In the new sci-fi film "Transcendence," Johnny Depp plays a scientist who survives a brush with death, though he is forced to upload his consciousness onto a computer to do so.
As a leading man, Depp has endured his own share of misfortunes in recent years — at the box office and with critics — and though he remains an international star, "Transcendence," opening Friday from Warner Bros., will test whether he can rise above a string of misfires.
In terms of genre, the film by cinematographer-turned-director Wally Pfister is something of a departure for 50-year-old Depp, being neither a true tent-pole film like the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies nor a smaller, quirky character piece like the movies that characterized the early part of his career ("Edward Scissorhands," "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas").
Initial reviews of "Transcendence" have been underwhelming: It currently has a woeful "24% fresh" rating on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
The film could have a tough time at the box office as well. According to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys, "Transcendence" is expected to gross $20 million to $25 million domestically over its first weekend, a paltry amount for a film that cost $100 million to produce.
Prior to "Transcendence," Depp most recently appeared in "The Lone Ranger," a box-office bomb that cost more than $225 million to produce, made only $89 million domestically ($261 million worldwide) and resulted in a write-down for Disney.
Depp's previous film, 2012's "Dark Shadows," also disappointed, taking in about $80 million domestically ($246 million worldwide) on a $150-million budget. It garnered poor reviews as well.
Depp's most recent hit was 2011's "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," the fourth installment of the franchise that initially propelled Depp from quirky dreamboat to full-fledged leading man.
"Stranger Tides" took in $241 million domestically and crossed the worldwide $1-billion mark. That said, the film was not well reviewed and left many moviegoers feeling that the series has worn out its welcome. (A fifth installment is nonetheless in the works.)
Outside the "Pirates" franchise, Depp hasn't had a real hit since 2010's "Alice in Wonderland," which grossed $334 million domestically and also cracked $1-billion worldwide.
Though Depp has struggled at the box office in recent years, films like "Stranger Tides" and "Alice" do demonstrate that he can be still be a huge draw, particularly overseas. Not coincidentally, "Transcendence" is also opening in China on Friday, and Depp recently traveled there to promote the movie to world's second-biggest film market.
At home, however, it will be tough for Depp to transcend his recent rut.