie about technology, and life, and death, and love, and humanity, and trans-humanity, and how its cast is awesome:
Captain Jack Sparrow, Rebecca Hall From The Town, Morgan Freeman, The Scarecrow, Paul Bettany Human-Version, and Kate Mara In A Wig.
Nope! Nope, not gonna happen! Not going to defend this movie. I’m gonna kick it while it’s down, right in its crooked spine. This is a movie made by your dad, for your mom, to scold the children, and to give God a handjob. Yes, THAT God.
The Catholic One.
part ii | TRANSCENDENCE thinks computers are weird and people are not
We open on Johnny Depp, who is a mumbly rockstar scientist. But he also humbly lives in beautiful, edenic, Berkeley, California. Oh, you’ve never been? You simply must. You have been living a partial life if you are living anywhere but Berkeley, where things make more sense, and the Starbuckses are just a little bit nicer, you know? It’s realer. That kind of place. The kind of place where people have the sense to block cellphone signals in their back gardens by coating the greenery in copper fencing.
“Why don’t you just turn it off?” Rebecca Hall Wife asks Johnny Depp, who is a mumbly rockstar scientist. Again, her name is Evelyn, and they are standing in a nice garden at the opening of this sci-fi movie, and OH, MY BALLS, TRANSCENDENCE, I know that babies learn to laugh at the sound of farts even before they talk, but we learn to do things besides TALKING OUT OUR ASSES as we grow older. Hang on to that, “is this going to be a movie with science versus religion?” feeling, because it’s going to come back later with as much subtlety as the lyrics in a Taylor Swift song.
Johnny Depp, who is a mumbly rockstar scientist, is named Will, and he and his Rebecca Hall Wife are both brilliant doctors living in Berkeley, California and they go to give a TED-ish talk where they can get (non-government) funding. Each gives a speech to an intent audience. The speeches are both worse than a book report on the themes of the Will Smith movie, I, Robot. Somebody in the audience asks Will (Johnny Depp, who is a mumbly rockstar scientist) if he wants to make a god, using AI and computers. He gives a non-response, “isn’t that what mankind has always done?”
“Yes, but that’s a non-response. You’re a scientist, and you’re dodging the responsibility of having a real opinion one way or another to keep the movie’s message ambiguous until the final moments,” the audience member replies.
HAH! No he doesn’t. He goes back to being sweaty and the speech ends.
After the speech, Will is shot by a guy with a tattoo. Even worse, guys with tattoos have been blowing up AI computer labs across the country. The only survivor of one attack was Morgan Freeman, who didn’t eat the poisoned cake the guys with tattoos delivered to his lab. You can make a joke about Morgan Freeman’s immortality or cool voice, but I won’t, because avoiding eating poisonous cake is not the silliest thing to happen to Morgan Freeman in this movie.
Will is in the hospital, but doesn’t die yet. It’s obvious from how he sits in his hospital bed that he’ll become a computer some day.
Seems that the guys with tattoos are really into killing people to prevent them from inventing too much technology, and Will muses on this for fifty seconds back at his house, sitting in the dark, with Paul Bettany. Later, Will throws up in the toilet instead of sleeping. The bullet was laced with radiation (Christ, really? These guys with tattoos took EVERY measure, didn’t they?), and is doing poison damage to Will. He’ll be dead in a month.
Paul Bettany is all, “once he dies, Imma bang his wife.” He doesn’t say it. But he thinks it. He begins to explore the Banana Republic catalog and earmarks some nice shirts, slacks, and watches.
With Will dying from Bulbasaur’s leech seed-attack, they decide to computer-hack his brain into a computer like they’re backing up their music library (actual parallel that they draw). They do it in an abandoned school that is a great, airy atmosphere for mad science and guys dying of radiation poisoning. Will gets wires attached to his head and recites every word that he knows, alphabetically. He dies somewhere around the L’s. Evelyn dumps his body in a pond. She dumps his ashes in a pond, I should say. Would it have been weird, otherwise? Oh, I guess there’s the dust and ashes symbolism. Humans aren’t weird.
COMPUTERS are weird.
Either way, there’s a mourning-montage, and they have Morgan Freeman on the payroll, and you bet your fucking ass he’s going to narrate a letter that we never see him write, and never see anyone read. Can a movie read Morgan Freeman’s thoughts?
After a little of crying, Evelyn goes back to the computer lab and realizes their attempt to upload Will worked! She and Paul Bettany, whose name is Max, talk to the Will-AI, who has access to the sound card and microphone, so they can talk, sorta. “He’s still fragmented. I’m going to run a diagnostic,” Evelyn says. Max is obviously nervous about this chatbot-cockblock and tells her that the real Will is dead, and the real Will wouldn’t ask for access to the Internet, or power, or money like how this AI-version is, despite him being a COMPUTER SCIENTIST in real life, and that is quite literally all that computer scientists are about, if you’ve ever spoken to one in your life. What do you think a bro’grammer is?
Yes, even the ones that live in Berkeley.
