In the world of artificial intelligence Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) and his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) are at the forefront of research and are on the verge of creating a sentient machine. But not all are in favour of technology and when a member of the unplug activists shoots Will he survives being shot but soon becomes ill as the bullet was laced with poison which attacks his central nervous system. With death inevitable Will along with Evelyn and their friend Max Waters (Paul Bettany) download Will's brain into a super computer and despite Max's reluctance Evelyn puts it online. But quickly the new sentient machine is thirsting for knowledge and power bringing a new unknown terror to the world which may be unstoppable.
Let me split "Transcendence" up in to two halves and of course start with the first half as we enter a not too in the distant future where we have those trying to create AI and those who are terrorists, against the advances in technology. Sounds pretty ordinary but what makes this side of the movie work is the idea that rather than creating artificial intelligence you recreate the brain by in essence downloading it. That idea and that idea alone makes "Transcendence" interesting because from then on in it opens up the possibilities of where the story can go. In fairness even before we get to that and enter a world which seems to be without power it is quite interesting.
But then there is the second half of "Transcendence" and this quite simply is where I have issues and find myself thinking of "Superman III". As such what we have is essentially a super computer out of control having gone online and so therefore can tap into all sorts of knowledge. And the thing about this is that whilst we have those who are trying to bring the terror of this all powerful machine to an end it all gets far fetched because this machine can do anything including recreating bodies which are super powerful. It basically means we have a movie with the potential to be clever then going commercial when it comes to the fantasy of an all powerful intelligent machine.
My issues with "Transcendence" are not only the dumbing down of a storyline it is also Johnny Depp who frankly sounds like he is slurring his way through one scene after another, bringing a touch of Jack Sparrow to the character because that is what audiences have come to expect from him. In fairness to Depp all the actors in "Transcendence" seem to be delivering what they are known for as such Paul Bettany gives us sensitive and intelligent whilst Morgan Freeman gives us kind and sage like. But all of these characters seem to be poorly developed forcing the actors to rely on their own style to play the parts rather than creating something new.
What this all boils down to is that "Transcendence" will please some; those who are fans of Johnny Depp as well as those who like easy to follow sci-fi. But for me "Transcendence" felt not only like an intelligent idea which has been dumbed down but a movie reliant on the cast's standard acting style to appeal to audiences.