The message behind this cyber thriller is the same as all the others that have preceded it: too much knowledge is a bad thing and, when corrupted, mankind can only suffer.
Thus Transcendence offers the notion of a dystopian future where our reliance on technology has bitten Planet Earth in the rear, leaving our world stuck in a past it thought it had left behind.
Johnny Depp and Rebecca Hall are Will and Eve Caster, a genius husband-and-wife team whose research into the ultimate artificial intelligence leads to action by cyber terrorists who fear how far their work might take them.
And when Depp is mortally injured in an assassination attempt the decision is made to upload his brain patterns into a top secret super computer that will allow his intelligence to live on.
Soon adoring wife is conversing with darling hubbie, who has conquered death, swapping flesh and blood for pixels. And together they journey into a brave new world of their own creation with Will as an omnipotent being possessed of the power to control the Internet and, ergo, the world.
Jack Paglen’s script appears to offer the standard warning that no-one – and certainly not idealists – should play God lest their ideals be corrupted. There is much talk about benefits versus detriments – promise versus peril with ordinary folk at risk from those who know not when to stop.
But when Paglen veers off into overtly sci-fi territory, musing on the Frankensteinian nature of meddling with the soul whilst co-opting elements of Orwell’s Big Brother and HAL from Kubrick’s 2001, this promising knot of ideas begins to unravel.
Depp lacks the gravity to carry the weight of a hero/villain who brings about a form of apocalypse though Hall is impressive as the spouse for whom loyalty is all.
But an ensemble that includes Morgan Freeman, Paul Bettany and Cillian Murphy can’t prevent this from fragging up.