- Release Date: April 18, 2014
- Rating: PG-13
- Directed by: Wally Pfister
- Written by: Jack Paglen
- Starring: Johnny Depp, Morgan Freeman, Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Paul Bettany and Cillian Murphy
- Running time: 119 minutes
"Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) is the foremost researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence, working to create a sentient machine that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known with the full range of human emotions. His highly controversial experiments have made him famous, but they have also made him the prime target of anti-technology extremists who will do whatever it takes to stop him." - (Official press release plot description)
With an incredibly talented cast as well as a fresh and in some ways culturally relevant topic, first time director Wally Pfister aims to make a new name for himself with the sci-fi thriller Transcendence. Pfister came into the public conscience thanks to his award-winning collaboration with director Christopher Nolan as director of photography (which resulted in multiple Academy Award nominations including one win for Inception), but has also done great work in films like The Italian Job and Moneyball. A great advocate of film over digital photography, Pfister has always sought to provide the best visual experience possible for the audience, and though he isn't behind the camera on Transcendence, it appears that he's brought that sensibility to this film as well.
Much of his workload seems to be lightened by the stellar cast he's managed to assemble in this high-concept sci-fi pic. Speaking about the incredible actors he was able to work with, Pfister said, "It's mind-blowing.... I feel incredibly fortunate to be lucky enough in my first outing as a director to have the likes of these incredible actors."
Despite recent flops like The Lone Ranger and Dark Shadows, Johnny Depp is still a huge star that will certainly attract an audience. Unlike those and other films that helped Depp rise to prominence, this seems to be quite a departure from his usual over-the-top characters like The Mad Hatter and Willy Wonka. Playing a subdued and stoic scientist calls back to his more subtle performances of films such as Finding Neverland that garnered critical praise and awards recognition.
"(He) is just a joy to work with and he is a really smart guy," said Pfister of his leading man. "I was very, very fortunate to be able to get Johnny." Stepping away from the norm and taking on such a different kind of role may be just the adrenaline shot Depp's career needs to return to top form.
It's a different story for Morgan Freeman, however, who seems to be in more movies than Liam Neeson these days. Following their most recent collaboration in The Dark Knight Rises, it's not too surprising to see Freeman return to work with Wally Pfister in Transcendence. Not only that, but having familiar faces on set is surely a comfort to such an increase in responsibility for the first time director. Freeman's role in this film appears to be quite similar to that of the batman films, which should make many viewers feel right at home.
However, he isn't the only returning cast member from previous Pfister works. "Obviously I’ve known Morgan for 10 years and Cillian for 10 years. You know, we’ve all done three “Batman” pictures together and was very comfortable working with them," Pfister said of his familiar casting choices. "My previous relationship with them and Rebecca (The Prestige) came to play in terms of casting them, so it’s really a dream cast."
When asked about his relationship with Christopher Nolan and what he's learned from the legendary director, Pfister replied, "One of the great things about Chris is his discipline on set and... to observe somebody who really considers every minute of your set time to be precious."
Based on the talent of the cast and crew as well as the highly promising trailers, it appears that Transcendence is certainly well worth the time and energy spent by all involved. Funding and distributing such a big-budget movie by a first time director is surely a bit of a gamble for Warner Bros and Alcon Entertainment, but regardless of the box office numbers it definitely appears to be a fascinating take on man's evolving and complicated relationship with technology.
Transcendence will be released nationwide on April 18th, so be sure to pick up your tickets as soon as possible!
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