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April 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Most of the reviews of Transcendence are transcendently awful — except, that is, for a couple of key ones, notably those of New York Times critic Manohla Dargis and Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan. Dargis writes that Johnny Depp is “weirdly perfect” as a scientist whose consciousness is uploaded onto the Internet. The movie, she remarks, “is a dark, lurchingly entertaining pastiche of age-old worries, future-shock jolts, hot-button topics and old-fashioned genre thrills.” Dargis does allow that much of the film defies logic and is “predictable and ridiculous.” Nevertheless she concludes, “the film raises the question of what — as the machines rise — makes us human and why, which certainly gives you more to chew on at the multiplex than is customary these days.” Likewise, Turan in the L.A. Times dwells on the film’s drawbacks for no longer than a single paragraph, then adds: “But because the underlying ideas are involving, those problems fade from view, leaving us with an ambitious and provocative piece of work that is intriguingly balanced between being a warning and a celebration.” But if Dargis’s and Turan’s reviews are celebrations of the movie, most of the others are warnings. Steven Rea in the Philadelphia Inquirer calls it a “messy, giant-screen, effects-driven take” on artificial intelligence. Claudia Puig in USA Today simply dismisses it as “just a heavy-handed story of a mad scientist.” Ty Burr in the Boston Globe concludes his review by remarking, “There’s a lot of intelligence in Transcendence. Ironically, almost all of it feels artificial.” And Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal writes similarly: “Ambitious to a fault, this cautionary fantasy about artificial intelligence has so much on its muddled mind, and so little sense of dramatic grounding, that it grows ever more preposterous before lurching to a climax that’s utterly unfathomable.”