WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
In this sci-fi thriller, neuro-scientist William Foster (Keanu Reeves) is on the verge of successfully transferring human consciousness into a computer when his family is tragically killed in a car crash. Desperate to resurrect them, William recruits fellow scientist Ed Whittle (Thomas Middleditch) to help him secretly clone their bodies and create replicas. But he soon faces a “Sophie’s choice” when it turns out that they can only bring three of the four family members back to life.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
Replicas is based on a very familiar but still always interesting science fiction premise that asks what it is to be human and if we were somehow able to transfer our minds to a new body, what does that say about our souls. Unfortunately, rather than even bothering to try and address such metaphysical and philosophical questions, it fills its first half with an ever-growing mountain of head-slappingly obvious plot-holes and its second half with enough generic thriller tropes to fill a latter-day Bruce Willis movie.
Interestingly, it’s the latter half that is the real problem here. Such a monumentally stupid take on a “smart science fiction” premise is actually not un-enjoyable in the sense that there is actually something kind of fun in watching a film get so many things wrong in so short a time. Human consciousness is one of the areas that most perplexes scientists so the idea of copying someone’s consciousness merely by, effectively, tracing one’s neural pathways has always struck me as fairly dubious, even it is a device that has been used in science fiction stories for decades.
Replicas, however, only uses that rather unlikely idea as a jumping off point for a succession of stupid plot points that make little sense logically, scientifically or narratively (no spoilers but let’s just say that erasing someone’s memory of a certain person does not in fact erase that person from existence) but continue to build on one another until they reach a critical mass of stupid that becomes, frankly, rather hard not to laugh at, if not with. The film itself is massively po-faced but just because it’s not intentionally comedic doesn’t mean that it doesn’t raise a couple of incredulous chuckles.
More than just the unintentional enjoyment of the film’s laughable dumbness, though, there are also some very slightly more intentional joys to be had in the first half of the film. Keanu Reeves may be singularly terrible here (though much of his supporting cast are not much better, with Alice Eve in particular turning in a far more wooden performance than her typical very-solid-if-unspectacular acting work) but he’s as committed to the material as ever, which results in a film that has enough conviction to carry you along despite its very many flaws.
Between director, Jeffrey Nachmanoff, and writer Chad St John (working off a story by Stephen Hamel), their most notable film work in the past is the hilariously stupid Day After Tomorrow (the one in which Jake Gyllenhaal out-races the weather) so it’s presumably not just Keanu who’s responsible for some of the film’s massively dumb sense of fun in the first half but it’s definitely not just him who sends the whole thing soaring off a cliff as the film switches stupid fun for stupid dullness; trading guilty pleasure for just guilt as it becomes a none-more-tired, run-of-the-mill scifi thriller.
It’s easy enough to spot when this happens, as the film goes for just about the most obvious reveal imaginable – one that I saw coming from a mile away but really, really wished it would stay the hell away. There’s something fun about watching Keanu trying to balance work and growing a new family, proving himself to be the dumbest genius alive as Thomas Middleditch spends most of his screen-time explaining things to Keanu’s character and trying valiantly but unsuccessfully to paper over even more absurd plotholes. There is, however, nothing fun at all about Keanu running from your usual gang of shady government agents and taking on yet another generic big bad in a thriller-by-numbers plot that isn’t even saved by more ludicrous science and a killer robot. And that’s before it delivers its one final twist in a closing shot that is so anticlimactic and uninspired that you have to wonder why they even bothered.
Replicas has gotten a savage kicking by most reviewers and it’s not hard to see why. Moronic is one thing but moronic and, ultimately, boring is quite another – especially when it’s the boring part that leaves the biggest impression by coming in as the supposed “climax” of the film.