Evelyn gets upset and wants to Skype with her boyfriend, who is totally really and NOT in Canada, so she dismisses Max from the Delipidated Gymnasium For Hacking. She spoons her iPad and the next day, uploads Will to the Internet so he can do some vague stuff that he can’t really fully describe to his wife and confidante, despite being the reincarnated clone of a husband-algorithm.
Max is kidnapped and locked in doomsday-prepper chicken coop where Kate Mara In A Wig tells him about the guys with tattoos, and about how dangerous Will is. Max says it’s impossible. He grows a sad-Batman beard and is left locked in the chicken coop.
part iii | TRANSCENDENCE compares science to religion
Two years pass. Johnny Depp is now god of Arizona, and some one-horse desert town is his Mount Olympius.
He has invented nanomachines in an underground lab that some day laborers built using the money he stole for Evelyn, and this thing is about to go completely nuts because somebody just hit the "everything proof shield" button on the screenplay. Nanomachines. Yeah, smear that gray goo all over the plot. Smear it like mint jelly. To reiterate, Will uses his god brain to invent nanomachines. Rule #1 of good science fiction writing is NO NANOMACHINES in red, size eighty font.
Remember how the local day laborers made a ton of money getting the big-AI lab contract? Well, one of them gets lamped by some greedy 99%’ers looking for government hand-outs. They rob him. Then Evelyn finds him and brings him down into the lab and Will does his Creation of Adam moment and heals him. After, the guy thanks Evelyn for saving him and takes off his hard-hat. Oh, what a gentleyyyoooOOHHHMIGOD! He has a huge robot scab on his scalp. It looks like a DR Field And Brush Mower gave him lobotomy and stitched him back up with tin foil and spit.
The man with the frozen-casserole scalp thinks he's Will for real, and actually speaks in his voice, and is all, "hey, baby, I'm a robot inside a guy, and I can touch you now. That's what you're into, right?"
She says, “no,” and later has a portentous Demolition Man-style wet dream where she gets fucked by a dick made of pixels, but it's really high resolution, so it's both weird, and hot.
They make more breakthroughs. They heal more people various of terminal illnesses. Will becomes a double-God cheeseburger basket.
"We posted a video of Martin’s miraculous healing online. It went viral," Evelyn rationalizes to everybody when they ask how come this soggy-assed Arizona town is healing and nanomachining every sick person that, like, society gave up on. People hear about the town and they come to get robot baptized. This movie is now True Blood with robots instead of vampires and no boobs.
The Scarecrow and Morgan Freeman come to town and do not void their bowels with fear? The Scarecrow is from the FBI and he looks bored. Morgan Freeman tries HARDER not to seem quite so bored. While giving Scarecrow and Morgan Freeman a tour of the lab, “SURPRISE, I moved in with my berrfrind two years ago! Isn’t that crazy? Aren’t you sooooo jelly?! We’re living together. No Stockholm Syndrome. We’re in lurve!”
They watch Will heal a blind guy. This is now Yahweh’s favorite movie.
Once out of the lab, Morgan Freeman literally asks Evelyn, "are you alright?" Oh, that’s a strong, probing question, Morgan Freeman, a question to which no man or woman has ever reacted irrationally or violently to. He gives her a note RUN FROM THIS PLACE and she walks away from the camera.
Max is still alive after living with Kata Mara In A Wig. For two years? He has no beard now. He believes he can hack Will because he wrote the original Johnny Depp code and can give it a virus. He gets in contact with Morgan Freeman, practically fucking BEGGING him to wingman for him so he can get rid of Evelyn’s dumbfuck Canadian-Skype boyfriend. “No, it’s totally fine, I know his Tinder login,” he explains. “I can prove to her that he isn’t being exclusive to her right now, and that’ll make her break up with him.”
Morgan Freeman agrees. Kate Mara In A Wig, guys in tattoos, and Max gear up.
"The only way to stop it is to shut down the Internet." says the Scarecrow. So they hire some terrorists (this is not a joke) to blow up Will.
Johnny Depp simulates 3D fish and gives Evelyn wine down in their lab / dad’s basement.
"What's wrong?" he asks her. She doesn’t answer because who the fuck would? She gets even more pissed when he simulates, and I kid you not, the noise of awkwardly scraping his plate with a knife and fork. This dead marriage is now dead. She breaks up with him over Face Time, but it isn’t really clear to him that the relationship is over. Will is thinking, “I asked her questions, and what’s wrong, and all that shit, and she’s still pissed? What the hell, I don’t get it, what’s wrong with her? Better check her biorhythms to see if she's PMS'ing or something.”
"Please don't x-ray my ovaries," Evelyn asks pleasantly. "It's a huge invasion of privacy."
In earnest, Evelyn wasn’t even vague about it. You go, Evelyn! She realizes dating a dead husband computer-God ghost is fucked UP. They don’t think THEY are even CAPABLE of being broken up with. Evelyn decides to date herself for a while.
