Transcendence review

When controversial but brilliant Artificial Intelligence creator Will Caster (Johnny Depp) is assassinated by anti-technology extremists, his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) manages to meld his consciousness with an A.I., keeping him alive in a computer mainframe. Or did she? Is the machine consciousness really Will? And if not, what hope does anybody have of shutting down the increasingly powerful virtual being?

On paper Wally Pfister's directorial debut sounds like a cracking sci-fi thriller full of big ideas seemingly ripped straight out of the pages of New Scientist magazine. Which only makes the finished product all the more disappointing. The story is riddled with massive plot holes (how exactly can Paul Bettany's science-writer be kidnapped and held hostage for years by terrorists without anybody either noticing or caring?) and leaden dialogue. This wouldn't be insurmountable if the film was fun or exciting, but in addition to aping some of mentor Christopher Nolan's directorial style, Pfister has also adopted his talent for taking outlandish concepts and dealing with them in a painfully po-faced manner.

So, while Pfister seems to believe he's making something along the lines of 2001: A Space Odyssey, in reality Transcendence is just a new Lawnmower Man – albeit stripped of any trace of action, drama and cyber-sex.

Picture: Transcendence arrives on Blu-ray with a good, but not great, 2.40:1-framed 1080p encode. The obvious strength of the imagery comes from its clarity, with almost every shot looking extremely sharp and detailed. However, it would appear that this has been achieved in part with the aid of post-production tinkering, with some obvious ringing in brighter scenes betraying the use of artificial sharpening tools. Meh.
Picture rating: 4/5

Audio: Given the lack of dramatic momentum and action in the film, it should hardly come as a surprise that Transcendence's DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix is more concerned with atmospheric effects than dynamics. Use of the surrounds is rarely invasive until Will takes a stand in the final act, but the track still does a reasonable job of creating an effective soundfield that ably supports the film's imagery.
Audio rating: 4/5

Extras: Interested in finding out more about the making of the movie? Then you'd best look elsewhere, as this Blu-ray offers nothing of any real value. The four featurettes are pure EPK-fodder, consisting of show clips of talking heads between excerpts from the film, and only one of them clocks in at over three minutes.
Extras rating: 1.5/5

We say: There's nothing particularly transcendent about this tedious sci-fi drama or the hi-def platter it arrives on

Transcendence, Entertainment in Video, Region B BD, £25 Approx