Saturday, January 19, 2019

It Came From The Cineplex: Replicas

Welp, we're only a few weeks into the new year, and already we have a contender for Worst Movie Of The Year! Huzzah!

Replicas was written by Chad St. John, and directed by Jeffrey Nachmanoff.

St. John previously wrote London Has Fallen and Peppermint, which explains everything you need to know about this movie. Nachmanoff previously directed Hollywood Palms and Traitor.

Replicas is pure sci-fi schlock, one that feels like a cheap direct-to-TV Siffy Channel movie that was somehow released to theaters by mistake. It's so poorly written, acted and directed that it's actually fascinating to watch. Nothing makes any sense, the plot holes are big enough to fall into and even the characters seem bored by the storyline. One forgets about the tale being presented, and begins wondering just how the hell something like this was greenlit, and how every single aspect of it could go so horribly wrong.

Replicas could have been a compelling little sci-fi drama that examined the nature of existence and the consequences of crossing ethical boundaries. Instead such matters are glossed over in literally thirty seconds, never to be brought up again, which is too bad. I'm assuming the creative team just didn't have the talent to tackle such subject matter, so they completely ignored it.

The performances in Replicas have to be seen to be believed. Rarely have I seen a cast that under-reacts to horrific events and stunning revelations the way this one does. They're so comically casual about every situation that arises that I can't help but wonder if they've all been sedated.

Keanu Reeves is definitely the worst of the lot. I'm sure he's a nice guy in real life, but the truth is he's just not much of an actor. He's at his best when he chooses roles that don't demands much in the way of emoting. Think The Matrix and John Wick films. Any role that requires actual acting though, and he's in way over his head.

He's completely miscast as a family man/scientist in Replicas, as he sleepwalks his way through the entire film. In fact the robot in the movie comes perilously close to out-performing him! 

Reeves wears the same hang-dog expression on his face throughout the film, no matter what's happening to his character. His boss announces his project's being defunded? Blank stare. His entire family dies in an accident? Blank. He manages to pull off a miracle and clone perfect replicas of them? No expression whatsoever.

There's one tiny glimmer of emotion when his character's forced to choose which of his family members can't be saved. Other than that...

Maybe Reeves' turned in an uninspired performance here because he was tricked into appearing in it. Reeves himself revealed that back in 2000 he read the script for The Watcher, and decided to pass on it. Unknown to him though, a close friend forged his signature on the film's contract. Unable to prove he didn't really sign it, Reeves reluctantly agreed to star in the movie. I'm assuming some similar form of coercion is the only reason he showed up on the set of Replicas.

Replicas was distributed by the imaginatively named Entertainment Studios, which has to be the most generic name possible for an organization. What, was "Amusement Facility" already taken? 

They're the studio who brought the world prestigious projects such as 47 Meters Down, The Hurricane Heist and Hostiles. They're owned by former Real People star and current media mogul Byron Allen (who also owns The Weather Channel!).

Part of me can't help but wonder if this film is some sort of embezzlement scheme. The whole thing looks incredibly cheap, despite the fact that it had a $30 million budget. I don't know where all that money went, as it's certainly not up there on the screen.

The film was shot in Puerto Rico, which is also suspicious. It's no secret that many film productions are shot there as part of money laundering schemes. A producer will raise $30 million for a film (for example), shoot it in Puerto Rico as cheaply as possible and then pocket the rest.

To add credence to my theory, a look at Replica's IMDB page reveals there were a whopping TWENTY executive producers on the film! TWENTY! That's eighteen to nineteen more than necessary. I've no doubt each one of them received a tidy producer's fee too!

Again, this is all just theory on my part.

So far Replicas is a massive box office flop, as it's grossed just $33.3 million (worldwide!) against its suspiciously high $30 million budget. This wasn't some limited release, either— it premiered on an astonishing 2,329 screens! 


The Plot:
Will Foster (played by a more-comatose-than-normal Keanu Reeves) is a scientist working for Bionyne, a research lab based in Puerto Rico. He and his assistant Ed (played by Thomas Middleditch) are attempting to copy the brain patterns of recently deceased soldiers and paste them into robot bodies, to give them a second chance at life (I guess?).

Will uploads the soldier's mind onto what appears to be a large, industrial-strength flash drive. This process only takes a few seconds, which seems shockingly short for what's happening. He then recreates his favorite scene from Minority Report as he operates a virtual computer display by waving his hands around wildly. After spouting some terms from a medical glossary, he downloads the soldier's mind into a robot labeled #345. So I guess this is the 345th time he's tried this? That seems like a lot.

