Movie Review: Replicas.
This science fiction thriller Replicas covers its bases but offers little that is new or interesting.
Well, our first “most anticipated movie of 2019” fizzled. Replicas feels like a film that missed its launch window by about a decade. The visuals are dated and the ideas about cloning and downloadable consciousness are well worn by now. There are some interesting implications that are brought up, but the film just waves at them as it drives by to the next idea. Overall, Replicas is a shallow dive into generic Sci-Fi fair that leaves little impression after it is over.
William Foster (Keanu Reeves) is a neuroscientist recruited by a secretive bio tech firm to work on translating human consciousness into a digital form that can be transferred to a new body. He moves his wife Mona (Alice Eve) and their three children to a remote island facility in order to finish his research. Unfortunately, the process of transference is flawed, leaving the test subjects suicidal and violent.
When a tragic accident results in the death of his family, Foster is forced to use his own procedure to resurrect them. Working with a colleague specializing in cloning (Thomas Middleditch), they succeed, but at a terrible cost.
Science Fiction 101.
The major flaw of Replicas is that it lacks focus. In order to seem deep, the script covers myriad Sci-Fi topics, from cloning to robotics to human consciousness as neural programming. Unfortunately, each subject is not given enough attention, making for a rushed and crowded plot. Just the drama of a Faustian bargain where Foster must use illegal and possibly immoral methods to revive his family would be enough to fill a film. Instead, about two-thirds of the way through, we get a hard turn into action thriller territory as the bio tech firm tries to steal Foster’s work – and his family. The film can’t really decide if it wants to be Frankenstein or The Island, ultimately ping-poning back and forth between tones and plots.
The visual elements of Replicas do not help salvage the recycled plot elements. The robotic bodies used as vessels for the transference look like they were swiped from 2004’s I, Robot. Needless to say, the CG that was unimpressive in 2004 has not improved with age. It is also implemented poorly. The first scene where it is used should be harrowing: a deceased soldier is given a second chance at life by being plugged into the bot, but rejects the process and tears himself apart. Unfortunately, the CG is so stuttery and plastic-looking that it becomes laughable.
The direction, handled by Jeffrey Nachmanoff, is unremarkable. Having a trio of action films under his belt, I at least expected some pop when it came to pacing and action sequences. Sure, two of those films are the forgettable Last Stand and The Day After Tomorrow, but he also worked on Traitor, which was a lively thriller. The scene that sums up the misdirection of the film is a car chase where nobody seems to be speeding, let alone racing, and our heroes escape by pulling around a garbage truck. The final shot of slipping by the truck as it reverses to fill the alley is shown from three different angles, and each angle shows how laughably not close to being smooshed the lead car is. Why? The first shot looked tolerably close, but each successive shot shows the gap between safety and danger growing to ludicrous levels. It’s an unforced error by cinematography on auto-pilot.
Copy of a Copy.
Replicas is not so bad that you’ll walk out or even really get angry with it. That would be asking for more emotional voltage out of this project than anybody seemed willing to invest. It is a cookie cutter science fiction thriller, cribbing its plots from much more interesting sources, all held loosely together by lackluster action. The good ideas shown, and shows some early, wither on the vine as it moves from subplot to subplot. If you’d never seen a Sci-Fi movie before, Replicas might have passed as a solid effort. As it is, there are so many better films in the genre, especially with the recent wave of amazing SF like Annihilation, Ex Machina and Arrival. Replicas seems to be competing with the ghosts of ho-hum flicks from a decade ago, like I, Robot and Minority Report. Even then, it’s not exactly winning those contests.