Transcendence (2014)

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Released 27-Aug-2014

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Featurette-2 very small
Trailer-3 teasers
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2014
Running Time 114:14
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (58:00) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Wally Pfister
Jack Paglen

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Johnny Depp
Rebecca Hall
Paul Bettany
Morgan Freeman
Cillian Murphy
Case ?
RPI ? Music Mychael Danna

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Transcendence in this film is defined as taking a human being's consciousness and creating a computer based version of that consciousness. The idea is that you can use this method to essentially cheat death and remain alive even though your human body may die. In that regard this film is thematically similar to another film I reviewed recently, The Machine . This is an interesting concept which both films explore in different ways. Unfortunately, neither of them explore it in a completely satisfactory manner. This film is certainly bigger budget than the other one, with a great cast, impressive visuals and high quality production values. In my opinion though, it is let down by some confused and disjointed storytelling, possibly due to the rookie director, Wally Pfister, who is an Oscar winning cinematographer or the screenplay.

    The story follows a married couple, Dr Will Caster (Johnny Depp) and his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall), who are both researchers in the area of Artificial Intelligence (AI). They are well renowned in the field and are researching how to create an AI with real human emotions. Others in the field and in general society are not convinced that this field of research is ethically sound. The couple and others in the field including their friend, Max Waters (Paul Bettany) and Joseph Tagger (Morgan Freeman) are attacked by protesters simultaneously. The protesters, led by activist Bree (Kate Mara) want to stop the development of Artificial Intelligence especially the controversial work of the Casters. As part of these attacks, Will is hot by a protester, seemingly in a minor way. However, what soon become apparent is that the bullet was coated in a poison which will kill Dr Caster within a few weeks. The Casters enlist the help of their colleagues (despite their reservations) to try and upload Will's consciousness to an artificial intelligence program before he dies. This leads to unforeseen consequences including impacts for the future of the world. Cillian Murphy appears as an FBI agent investigating the crimes.

    As I mentioned above, this is a very visually impressive film, with lots of great shots as you would expect from an Oscar winning cinematographer turned director. The cinematographer for this film is actually Jess Hall, a British DOP with credits like Brideshead Revisited and Hot Fuzz. There are also impressive special effects and an interesting and intriguing concept. On the negative side, I felt that this film seemed like it needed longer to tell its story and there were places where the plot seemed to jump forward like some scenes were missing. I would have thought that a film of this complexity could have been an extra 15-30 minutes longer without dragging. I can only assume there are some significant deleted scenes around somewhere, however they certainly don't feature in the uninspiring extras. From an acting perspective, Rebecca Hall is the standout performance and in some ways her reactions to the situation are the cornerstone of the story. It feels to me like most of the male leads were wasted to varying degrees. Depp is good as usual but doesn't have a whole lot to do at times especially when he is just a computer based face. Paul Bettany is wasted in a slightly confusing role, Morgan Freeman and Cillian Murphy have very little to do.

    I enjoyed watching this film and it is certainly worthwhile for science fiction fans despite its weaknesses.

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Transfer Quality


    The video quality is very good for DVD but I would love to see the Blu-ray version.

    The feature is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio which is the original aspect ratio.It is 16x9 enhanced.

    The picture was reasonably sharp and clear but not spectacularly so.Shadow detail was very good.

    The colour is very good with no issues to report.

    There is some minor aliasing at times but little else in the way of artefacts.

    There are subtitles in English for the hearing impaired which were clear and easy to read.

    There is an obvious layer change at 58:00 causing a pause.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio quality is very good.

    This disc contains an English soundtrack in Dolby Digital 5.1 plus an Audio Descriptive track in Dolby Digital 2.0.

    Dialogue was mostly clear and easy to understand with occasional lines just being a bit hard to make out.

    The music is marvellous suiting the film well and adding tension. The score is by Mychael Danna, Oscar winner for Life of Pi. It works well for the film and sounds good on this DVD.

    The surround speakers were well used for the music but also for a variety of action and dramatic scenes such as gunfights. They provided an immersive listening experience which again I am sure would be even better on Blu-ray.

    The subwoofer was also well used support the music, explosions and gunfire.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    A small selection of featurettes and trailers which add very little to the film.


    The menu features music and motion.

Guarding The Threat (2:09)

    Short promo featuring interview snippets and scenes from the film.

The Promise of A.I. (2:24)

    Short promo about whether AI is good or bad.

Teaser : It's Me (0:55)

Teaser : Singularity (1:03)

Teaser : R.I.F.T (0:57)

        Teaser Trailers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This film is available in other regions on Blu-ray and DVD however I cannot find any specific details of the DVD release. The Blu-ray versions would certainly look and sound better but the extras seem to be very similar.


    Interesting but ultimately disappointing sci-fi film.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The extras are as good as missing.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Thursday, September 18, 2014
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BDP-S760 Blu-ray, using HDMI output
DisplaySharp LC52LE820X Quattron 52" Full HD LED-LCD TV . Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt into amplifier. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationMarantz SR5005
SpeakersMonitor Audio Bronze 2 (Front), Bronze Centre & Bronze FX (Rears) + Sony SAW2500M Subwoofer

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