The experiment doesn't go well, as the soldier's mind wakes up in the robot body, freaks out and destroys itself. Maybe he was horrified by the prospect of living in such a lame-looking robot? Bionyne Director Jones (no first names please) has been watching from the wings, and puts on his best disappointed expression. He confronts Will and tells him he'd better produce results fast or he's shutting down his funding.

Will responds to this ominous threat by doubling his efforts and working even harder on the project. Nah, I'm just kidding. He borrows Ed's boat to take his family on a weekend fishing trip! No, really! As he arrives at his home, we see his wife Mona (played by Alice Eve) and kids Sophie, Matt and Zoe engaging in witty banter and shenanigans. This is a clumsy and obvious attempt to show us what they're like before they're killed. Whoops! Spoilers!

The family piles into their SUV and drive off. Minutes later they encounter a torrential downpour and Will loses control. The SUV flies off a cliff and lands in a lake far below, killing everyone but Will.

He drags the lifeless bodies of his family from the lake and tastefully arranges them on the shore. He then calls Ed and tells him to load up his car with Bionyne equipment and meet him at the lake. Ed arrives sometime later, and is stunned to see a crazed Will standing over his dead family. Will grabs the equipment and records each of his family's brains onto flash drives.

Will then takes a tissue sample of each member of his family (I guess?). Ed asks what the hell he's doing, and Will matter-of-factly explains he's going to grow clones of his family, and implant their recorded memories into the duplicates. When he's finished, it'll be like they never died at all.

Wait, what? I thought he was trying to download brains into robots? Where the hell did this cloning crap come from? It's never been an option or even mentioned until now. If they have cloning technology, then why are they screwing around with robotic bodies? Anyway, Will tells Ed to dispose of his family's corpses somehow, as he can't bring himself to do it. Plot Point!

Will then somehow talks Ed into sneaking millions of dollars worth of cloning equipment out of Bionyne and bringing it to his home. Apparently he must have some serious dirt on Ed to convince him to do all this. 

Ed dutifully brings the items to the house, and Will notes there're only three cloning vats. He reminds Ed he has FOUR family members, and demands he bring another vat. Ed says that's impossible, as the lab only has three because they're insanely expensive for some reason.

Will then has to make the hardest decision of his life and choose which family member won't get cloned. After much soul searching, Will decides not to clone Zoe. Tough break, kid!

Ed and Will set up the vats in the basement and fill them with clone-growing goo. Ed stresses to Will that he'll have to constantly monitor the chemical levels in the vats, or the clones will die. He also says the clones will be fully grown in seventeen days (!), and reminds Will that he has that long to figure out how to transfer his family's minds into their new bodies. Will's confident he'll figure it out by then.

Ed then says that if by some miracle Will manages to pull this off, his family's gonna wonder what happened to Zoe. To his horror, Will realizes he's right. Hilariously, he plugs all their flash drives into his computer, and literally does a search for Zoe in each family member's brain. He then deletes every memory of her in all their brains. It's just that easy!

Will spends the following days at home, closely monitoring the tanks. Ed tries covering for Will at work, but Jones becomes suspicious. Eventually Will's forced to show his face at Bionyne to appease Jones. Of course this means that Ed then has to call in sick so he can watch the clones.

Will returns home, where Ed's been watching the tanks all day. He angrily tells Will he's been fielding calls from Mona's job and the kids' schools all day, as everyone's wondering where the hell the family's gone. Apparently this inevitability never occurred to Will.

The film then turns into a crime drama, as Will deals with everyone who's questioning his family's disappearance. He poses as Mona and emails her clinic, saying she's been ill. He then contacts the kids' principals and explains that they've decided to home school them. He even poses as his kids on social media, saying they're grounded and can't use their computers and phones. Amazingly everyone buys these hastily slapped-together excuses, leaving him free to tinker in God's domain. I guess people are less suspicious in Puerto Rico?

At the end of seventeen days, the clones are done. Unfortunately Will still hasn't figured out how to transfer his family's minds into them. With Ed's help he decants and sedates them all, placing them in their beds until he can solve the problem. Ed tells him he can only keep them sedated for seventy two hours. Why? Because the movie needed a ticking clock, I guess.

Will sits at Mona's bedside, racking his brain for an answer. He gently takes her hand, and notes her pulse increases when he does so. Somehow this gives him the answer to ALL this problems. The robot test failed because the soldier's mind woke up in an unfamiliar body. This caused the subject to think it was dying. But as far as his family's concerned, their minds will be going into their own bodies (well, copies at least), so they'll feel right at home and it'll work. Little of that makes any sense, but let's just movie on.

