Transcendence (Blu-ray Review)

TranscendenceGoing into 2014, Transcendence was on my “movies to check out” list.  I didn’t really know all too much about it.  Mainly, it was the prospect of seeing longtime Christopher Nolan collaborator Wally Pfister make his directorial debut.  It was the notion of seeing someone from the Nolan tree branch out was attractive enough to me.  The man shot Memento, Inception and the modern Batman trilogy under one of the best working modern directors.  Unfortunately, as it got closer to release it looked a bit less interesting.  Then the reviews started piling in and it wasn’t pretty.  So, I decided to pass until it came to Blu-ray.  And now, its here.


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Will Caster is a scientist working to build a computer that will create technological singularity or “Transcendence”.  However there is an extremist group against the artificial intelligence who assassinates a lot of his workers and shoots Will with an irradiated bullet.  Will is given a month to live, but his wife decides that they need to upload his consciousness into a quantum computer developed by his AI research.  Will is successfully uploaded, but his wife must go on the run as the extremists, now accompanied by Will’s best friend Max, are after her.

Yep, believe what you’ve heard.  This one is pretty bad.  Transcendence has a simple plot that they try to overly complicate to make it seem super smart.  The film is also super boring in the process.  There is absolutely no joy or fun in watching any of this and the movie doesn’t even allow itself any chance to smile.  Its a complete slug and at 2 hours feels like a complete chore to finish up viewing.  Its a complete disappointment as there is actually nothing at all to take away from this film.  It offers nothing you haven’t seen before in that of science fiction technology, no real memorable action sequences or even performances to speak of.

Johnny Depp seems to be channeling his “Bruce Willis picks up a paycheck” type performance.  He looks completely uninterested to be there and gives one of his career worst acting stints.  Its a shame as you don’t get to see Depp in “normal” roles very often, and this one he just feels like he doesn’t want to be there.  Rebecca Hall is someone I don’t think we see enough of but she’s wasted on this movie.  And there’s emotional moments where her British accent sort of slips here and there that I’m surprised were kept in the film.  I like Cillian Murphy a lot, but he’s given relatively nothing to do in the film.

The opening of the film actually ruins the rest of the film.  It has that tired schtick of showing something toward the end of the movie and then flashing back.  But in doing that they have revealed what the entire endgame of the film is, so there’s no surprise, no suspsense, no question of what’s going to result.  And there’s no shock, it just plays out the way you expect.  All it does is help with the complete snoozer tone to the film.  Which, trust me, its really hard to not doze off during this film.

This review came just a week too late.  Transcendence would have been my clear winner for Worst of 2014 so far.  Its a complete chore to watch and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting.  Johnny Depp sleepwalks through the film and if he’s not interested, why should you be?  The film also has no business being 2 hours.  A tighter cut of the film might have made it more watchable, but still been pretty bad.  I’m not writing off Wally Pfister for this, but man its a pretty poor start.  He can really only go up from here if he gets to direct again.

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2:40.1

Clarity/Detail: There is something quite off with this picture.  It was shot on film, but looks like it was shot digitally.  Watching, it feels evident there may have been some studio tampering with this transfer.  The image looks sharp for the most part, but some halo’ing effect is present at times (a result of some tampering with the sharpness).  Detail is solid for the most part.  I’d say with all the problems I’ll list, the image is still decent and to the untrained eye, won’t probably bug or be noticeable.

Depth: There is some good depth, particularly in seeing many rooms with monitors at varying distances from foreground characters.

Black Levels: Blacks are pretty prevalent and deep, resulting in many instances of crushing throughout the film.

Color Reproduction: Likely the highlight of the transfer.  Colors are bold and striking.

Flesh Tones: Skintones aren’t very consistent and in many instances smoothed over and not very lifelike.

Noise/Artifacts: There are many instances where you can see some DNR was done to the transfer.

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Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Dynamics: The 5.1 DTS-HD MA fares far better than the video transfer.  It has a great balance in its structuring of effects, voice and score.  The voice and effects are more in the forefront than anything and play off each other quite well.  Its a fantastic surround track tacked onto a poor movie.

Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer adds plenty of enhancement to gunshots and other sound effects and really makes its presence felt when it has too.  There was an explosion in the third act that really kicked and was pretty awesome to experience.

Surround Sound Presentation: Rear speakers make great use of the ambient noises throughout.  There is also very good directional work from speaker to speak, crafting a terrific experience.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is clean and clear.  The dominant piece of the track, but its rich and leads the way.

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Transcendence comes with a DVD copy and Ultraviolet Digital Copy of the film.  It also comes with an absolutely worthless array of extras even though it looks like a nice list of material.  All of it is worthless EPK stuff of actors talking about inconsequential stuff regarding promoting the film intermixed with parts of the trailer.

What Is Transcendence? (HD, 5:20) – The cast and Wally Pfister just give their 2 cents on what they think it all means and discuss the film’s story.

Wally Pfister: A Singular Vision (HD, 2:52) – A little puff piece on the film’s director featuring actors praising his work and talking about working with him.

Guarding The Threat (HD, 2:18) – A little piece with the cast talking about the story, featuring some repetitive clips we’ve seen already plenty throughout these.

The Promise Of AI (HD, 2:34) – A bit with everyone discussing their thoughts on technology.

It’s Me (HD, 1:02) – A teaser for the film

Singularity (HD, 1:09) – Another teaser.

R.I.F.T. (HD, :58) – A teaser about the extremist group with Kate Mara narration.


  • Trailer 1 (HD, 2:34)
  • Trailer 2 (HD, 2:34)

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Transcendence is the very worst kind of bad movie.  Its incredibly boring.  It’s begging you to fall asleep.  This release comes with a worthless set of extras, middling video transfer and awesome audio track.  I wouldn’t even recommend it for a rental, let alone fork down the money to own it.  But, if you must, I would be surprised if this isn’t $5 come the fall season.  Even if you are a huge Johnny Depp fan, he’s definitely not giving you your money’s worth here.  This is easily the worst film I’ve seen all year and am glad to put it past me and not have to think about it again.  If you must defy me though, click my pre-order link below.



Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

1 Response to “Transcendence (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    The three people on this cover have the exact looks that explain my thoughts on the film.