A man of singular sensitivity and intelligence touches the face of God with a feat of ahead-of-its-time engineering, aided by the love of a good woman and a lot of expensive CGI. Yeah, that's Noah - which now has bad-movie company at the multiplex thanks to Transcendence, in which a man of singular sensitivity and intelligence, aided by the love of a good woman and a lot of expensive CGI, touches the face of Max Headroom.
Wally Pfister, the cinematographer who helped give Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy its epic scale, makes his directorial debut here with a junky mash-up of Nolan actors and memes. It plays for a promising few minutes as a sly parody of Inception's grave fetish for exposition, but no. Transcendence is instead an IMAX gloss on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein story, fatally stitched onto a rigid Johnny Depp nonperformance. Jack Paglen's screenplay might have had something in mind about artificial intelligence, the surveillance state or rain-barrel gardening (probably not, though, judging by the claptrap that poor Paul Bettany must deliver), but Pfister makes too much look too cool - and then too ridiculous. (Big points off for the all-powerful sentient computer insisting that one henchman use a clipboard to keep track of names.)
And let's be real: If someone had uploaded Steve Jobs' brain to the cloud, and the Apple founder used his newfound immortality to design the iTerminator, the U.S. government wouldn't get in his way. It would invest.