Transcendence has lofty goals for a high-profile blockbuster. It attempts to address a deep philosophical question – what, is it exactly that makes us human? – in a film that is part sci-fi adventure, part action-thriller and part ominous warning, as well as having a strong emotional arc that connects all of these different threads. In short, it’s the kind of film that attempts to both blow you away and make you think about the world around you, but with so many different elements competing for equal screen time, it doesn’t quite manage to transcend (sorry) the high expectations it establishes for itself, even if it does succeed in creating an exciting, entertaining experience.
The film centers on Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp), a brilliant scientist who has been working alongside his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) to develop a sentient, omniscient artificial intelligence that will eventually know more about the universe than it is possible for humanity as a collective to ever understand. Their goal is to use this knowledge to cure disease and heal the planet, but the anti-technology terrorist organization RIFT wants to stop their work before it goes too far. However, their assassination attempt gives Evelyn and Will’s best friend Max (Paul Bettany) the push they need to finish his research, and they successfully manage to upload Will’s consciousness onto their AI.
It’s then that Transcendence really takes off, as the first act takes its time establishing the science behind the film and the laws in which everything functions. It’s a necessary, if somewhat slow, process, but it all pays off once Depp is off screen – or rather, on a computer screen (sorry, jeez) – and the stakes are raised, with Will quickly becoming smarter, more powerful, and more dangerous than Max and Evelyn could have anticipated.
Though Depp is the marquee name, he’s easily overshadowed by his co-stars, who carry the film’s emotional thread and do the bulk of the heavy lifting. The real star is Hall, whose blind devotion to her husband and his work slowly gives way to an understanding of the reality of what they’ve done. As Evelyn is truly the protagonist of the film, to whom we adhere the entire way, Hall is permitted to showcase the small, quiet changes that her character undergoes, perfectly befitting of the large span of time that the film covers. Though she's long been a underappreciated talent, giving wonderful performances in smaller films, her work here will hopefully earn her the kind of attention she deserves.
Warner Bros. Entertainment
But if the main character of the film is Evelyn, the one that the audience most identifies with is Max, who is torn between his devotion to his friends and his understanding of the dangers of letting things go too far. Bettany subtly plays out that internal conflict in all of his scenes, and even though Max is the least developed of the three main characters, he makes it easy to root for him. Depp, meanwhile, is relatively flat as Will, although he does have some truly terrifying moments as the AI, delivering his lines in a calm, soothing manner that hints at the inhuman coldness that lurks beneath the surface.
As the characters’ perspectives shift and change, so does your allegiance. Transcendence’s ability to manipulate the way the audience views these characters and their goals without making it obvious is one of the film’s strengths. It’s also the main source of tension, which make the few full-on action sequences even more exciting, as you’re never quite sure who you want to have the upper hand.
And yet, despite the edge-of-your-seat action, the engrossing personal relationships and interior conflicts and the beautifully shot scenery, there’s something missing from Transcendence to make it a truly satisfying experience, most likely due to the fact that the film attempts to pack so much into its 119-minute run time that certain threads are left hanging. At one point, the film jumps ahead in time by two years. While it’s necessary for the events of the third act to unfold properly, everything that isn’t Evelyn and Will's storyline gets short-changed, and it feels as if a massive piece of the plot gets left behind.
Similarly, many of the supporting characters are flimsy and one-note, with Kate Mara’s RIFT leader Bree suffering the most. The script does a cursory job of explaining her reasoning for starting the organization, but from there, she fades into the background, occasionally chiming in with a plan or a threat. Ultimately, Wally Pfister's directorial debut falls somewhat flat, and all of the stunning visuals and compelling performances can't quite make up for the fact that the pieces just don't click together in the right way.
But it's the pieces themselves — the minimalist computer labs contrasting with lush forests, the thrilling chases and the quiet character moments, and a truly exciting last-minute twist — that make Transcendence an experience well worth having. It might leave you a little cold in the end, but the journey you take to get there just about makes up for it.
Some movies focus so much on machismo that they inadvertently end up dripping with homoerotic tension. There are tons of movies that are just one make-out scene away from being a bromantic love story. It's ironic when mainstream movies aimed at gay audiences have leads with no romantic connection, when some movies about straight characters have sexual tension simply oozing off the screen. These "gay straight movies" provide an outlet for gay men looking for characters that resonate with them, a subtext of romantic relationships, and pure, unadulterated man candy.
Writer/director Michael Serrato created this viral video hit, “Rambo, But Gay” which is a musical retelling of the popular Sylvester Stallone classic Rambo. It’s an interesting take on the thin line between the overtly masculine and homoerotic. After all, Rambo spends most of the 1980s films half-naked and oiled up, so they are ripe for parody.
Here are my nominations for the 10 gayest straight movies of all time.
10. Fight Club
Edward Norton deals with his ennui by staring at a super cut-up Brad Pitt and forming a club where men fight shirtless in underground rooms. Helena Bonham Carter gives a great performance of a woman as a drag queen. Last but not least, a bleach-blond cherubic Jared Leto follows around Pitt and Norton.
9. The Covenant
Why not remake The Craft with boys in Speedos? A pre-Friday Night Lights Taylor Kitsch stars in a movie about the descendants of The Salem Witch Trials that happen to all be men. There’s a ton of time spent in the locker room and arguing about power.
