**/**** Image B Sound A Extras D
starring Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Morgan Freeman
screenplay by Jack Paglen
directed by Wally Pfister
by Angelo Muredda If his name wasn't already plastered over the ads for the nerd bona fides the studio hopes it will signal, you'd still know that Transcendence was the work of Wally Pfister from an inimitably-portentous opening shot featuring the long, steady fall of a raindrop: as meaningless a totem as Inception's ever-spinning (or is it wobbling?) top. Having lensed all but one of Christopher Nolan's joyless epics, including that "Twilight Zone" episode told with Miltonic gravitas, Pfister has at last graduated to making his own Nolan film about serious men making serious moral choices in the name of serious ideas--here, sending the first human consciousness up into the cloud to fuse with an artificially-intelligent program, the better to meddle in the affairs of mortals. The Pfister-Nolan collaboration was a fruitful one, the equivalent of a hammer repeatedly meeting its companion gong, but watching the alternately soapy and chilly Transcendence, one can't help but feel the cinematographer-turned-director would have been better served by a more conspicuous departure, a project that better indulged his more melodramatic instincts.