Transcendence -2014-


Directed by Wally Pfister. 119 mins.

Worth my time? No. (Seen at Arclight Hollywood)

This film pissed me off both because of its poor quality and because its poor box-office performance is gonna scare off filmmakers from exploring the Singularity. That’s a real bummer since the wildly divergent opinions of the Singularity’s likelihood, consequences, and morality would lend themselves to a dozen great films were the right people behind them. I was rooting for Wally Pfister to deliver the first great major motion picture on the subject, but his lack of directorial experience and Jack Paglen’s lazy screenplay keep Transcendence from ever coming close to meeting its potential.

Pfister has done great work as Christopher Nolan’s cinematographer for the last decade and a half, but much like early Coens DP Barry Sonnenfeld, he should probably stick to his day job. Transcendance is shot and directed like a bland summer action movie when the science fiction elements are its most interesting aspects. Duncan Jones, James Cameron, or even the Wachowskis would have spiced up this movie. Somebody has to tell directors that no one thinks that endless white lab corridors are sleek. They just look like offices – you know, the shit we wanna forget when we’re in a movie theater.

The plot holes are intolerable for a film that purportedly has something real and significant to say about societal and technological progression. The United States government, without a moment’s pause, joins forces with the same domestic terrorist group that kicks off the film with a mass-murder. Johnny Depp (who, as a man-turned-AI demigod, plays his most believable character in recent memory), has infinite omnipotent nanomachines at his disposal, but they can’t remotely upload hostile humans into his network.

Or can they? If Depp’s character refrains from assimilating people against their will, what’s the problem? The dude is fucking bringing people back to life for free. He’s healing the rainforests and removing excess greenhouse gases from the atmosphere for free. Must Uncle Sam fuck up every private venture of world-changing proportions?

The morals of this film are abhorrent. I believe in the virtues of personal liberty more than the average person, but come the fuck on. Aside from the invasion of personal privacy (not that much remains in this pre-Singularity world), there are no apparent downsides to Depp’s plot. Even is there are, how can they be worse than the downsides of permanently disabling the planets’ electrical and telecom systems?

The film’s heroes cut off Earth’s nose to spite Depp’s face. It makes no fucking sense. Though Pfister only shows a bit of the Collapse’s aftermath (people in Berkeley are bartering for used goods on the street, so apparently nothing has changed), I thought of these catastrophic effects after fifteen seconds of consideration:

– The instantaneous disappearance of all electronic financial markets would plunge the planet into a depression worse than a thousand Weimars.

– The inability to buy goods and the general lack of communication between agribusiness and vendors would cause a worldwide famine.

– Anyone who requires an electronic device to survive would die real bad-like.

– Modern medicine would be an impossibility.

Fuck you, Rebecca Hall and Paul Bettany.

(Seen and written on 2014-04-18)

The Lone Ranger -2013-

Big ballin' is their hobby.

Big ballin’ is their hobby.

Directed by Gore Verbinski. 149 mins.

Worth my time? No, but I expected it to be worse. (Seen at Arclight Hollywood)

Gore Verbinksi has made a clever, exciting Western that includes all the elements that people love about the genre.

Its title is Rango, and you should watch it.

God, The Lone Ranger is a really fuckin’ long movie.

While the viewing experience isn’t as painful as many critics have claimed, the movie is a mess. Its tone shifts wildly from purely sadistic — main villain William Fichtner, one of my favorite character actors, cuts out a dude’s heart and eats it — to gleefully violent — Helena Bonham Carter’s completely unnecessary character has a prosthetic gun-leg made of ivory — to Saturday morning cartoon hijinks — poop jokes and stereotypical Injun antics from John Depp.

God, The Lone Ranger is a really fuckin’ long movie.

The material feels like it would have fared far better in the hands of Tarantino, or even Rob Zombie. The dudes love their old-timey pop culture, and I bet they would have better luck squeezing some fun out of the bloated script. Instead, there are lotsa pretty things onscreen that you’ll forget about the moment the shot ends. Even the lame Princess Brideish frame story did nothing to make me give a shit.

Armie Hammer is this year’s Sam Worthington. People in high places are clearly grooming him to be an action hero, but it just ain’t working. Scarlett Johansson has more onscreen charisma than this dude. That’s kind of a big problem when he’s a main character.

Depp’s Tonto comes off as a baffling mix between Kato from The Pink Panther movies and Jar Jar Binks. His performance is such garbage that I bet that Native American from the PSA would shed a tear if he saw it.

Fichtner delivers the only interesting performance, but it feels out of place for a popcorn movie. Maybe some creative geek can splice his character into a Peckinpah Western – he’d be right at home.

Aside: If you think about it, The Lone Ranger is like a high-budget reboot of Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man.

(Seen and originally written on 2013-07-03)