The feature directing debut of Christopher Nolan's cinematographer Wally Pfister, big questions sci-fi movie Transcendence unites Nolan collaborators Morgan Freeman, Rebecca Hall and Cillian Murphy with Johnny Depp and Paul Bettany. Executive produced by Nolan, and with a script concerning loss, memories and neural networks, it sounds like something the man himself would direct. If you've seen Inception - this is no Inception.

Depp plays Dr Will Caster, a pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence whose work to create a machine with a full range of human emotions goes into overdrive following events in the film's opening. Time is of the essence, and Will's attempts to rewrite life as we know it are aided by wife Evelyn (Hall) and best friend Max (Bettany). But will love stop them from doing the right thing?

Having done the box office equivalent of blue screen in the US, Transcendence completes a dud double-whammy for Depp after last summer's The Lone Ranger. That romp was the better movie. 

While Transcendence has a dream cast and an intriguing premise, the results are curiously flat and emotionally uninvolving - ironic that a film all about what it means to have a soul doesn't have much of one itself. Even the most indulgent of sci-fi fans could find their patience severely tested by the pacing, the blankness of the characters and use of the line "We need to call Washington".

As expected, given Pfister's regular paycheque, there are some beautiful shots here (from cinematographer Jess Hall). That most of them are of nature suggests a documentary on it and not a tech-heavy 'thriller' would have been a far more rewarding experience for both Pfister and the audience. 

Computer says no.

Harry Guerin