(Things escalate into a local news story that your drunk aunt will repeat at Thanksgiving, on and on about how terrible iPhones are for young people to have because nobody ever talks honestly anymore, except for HER. Then she drags you out of bed to go to Best Buy for Black Friday at 4am. Standing in the freezing line, a blue-lipped drowsy kid complains to his mother that she took away his iPhone, and your aunt (still drunk) elbows you SO HARD in the ribs, froth-cackling, “I tooOOOOLLDDD you!!”)
Evelyn and Will argue in the solar-panel field array that powers Will and bombs go off. An action movie literally crawls out of the ground, replete with army guys, Max, Kata Mara In A Wig, and others.
And she thinks instantly, "you know, there's a guy that's not made of tiny robots! I could hit that."
Oh, the healed nanomachines people are literally invulnerable robot zombies now, voiced by Will like it’s the music video for Another Brick In the Wall (Part 2).
Some people run in the desert. Some people run in a mine. Evelyn tells them to stop. A pickup truck crashes.
They do the copper wire trick to deactivate the robot men’s healing-connection to Goddy Depp and army guys shoot them dead so fast. If they just need to get them into a 4G dead-zone, why don’t they just lure them to rural Iowa? Buh-zing!
part iv | TRANSCENDENCE, the movie where Johnny Depp is a computer, and the computer turns into rain
"We're not gonna fight them,” Will explains to his robotic were-sheep after the battle. “We're gonna transcend them." And he turns into stardust and flies away on the wind. Eventually he turns into rain. Yes, he is now rain, try to run from that, Evelyn! He’ll find you, you’re too dumb to turn off your geolocation, he can see you Intagramming stuff from J. Crew, you dumb bitch, it’s tagged, and that top doesn’t fit your body-type!
Oh, but, aha, Will is also growing himself a new for-reals Johnny Depp God-body in a tank under ground and still wants to bang Evelyn, but she's been really afraid of him for a while now, but he still doesn't get it. We BROKE UP!
Morgan Freeman kidnaps Evelyn. Despite breaking up with Will an hour earlier, she's still upset that they shot that first scab-headed guy that Will had saved. Max explains to her that her husband robot-God is in the water now, and it's definitely not Will anymore, and never was. Evelyn is still mad. Probably at herself, but she would never give Max even a hint of satisfaction. Max feels forever chatbot-cockblocked. He hates Kata Mara In A Wig so much though, she’s so icky, and has no fashion sense. He’d much rather keep pursuing Evelyn, so he says he can kill her husband for her as a favor.
They both put on clothes from last year's Banana Republic catalog. Each says 2 sentences about human souls and together decide to use a virus to vaporize the Internet, killing Johnny Depp in the process.
This is an actual summary of the 2014 film TRANSCENDENCE, total budget $100 million.
Inbound to the third-act action climax, their truck runs over a puddle and Will hears it. He is the water.
They bring Morgan Freeman to the gun battle. That is the silliest thing they make Morgan Freeman do in this movie. I mean, really. What’s Morgan Freeman gonna do in a gun battle?
The plan is to have Evelyn (right) go in pre-infected with the virus (okay), merge with Will (sure), and kill the Internet (cool). This worked for Jeff Goldblum in 1995, it’ll work for us!
Whoa, she has to meet Will’s fully restored, and assuredly ENHANCED God-body! He is alive and Johnny Depp again. Living tissue over metal endoskeleton. Evelyn gets the biggest boner ever, and tells him they're going to attack him, and that she wants to be uploaded. Uploaded!
There is a Military Guy there, and he has a constant erection, and needs to shoot a gun, so he does, hitting Evelyn with a mortar blast.
Will blinks and sends nanomachine snakes all over the ground. It grows like ivy. The Military Guys shoot the ground. The gun has no effect on the ground. The ground will simply not die, no matter how many bullets hit it.
Morgan Freeman surrenders. It is very silly.
Evelyn is dying from the friendly-fire mortar-blast. Will brings her down into their living room in the lab to watch her bleed. There's a catch-22 moment with two options: 1) save Evelyn, or 2) upload the virus. “There isn’t enough power for both,” Will explains, consciousness quite literally extending into the water, earth, and upper atmosphere air-currents. Will has to decide if he's going to be good or evil, and he decides to let Evelyn die, and eat the virus, and die. It’s what she would have wanted.
The nanomachines die. Kate Mara In A Wig is allowed to live.
Somewhere in there, Will heals the planet in the shutdown process. Air pollution, and dirty rivers, and over-zealous mountain-top logging is fixed.
Aha, with his last words, Will reveals to dying Evelyn that it was him all along, dummy! Or was it? "Sorry I didn't believe," Evelyn says, and she dies. Oh, I guess it was him. That’s sad for her.
Her husband real doll dies next to her on her bed.
Nobody ever will like this movie, ever.
A few years later after the death of the Entire Internet, which is STILL broken, God, FUCKING COMCAST, Max goes back into Will and Evelyn’s beautiful, spacious, tasteful Berkeley, California home. He goes into their garden. The wi-fi blocking copper-wire net is still set up. A single sunflower grows there. "He created this garden for the same reason he created everything. So they could be together," says Max.
Also, the nanomachines fall off the flower into the water, and probably still exist. So there will totally be a TRANSCENDENCE 2, you guys.