Don’t even ask me to explain what’s going on in Replicas, a sci-fi film that was released way back in January to terrible reviews and non-existent box office.
Admittedly, this film has a plot and you can kind of follow it if you force yourself to. And really, it’s not that unusual of a plot. It’s another one of those things where a scientist is shocked to discover that his top secret research is actually being funded by the military and everyone in the audience is supposed to be like, “OH MY GOD! NO! NOT THE MILITARY!” As you can probably guess from the title, the film is also about clones. Have you ever noticed that bad sci-fi films always seem to involve cloning?
It’s not so much that the plot can’t be followed as that the film’s storyline just feels oddly underdeveloped. Watching Replicas, you get the feeling that the filmmakers got bored with the plot and just decided to go ahead and make the movie, without thinking everything through. As a result, the film touches on all of the ethical and philosophical issues that come along with cloning people but that’s all it does. Instead of actually exploring any of those issues or trying to come up with an original spin on the story, Replicas just mechanically moves from one scene to another.
Keanu Reeves plays William Foster, a scientist who, along with his longtime friend and partner, Ed Whittle (Thomas Middleditch of Silicon Valley fame), has figured out a way to transfer a dead person’s mind into a robot’s body, hence bringing the person kind of back to life. A big evil corporation has set up a lab in Puerto Rico for Foster and Whittle to do their research. The problem is that every time that they put a dead soldier’s mind into an android body, the dead soldier gets pissed off and destroys the body. Evil Mr. Jones (John Ortiz) demands that they figure out a way to keep the dead soldier from getting mad. Somehow, it doesn’t occur to Foster or Whittle that Jones wants them to put the soldier’s mind in the android’s body so that the android can then be used as a weapon of war.
(Also, if you want to use androids as soldiers, why not just do some sort of remote control thing like they do with drones? Seriously, I don’t think Jones has thought his evil scheme through. The less complicated the better.)
Anyway, Foster and his wife, Mona (Alice Eve), and his three children decides to spend the weekend camping and things don’t go well. In fact, they go so badly that Foster ends up crashing the SUV and his entire family ends up dead. Not to worry though! Foster’s a scientist and he knows how to create clones. So, he’ll just clone his family. Of course, to do that, he’ll have to pretend that they’re all still alive and, because he only has room for three clones, he’ll have to pretend like his fourth child never existed.
Does Foster succeed? Well, the movie is called Replicas. What’s weird is that it’s obvious that Foster’s going to succeed but the movie still spends an entire hour with Foster and Whittle trying to figure out how to bring the clones to life. I understand the movie wanted to at least pretend like there was a chance that Foster might not be able to do it but, again, the movie is called Replicas.
Anyway, Foster does eventually resurrect his family but then he discovers that Jones is actually a bad guy and soon, Foster and the Replicas are fleeing for their lives. It really doesn’t add up too much because the film doesn’t bother to really explore any of the issues that it brings up. Potentially big moments — like Foster deleting his youngest daughter’s existence — happen but are never really explored. You keep waiting for some sort of twist — like the clones turning on their creator or Foster discovering that he’s a clone himself — and it never happens. Instead, the film turns into a rather standard if not very exciting sci-fi action film.
To give credit where credit is due, Keanu Reeves does appear to be taking the film seriously and he has a few scenes that suggest that the film would have been improved if it had played up the idea of Foster being a mad scientist. The rest of the cast seems to be either bored or miscast but Reeves does try to bring some heart to the film. Otherwise, Replicas is pretty forgettable.