Well, Johnny Depp just video-Skyped that one in.
Cinematographer Wally Pfister makes his directorial debut on a reboot of twisty-reeled VHS classic “The Lawnmower Man II : Beyond Cyberspace” that’ll leave audiences wishing they too had been knee-deep in grass.
Pfister is Christopher Nolan’s – the director of such cinematic gems as “Memento”, “Inception” and “The Dark Knight” – go-to guy when it comes to making things look pretty. And, considering how lackluster his movie debut is, he won’t have to help Nolan find a replacement anytime soon.
Johnny Depp channels Terry Kiser’s ‘Bernie’ here, playing an expressionless artificial intelligence researcher who, with his team – including wife Rebecca Hall – has been working on a machine that possesses sentience and collective intelligence, an event which Will calls “Transcendence”.
At a presentation, Caster is shot by a protestor. Though the bullet merely grazed him, it was laced with radioactive material. He has weeks, at best, to live.
Desperate to save her husband and co-conspirator in “Mr. Maker” recitals, Mrs Caster uploads Will’s consciousness into a computer. And not long after he passes, she and friend Max Waters (Paul Bettany) are sublimely surprised to discover the upload has worked – Caster is now Edgar from “Electric Dreams”.
Just as expected – we expect it, because we’ve seen it before – computer Caster strives for more and power, eventually encouraging his wife to buy up a small town where they can put some grand plans into action. But after a while, she begins to question whether she’s doing the right thing for humanity by letting her digi-beau do what he does.
Taking a cue from any parent assisting their kid with their homework, one imagines executive producer Christopher Nolan supervised and assisted Pfister for the first few pages (of his shooting script) before exiting the room, wanting to see what he could accomplish on his own. As a result, the first quarter of the film is an entertaining and curious beast, but what follows is a messy and misdirected bore. Needless to say, when Nolan snuck out, Pfister put the pencil down, stuck a handful of chocolate in his mouth and pulled out the copy of TeenyBoy from under the kitchen table.
Jack Paglan’s script obviously has something deep, smart and thought-provoking to say (thought it too has a few holes in it), but it needed a more experienced, proficient director to pull it off. Pfister fills his frame with many pretty things, but none are a substitute for the enthuse, punch and direction the movie needs.
And though the rest of his cast is fine (Hall, Bettany, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy and Kate Mara all give performances better than their co-star Mozilla Beta Depp XP 2.0), Amber Heard’s doona-stealer, Johnny Depp, gives a boorish, lazy and somewhat creepy performance. Had the character of Caster at least started out as likeable and engaging (The part needed more Jeff Fahey and Lemonade), we might’ve been able to invest more in his character’s plight.
Expect the poster to be littered with quotes such as “Beautiful cinematography…”, “Looks pretty”, “Shot magnificently”, “Scenic”, and “If you loved the Dummies Guide to Defragging your computer.. You’ll love Transcendence!”