Several years back, after
The setup is a variation on old themes: Will (Depp) is a cyber-scientist so brilliant that he actually has fans jockeying around for his autograph. (Of course, some of that may be because he, you know, looks like Johnny Depp, but let's pretend not.) But he prefers privacy and, outside of work, he just wants to spend time with also brilliant wife, Evelyn (
This is not a new concept for a film, and, if you take, say, "Colossus: the Forbin Project" and crossbreed it with "Lawnmower Man," you know that the new Will (or pseudo-Will) will go mad with power. (This is not a spoiler, since the film opens with a framing device, in which Max gives us a tour of the current, devastated post-Will world.) First-time director
Yes, among his new powers is the ability to, as the old song goes, "heal the sick, raise the dead." He's fashioned himself into a god — a concept that is discussed so often that it can't be considered "subtext." It's right out there in the open. The other major idea throughout the film is whether or not a cybernetic reconstruction of Will's brain and its electrical processes is, in fact, Will. This notion is used as a plot element, but less satisfactorily handled — perhaps because a pat answer to one of the great, inherently unanswerable questions of existence and identity is really a bit too much to ask for.
Depp doesn't have to do much heavy lifting here. For three-quarters of the two-hour running time, his face is just a disembodied, machine-like image on a huge monitor; and his all-knowing voice is almost unmodulated. Will may be a god, but he's a god with a totally flat affect. The fine Clifton Collins, Jr., doesn't get to leave a strong mark either. As one of Will's zombie avatars, he's just part of a hive mind with expressions right out of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."
Bettany is excellent, but "Transcendence" is really Hall's show. She makes Evelyn sympathetic even when her love for Will is catalyzing a frightening future.