In a new teaser trailer for the movie Transcendence, Morgan Freeman narrates a monologue about human evolution. It's all very serious, so why does it sound like a joke? Morgan Freeman narration no longer has the capacity to be completely serious.
When did this happen? We would trace it back to the year 2005, when Freeman narrated both the beginning and end of Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds and the documentary March of the Penguins. It was in this year that Morgan Freeman Narrates Movies officially became A Thing.
Now getting Morgan Freeman to narrate/read funny things has become an Internet staple, whether or not it's actually Morgan Freeman doing the reading. Google "Morgan Freeman narration" and you'll find the challenge of sifting through the real and the fake. One of the purveyors of the fake is voice actor and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson player Josh Robert Thompson. He's had Morgan Freeman narrate the deranged sorority girl email and 50 Shades of Grey. Ferguson even had Thompson on to do his impression (via robot) for Freeman. Freeman seemed to enjoy it.
Meanwhile, Freeman himself, sometimes begrudgingly, had participated in the funny-things-sound-funnier-if-narrated-by-Morgan-Freeman game. He has recently read "The Fox" and the definition of "twerk."
All of this about Morgan Freeman's voice, of course, says nothing aboutTranscendence —another teaser arrived yesterday with Johnny Depp doing the voiceover work, and it still seems less like a movie and more like the beginning of a TED talk. Throwing Morgan Freeman narration on top of it to make it seem more portentous feels cheap, and after years of parodic overuse, it might not even be effective anymore. Perhaps we need to respect the sanctity of Freeman's magnificent pipes a little more.