“How Did This Get Made?” is one of my favorite online comedy shows. It features three comedic character actors and one guest dissecting the worst and most confusing movies in recent cinematic history. If they did an episode about “Transcendence,” here are some things I’d want them to mention:

The pseudo-villains of the film, an organization named R.I.F.T. (Revolutionary Independence From Technology) build a metal cage to house a mild-mannered robotics engineer (Paul Bettany). They also handcuff him to the cage without talking to him at all. He seems to be a pretty nonviolent person, although they go to extreme lengths to kidnap him.

Rebecca Hall’s husband (Johnny Depp) is shot, and the very next image after that scene is of Rebecca Hall watching television.

There are a lot of hands clasped over mouths in this movie. Could the actors have been laughing at the terrible dialogue, just like I was?

Depp’s consciousness is uploaded to the Internet and his “data” (or whatever the bad computer effects are supposed to be) literally goes to the clouds instead of the iOS Cloud. Topical IT jokes, anyone?

Hall finds an isolated hick town where she establishes a gigantic research and development facility based around her dead husband’s cybernetic consciousness. In her first meeting with a contractor, she’s informed of how few employees are at her disposal. Her response: “Hire more.” From where, one might ask?

Later on, that same contractor is beaten to a pulp by two of the most comically effeminate hillbillies ever. No reason is given for this.

Everybody is tired in this movie. Its stakes are literally world-changing. For the first hour, it seems like most of the characters couldn’t care less.

Near the end of the movie, Bettany says something along the lines of, “I spent most of my career trying to reduce the human brain into a series of electrical impulses. I failed.” But he helped Hall translate her husband’s consciousness into an omniscient software program. So, didn’t he succeed in his goal?

Another thing about that Bettany moment – he discourages Hall from developing a program he says he spent most of his career trying to create.

Those who want to stop cyborg-Depp’s ultimate plan don’t realize that all he’s really doing is advancing medicine by leaps and bounds. At the end of the movie, one random guy says, “Hey, nobody died.” Of course nobody died! All we know about this technology is that it heals the eyes of the blind and grows plants really quickly.

The movie asks us to believe that this technology is bad. They don’t say why it’s bad. It’s just bad. Again, it heals the blind.

Hall becomes very afraid of the facility she created because Morgan Freeman hands her a note that says “RUN FROM THIS PLACE.” He’s not even an expert! That was on his first visit! But, to be fair, it is Morgan Freeman.

Cyborg-Depp says “Let’s get off the grid.” By this point in the movie, he is the grid.

As she becomes more and more paranoid, Hall screams at cyborg-Depp for invading her privacy when he reads her serotonin levels. Apparently she didn’t have a problem with him invading other people’s privacy to help them.

There’s a huge time jump: two years later. That’s the point when Freeman visits Hall’s facility. But before that time jump, we’ve already seen cyborg-Depp’s massive effect on worldwide computing. Did everyone just forget about it for two years?

Cyborg-Depp won’t save his wife from multiple explosions by taking her to a very close safe-zone, but he’ll heal her once he sees that she’s been wounded.

Where is the government in all this? Oh yeah, that’s Cillian Murphy’s character, a federal agent who basically becomes indebted to a terrorist organization for no good reason.

The only thing I can really compliment “Transcendence” on is its ending. It stays firmly in the realm of science fiction, narrowly avoids becoming a shoot-em-up finale, and is actually dramatically interesting. However, the fact that everything that comes before it is so utterly stupid makes it all feel worthless. How did executive producer Christopher Nolan, the mind behind “Inception” and “The Dark Knight,” let this movie get so far out of hand?

“Transcendence” = 1/5

Image courtesy of Julia Suber