He downloads Mona's consciousness into her brain. After a few tense seconds, she actually comes to and asks where she is! Will then sedates her again (!) until he can revive the two kids. Wait, I thought there was a limit on the amount of time he could keep everyone knocked out? I guess the sedation schedule resets itself once you wake up? Anyway, he then manages to stick everyone's minds back into the proper bodies (wouldn't that have been a riot if he'd mixed them up?).

Will then tearfully scrubs the house of any and all evidence that Zoe ever existed. Why's he doing that now? He had seventeen days to take care of that! Exhausted, he falls asleep beside Mona.

He wakes up the next morning alone in bed. Alarmed, he sprints downstairs and sees the whole family (minus Zoe of course) eating breakfast. They're all stuffing their faces, claiming to be starving. I guess because as clones, they've never eaten before? Will stares in awe, marveling at the fact he has his family back. Well, most of them at least.

Mona says she feels so refreshed she's going for a run. Will's reluctant to let her out of his sight so soon, but can't think of a good excuse to talk her out of it. She jogs down the street for a while, then stops as she experiences sharp chest pains. Uh-oh! She then starts melting in the middle of the street, exposing Will's illegal actions. Nah, I'm just kidding again. Instead, nothing more happens, as this particular little subplot goes absolutely nowhere and is never mentioned again.

Ed calls Will and says there's a new donor for the robot project. Will couldn't care less about the project at this point, but Ed insists. Will reluctantly goes into the office, leaving his newly cloned family alone. In the lab, Will examines the donor brain but says it's too far gone. Ed says if they don't get the experiment working soon, Jones will shut 'em down, they'll be exposed and likely go to prison.

Desperate, Will goes to the restroom, jams the recording device into his eye and records his own brain onto a flash drive. He then tells Ed he's going to write an algorithm that'll trick a subject into believing it's in a human body. He plans to download his own mind into the robot as a "baseline," in order to test his theory. That way the experiment's sure to work. Ed says, "Sure, why the hell not." Again, I don't get any of this, but let's keep going or we'll be here all day.

Back home, Mona and the kids become upset when they can't find their cell phones or computers. Later on, Mona starts freaking out because she can't remember the last few days. Sophie begins having nightmares about the fatal car crash. Will decides to somehow hook her up to his equipment and edit out all her memories of the accident.

Mona walks in on this shocking tableau and demands to know what Will's doing. For no good reason, he blurts out that she and the kids died and he cloned them to bring 'em all back. This earth-shattering knowledge causes her so much existential angst that she immediately kills herself. Haw! Kidding again. Instead she shakes her head in mild disbelief, and that's pretty much it! In fact, she's apparently so unfazed by this information that the next day the entire family goes shopping for a goddamned Xmas tree! Are you kidding me?

That night at dinner, Matt drops his potatoes into his water glass. Sophie laughs at his clumsiness, but immediately spills her milk. Again, it seems like something's gone wrong with the clones, but the matter's instantly dropped. 

Just then Jones shows up at the house and asks to speak to Will alone. Jones begins monologuing, telling Will he knows what he knows all about the clones and can't allow them to live "in the wild."

Jones says Bionyne isn't a medical research facility after all, but a weapons development lab. He wants Will to give him the "algorithm" so he can weaponize it— by downloading soldier's brains into a fleet of drones or directly into a computer. In exchange he says he'll allow Will to say a proper goodbye to his new family before he destroys them.

Will responds by repeatedly bashing Jones in the head with one of the giant flash drives, knocking him out. He tells Mona what's happening and says they all need to leave immediately. She then picks that exact time to ask him who Zoe is. Apparently, despite the fact he erased Zoe from her mind, she's been having fleeting memories of her. Incredibly, he takes the time to tell her that Zoe was her daughter, but he couldn't save her because he only had three pods and he deleted all her memories of her. Again, Mona accepts this horrifying revelation the way same way she'd react to a broken nail.

Anyway, they gather the kids into the car and flee. Jones somehow wakes from his savage bludgeoning, and orders his hired goons to capture Will and the others. He emphasizes they're not to be shot in the head. The goons use an iPad to track the Fosters.

Will and his family head for the marina, where they'll take Ed's boat to escape the island. Suddenly the car load of goons rams them from behind. Will conveniently remembers that Bionyne puts trackers in all its "experimental animals." We're then treated to an unexciting low speed car chase, and Will eventually loses them in the lamest and most cliched way possible.

