Transcendence

This expensive sci-fi feature marks the directorial debut of Christopher Nolan’s longtime cinematographer Wally Pfister; like Nolan’s Inception, it’s conceptually rich and impressive on a technical level, but also heavy-handed as drama and surprisingly rudimentary in its sense of character. Reminiscent of the cult classic Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970), the film considers what might happen if an artificial intelligence came to surpass the intellectual capabilities of human beings. Johnny Depp, in what may be his most joyless performance, plays a scientist whose intelligence gets implanted into an A.I. system after his death; Rebecca Hall plays his widow, who becomes servant to the system once it starts speaking in Depp’s voice. There are some wonderful ideas here, but Pfister lacks the storytelling chops to make them come alive onscreen. With Paul Bettany, Cillian Murphy, and Morgan Freeman.