Abs, briefs and awesome gold facial piercings pervade this cinematic comic book. From the looks of it, the war between Sparta and the Persian Empire would have ended if both kings just made out.
7. School Ties
Brendan Fraser gets into an exclusive prep school but he has a secret that he can’t let anyone know. It’s because he’s Jewish, but it does mirror what coming out would be like. It’s chock full of 1990s heartthrobs including Chris O’Donnell, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Cole Hauser. And thank you, filmmakers, for the gratuitous nude fight scene between Fraser and Damon.
6. Dude, Where’s My Car?
Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott have tons of bromantic chemistry. They spend the entire movie being chased by Nordic men in leather. The film also includes gratuitous Speedo and shirtless shots, Queer as Folk star Hal Sparks and an intense make-out scene.
5. Magic Mike
Channing Tatum attempts to make this a heartfelt biopic. Instead, it feels more like a campy romp. Matthew McConaughey spends most of the time shirtless and in short shorts, Cody Horn is the female lead with a boyish body and everyone wears a man-thong. Let's also not ignore the gratuitous use of The Weather Girls' "It's Raining Men."
5. Staying Alive
A waxed and oiled up John Travolta channels Pat Benatar in this sequel to Saturday Night Fever. He looks like a member of The Village People in his costume and ends the movie with one of the more boyish of his love interests, Jamie Lee Curtis. (Note: we have never believed that rumor about the lovely Ms. Curtis.)
4. The Outsiders
Based on S.E. Hinton’s book about rival gangs, this movie features all the heartthrobs of its time. Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, and Matt Dillon all star in the film. C. Thomas Howell and Ralph Macchio play best friends with a little too many sensitive and longing looks.
3. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
The palpable chemistry between Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin), plus elves with hair extensions. What more is there to say?
Cruise as a money-hungry gigolo making cocktails. 'Nuff said.
1. Top Gun
This movie invented the genre. Tons of close talking about "riding your tail," a very butch Kelly McGillis, and three simple words - shirtless volleyball game.
Are there any you think should have made the list?
Australia's statistics agency is experiencing firsthand the power of film in faith and culture. The Australian Bureau of Statistics said Tuesday that more than 70,000 Star Wars fans had written "Jedi" or something related in response to an optional question about their faith during last year's national census. Jedi, of course, is a mythical faith followed by some of the characters in George Lucas' Star Wars films. According to The Associated Press, the prank started last year when Star Wars fans circulated an e-mail throughout Australia, saying the government would be forced to recognize Jedi as an official religion if at least 10,000 people named it on the census. The bureau, however, isn't laughing. After finding out about the campaign, the statistics agency announced that respondents may face a fine of 1,000 Australian dollars (the equivalent of $540 US) fine for providing false information.
Roseanne is seeking to legally reinstate her full maiden name, City News Service reports. The actress/comedian--who became a single-name star after her 1994 divorce from her second husband, Tom Arnold--is currently involved in a divorce action from her third husband, former bodyguard Benjamin Thomas. According to court papers, Roseanne now wants to be known as Roseanne Cherri Barr, "which is more recognized in the entertainment industry."
Lions Gate Films plans to release Rob Zombie's controversial horror flick House of 1000 Corpses in the first quarter of 2003, Variety reports. Originally, Universal Pictures had slated the movie for release last summer, but Zombie was forced to buy it back from the studio after Universal executives refused to release the film because of its "visceral tone and intensity." MGM was at one time in talks to pick up the film, but backed out of the deal a few days after Zombie let slip that negotiations were underway during an interview on MTV's Movie House.
Actor Michael Madsen, otherwise known as Reservoir Dogs' Mr. Blonde, no longer will need to raise $12 million through a British tax scheme to finance his UK heist pic Red Light Runners, Variety reports. Germany's Fierce Entertainment has inked a deal that secures 70 percent of the picture's funding and guarantees shooting will start as scheduled in November. Runners stars Madsen, Minnie Driver, Vinnie Jones and Martin Kemp.
Actress Kelly Preston has joined the cast of Universal Pictures/DreamWorks Pictures' Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat. Directed by Bo Welch, the film is set to begin production this fall, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Cat in the Hat stars Mike Myers as the mischievous feline.
Rapper Ludacris has joined the cast of Universal Pictures' The Fast and the Furious 2 for director John Singleton, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Ludacris will play Taj, a friend of Paul Walker's character, who is also an undercover agent assigned to bring down a drug trafficker who has eluded authorities. The film, slated to begin production in Miami this fall, also stars Tyrese, Eva Mendes and Cole Hauser.
You win some, you lose some. While Ludacris was inking his deal to star in The Fast and the Furious 2, Pepsi-Cola was busy pulling off the air its 30-second TV spot featuring the rapper because of consumer complaints about his sexually explicit lyrics. Reuters reports the move comes after columnist Bill O'Reilly called for viewers of his Fox News Channel show The O'Reilly Factor to boycott the beverage company for using Ludacris to promote its products.
Following the runaway success of Fox's American Idol, it was bound to happen: CBS has ordered nine episodes of an updated take of its syndicated 1980s-1990s talent show Star Search, Variety reports. The original series, hosted by Ed McMahon, put the limelight on future stars Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Ray Romano, Rosie O'Donnell, Jenny Jones, Martin Lawrence, Dennis Miller and Usher. Auditions will be held in 10 cities over the next three months for possible contestants. The show is being targeted for a midseason 2003 bow.