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Review: Depp's latest can't transcend its silliness

In this case resistance isn’t futile.

Johnny Depp as Dr. Will Caster in "Transcendence."
Warner Bros.

With a topic that’s more than worthy of exploration, especially in this day and age, Transcendence short circuits its way to silliness. The movie opens Friday (April 18).

The film which stars Johnny Depp as a beyond brilliant scientist borrows liberally from other places – including Star Trek: The Next Generation – to explore whether we as a people risk playing God with the invention and advocacy of too much technology.

In a society where everyone is perpetually connected via PC, tablet or smartphone, a frank discussion about the nature and impact of technology in our lives is sorely needed.

Transcendence isn’t it.

Depp is Dr. Will Caster, a computer scientist who is working on artificial intelligence. Part of the research, which includes colleagues such as his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall), Max (Paul Bettany) and Joseph (Morgan Freeman) and others scattered across the country, includes making a copy of electronic brain function and uploading it to a computer.

That’s too much for one group to tolerate. Depending on point of view, they’re either terrorists or patriots. Regardless they don’t believe Caster’s research should exist and in a bold strike, they take out him and many of his colleagues.

Evelyn, desperate to save her husband and his knowledge, with help from Max upload his essence to a computer and once he’s connected to the Internet, he’s off and running.

Knowing that the group is after his wife, he helps her to set up refuge in a desert town where they construct their electronic version of a desert oasis where Will can work in peace.

And work he does. He develops advanced medical technology including cures for diseases that have plagued humankind for decades. He also perfects nanotechnology that will allow him to implement his cures.

But with the kind of power Will possesses comes the kind of grand designs that ultimately could be dangerous to the greater good.

Screenwriter Jack Paglen and director Wally Pfister explore some of those salient issues, but it’s their veering into absolute ridiculousness that ultimately makes the audience want to pull the plug on Transcendence.

The transgressions are too many to let pass in a film that wastes a tremendous cast and the audience’s time with a worthwhile topic, but sloppy execution.

Movie: Transcendence
Director: Wally Pfister
Cast: Johnny Depp, Morgan Freeman, Paul Bettany, Rebecca Hall
Studio: Warner Bros.
Rated: PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence, some bloody images, brief strong language and sensuality.
Running time: 119 minutes
George’s rating: 2-of-5 stars
Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, Cleveland Cinemas, Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com