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Transcendence

‘Absolute power corrupts absolutely’ is an oft-used phrase.  The quest for knowledge and riches has seen conquerors rise and fall.  The moral lessons of their endeavours have been used in stories for centuries.  ‘Transcendence’ gives this motif a high-tech spin.  With computers replacing the swords and bombs of old, it has given new goal-seekers another tool in achieving their sometimes dangerous aims.

 

Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) is a leading expert in artificial intelligence.  Wanting to create a machine having its own intellect to gather information, his work has been controversial.  Aided by his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and friend Max (Paul Bettany), it seems he may reach his target.  His plans are thrown into disarray when nearly killed by extremists.  Requesting his mind be downloaded into the machine so his life can be saved, this new powerful entity unleashes a portent for humanity’s doom.

 

Much criticised for its slow pace, ‘Transcendence’ gives new meaning to the term ‘glacial story-telling’.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t reasonably engaging but an editor’s eye could have made it better. Blame should be rested on Wally Pfister’s shoulders in his directing debut.  Over-seeing the examination of the mis-guided abuse of power and the fight against technology, his fumbled mis-handling of the story nearly de-rails it.

 

Showing fine flair in making the world-wide threat seem real, Pfister also draws out some good performances.  Depp provides a quiet menace to his role with Hall successfully making her character’s actions believable.  Their character’s romance lends ‘Transcendence’ an unexpectedly tragic air as their love transcends cyber-space.  The action sequences are well staged almost managing to cover the many gaping plot holes.

 

‘Transcendence’ is a fair sci-fi romantic thriller without lingering too much on the memory.  The acting is solid even if the slow-pace isn’t with its messages on technology becoming lost amongst the cutting room floor.

 

Rating out of 10:  6

The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Rise of Electro

An important aspect a sequel should adhere is to keep it simple.  Many have used a new entry to up the ante in terms of plot and CGI.  In Hollywood terms sequels mean ‘more, bigger, better’.  Sadly some have been so over-stuffed with poorly written characters that an engaging plot never materialises.  ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ becomes an unwitting victim.  Whilst superficially entertaining it marks a cinematic nadir for a superhero film designed to launch further franchises.

 

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is still adjusting to life as New York’s finest superhero Spider-Man.  Knowing the sinister Oscorp foundation had a hand in the creation of his last foe The Lizard, he investigates further.  Meeting its new owner and friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) his search is interrupted by a deadly new villain called Electro (Jamie Foxx).  With girlfriend Gwen (Emma Stone) looking on, Spidey’s determined nature gives him the power and responsibility he needs to combat anyone standing in his way.

 

Director Marc Webb had his work cut out helming this movie.  Introducing three new villains, adding elements for future instalments, and attempting to progress established characters one would have expected a mess.  It manages not to become one although occasionally it comes dangerously close.  Much of its success is due to Garfield’s take on Parker/Spider-Man.  He still conveys the character’s rough edges of the early comic-books and handles himself very well in the action sequences.

 

Unfortunately his co-stars don’t fare as well.  From Foxx’s Electro to DeHaan’s tortured role, they are given short-shrift with caricatured personas.  Although we are talking about a fantasy film, others such as the recent ‘Captain America’ outing proved an intelligent superhero caper can be made.  The lack of any true style or logic hurts ‘Amazing Spider-Man 2’ with the messy CGI washing over the story.  The long run-time does no favours with its few intriguing elements becoming lost.

 

‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ isn’t a film – it’s a tool used to create more spin-offs.  Commercialism obviously isn’t a dirty word in Tinesletown but the lack of transparency the production shows grates.  It can be hoped the inevitable third outing rises to the occasion and gives the character the justice it deserves.

 

Rating out of 10:  5