Scruffily brilliant science man William Caster (Depp, landing somewhere between floppy-haired diffidence and phoning it in) gets poisoned by anti-tech nutters outraged by his plans to create the world’s smartest computer, and aided by his similarly brilliant wife (Rebecca Hall, giving it her restrained best) ends up funneling his consciousness into just such a juggernaut. Will he herald a brave new technological world, or shut the pod bay doors on humanity?
The film, perhaps thanks to Pfister's solid cinematography career, has some fun with visuals (cinema’s representation of the net is looking a bit more Windows 8 these days), but no amount of CG jiggery-pokery or all-star casting can do much to breathe life into the inert script, which fails to build much genuine uncanniness or to really get to grips with its potential themes. It’s getting harder to remember Depp’s days as a dead-cert harbinger of a cinematic good time – come back to the light, Johnny.
Transcendence | Directed by Wally Pfister (UK, China, USA 2014) with Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Cillian Murphy, Morgan Freeman. Starts April 24