Transcendence

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Transcendence Movie Poster Image
Dark, pretentious sci-fi thriller tackles big questions.
  • PG-13
  • 2014
  • 119 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 10 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive messages

Absolute power corrupts, and we need to be careful about how we use technology. While a brilliant scientist/artificial consciousness thinks he's trying to improve the world, it soon becomes clear that he won't tolerate any interference.

Positive role models & representations

A woman is willing to do almost anything to save her beloved, dying husband, even if it means transferring his consciousness into a powerful computer network. And when she realizes that her actions have dire, unintended consequences, she's willing to make a huge sacrifice in an attempt to make things right.

Violence

Several scenes feature soldiers attacking a compound, using machine guns and explosive devices that turn a large field of solar panels into debris. A character is assaulted by two men and then kidnapped. Another man is badly beaten, and his battered and bloody body is shown in detailed close-ups.

Sex

A few kisses between a husband and wife.

Language

Occasional use of the word "s--t."

Consumerism

One character uses several Apple products, including an iPhone and an iPad. She also drives a Subaru. Some city signage is visible, including an ad for Citibank. A fictional copy of Wired magazine features Depp's character on the cover.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

A few scenes show adults drinking in bars or having wine with meals.
 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Transcendence stars Johnny Depp as Dr. Will Caster, a brilliant researcher in the field of artificial intelligence who's shot by a band of anti-technology extremists and finds another life within an experimental supercomputer. As the scientist's mind expands into new frontiers, he starts to devise new ways to cure diseases and heal the environment ... but he also pursues his own less-altruistic agenda. This is pretty intense, brooding end-of-the-world material, which is too much for younger viewers. Expect explosions, gunfire, and other action sequences, as well as infrequent swearing (including "s--t"), a little kissing, and a few bar scenes with adults drinking.

User Reviews

Adult Written byhelpinghand April 23, 2014

Thought Provoking

Very interesting ideas put into a great technological thriller, good acting and is appropriate for most audiences. At times can be confusing so it could go over... Continue reading
Educator Written byMovie Review Maven June 1, 2014

Humanity vs. Technology

Movie Title: Transcendence PG-13, 1 hour 59 minutes Grade: B In a Nutshell: This was a really interesting movie about awareness: both computers’ ability t... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byBobTom July 25, 2014

Actually better than I thought it would be.

I went in to this movie with extremely low expectations. It has a 19% on Rotten Tomatoes, if that means anything. So, I actually enjoyed the first half of the m... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byKristaM May 6, 2014

Dissapointing

Went to see this with a couple of friends, and I wasn't expecting a lot, but my gosh, would it be too much to ask for a quality movie? The premise was pre... Continue reading

What's the story?

Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp), the world's preeminent expert on artificial intelligence, is attacked by a band of anti-technology extremists, leaving him close to death. His research partner/wife, Evelyn (Rebecca Hall), realizes that she and their brilliant scientist friend (Paul Bettany) can save Will -- or at least his mind -- by transferring his consciousness into a powerful experimental computer. The scientist quickly becomes intertwined with the Internet, giving him access to every electronic system on Earth, and is soon developing stunning breakthroughs that promise to change the planet for the better. But Will has other goals as well, and his growing power makes him a threat to anyone in his way.

Is it any good?

TRANSCENDENCE is ambitious, with an interesting premise, making for an engrossing cinematic experience. But, just like the supercomputer at the center of its plot, it feels at a slight remove. Yes, the cinematography is impressive and the actors are talented, but it doesn't fail to remind you at every turn that it's epic -- to the point of pomposity.

Still, the film asks some very compelling questions: At what point does human interest in artificial intelligence cross the line? How far do we want science to go? Are there any downsides to our yearning to create a "sentient machine"? The movie addresses all of these somewhat, but only on the surface. It's got too much on its plate -- special effects, dystopian plot, Depp -- to pay close attention to other themes it raises: love, death, immortality. Perhaps if it had allowed some of its more intimate moments to linger, Transcendence would actually be transcendent. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Transcendence's messages about technology. Is this a cautionary tale? Do you think anything like this would ever be possible in real life?

  • Is that really Will in the computer? How is he like a human, and how is he not?

  • What do you think about the relationship between Evelyn and her virtual husband? How do her feelings change toward Will, and how does his digital consciousness react?

Movie details

For kids who love sci-fi

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