Mona tells him to head for the clinic where she works. They sneak into her lab as the goons pull up outside. Mona uses a defib machine to short out the tracking chips in herself and the kids. As the goons move through the clinic, the signals all disappear from their tablet, which completely bamboozles them. Will and his family then make a clean getaway. The goons tell Jones that the Fosters got away. Jones makes a mysterious phone call and says, "I have a question for you."

Will & his family arrive at the marina, and he checks out the boat to "see if it's safe." Of course while he's doing so, the goons somehow show up and abduct the clones. Will watches helplessly as they're whisked away.

The goons bring the clones to Bionyne, where Jones and Ed are waiting. Apparently Ed couldn't bring himself to destroy the Foster's corpses, and hid them somewhere. Jones discovered the bodies and figured out what Will and Ed were doing. Jones then made a deal with Ed, 
promising not to prosecute him if he helped capture Mona and the kids (explaining how the goons knew about the marina). 

Of course Will shows up to rescue his family. He tells Jones he destroyed the algorithm, and now the only place it exists is in his head. He says he'll give Jones the algorithm if he lets them all go. Jones replies by shooting Ed in the head and killing him (?). He then aims at Mona, causing Will to give in. So... why's he doing this? Didn't Will already agree to give him what he wants?

Anyway, Will copies his brain again, but also secretly downloads it into the robot. Somehow Jones stands there watching and doesn't realize what he's doing. The robot, which now has a copy of Will's mind in it, activates in its chamber. It breaks free of its bonds and stomps off.

Will gives Jones the algorithm and tells him to let his family go. Jones says no way, as they're not even humans— just copies. Suddenly the Will 2.0 robot bursts into the room and starts kicking ass. Through the magic of 1997 era CGI, it easily dispatches all of Jones' goons.

In the confusion, Will and his family escape. Will starts up the car, but then hesitates. Mona realizes what he's thinking and tells him to go. He runs back to the lab, where Will 2.0 is strangling the life out of Jones. 

For no good reason, Will tells his robotic twin to stop. Jones, who's apparently dying from chokification (?), says that after he's gone, someone else will just come after Will and his family. Will says, "Not if we work together." He tells him he can make him a very rich man, and holds up the brain recording device. Jones says, "See you soon," and promptly dies.

Will 2.0 tells Will he'll take it from here, and to protect the family. Will leaves, and the robot puts the recording device on Jones' head.

Cut to a secluded beach, where Mona watches Sophie and Matt frolicking in the surf. She turns and sees Will walking along the shore with a clone of Zoe. Despite the fact that Mona's memories of her were all erased, she runs and embraces the copy of her daughter.

In Dubai, a cloned Jones, whose brain has apparently been edited to make him a good guy, welcomes an elderly man to his office. The man gives him a case full of money, and Jones tells him you can't put a price on immortality. He brings the old man into his office, where Will 2.0, who's now wearing a business suit for some reason, is staring out the window. Jones says it's time for them to get to work.


• Let's begin with a couple of positives before I start tearing the movie a new asshole. Don't worry, this won't take long.

Kudos to the film for knowing that cloning a person only duplicates their body. Cloning only duplicates genetic information— thoughts and memories can't be copied. This is 
why Will has to upload his family's brain patterns onto giant flash drives and them download them into the clones. Well done, guys!

Congrats for also knowing how a defibrillator actually works. When Mona's using one to fry a tracker in her daughter's body, she says she has to use just the right current or it could stop her heart. This is exactly what a defib unit does! It STOPS your heart— it doesn't jumpstart it like a car battery. I'm honestly amazed a film like this got that right.

Also, there's exactly one decent line in the entire film. After Will says he's going to clone his dead family, Ed asks, "What if something horrible goes wrong?" Will replies, "Something already has."

OK, that's all I got! On with the bitching!

• "Welcome... to Jurassic Park."

• At the beginning of the movie, Will's in his lab, preparing for a major experiment. For some reason, he gathers his fellow scientists around him and carefully explains to them that he's attempting to copy a dead soldier's brain and implant it in a robot body. 

Wait, what? Why the hell is Will telling them any of this? This can't possibly be the first time they've tried this experiment. The robot has a big "345" emblazoned on its chest, and later in the film Jones refers to Will's cloned family as "Subjects #346, #347 and #348. They've done this dance over three hundred times!

Obviously his hilariously redundant, clumsy and ham-fisted exposition was done for the sake of the audience, as the filmmakers think we're all idiots. Get used to this disdainful attitude on their part, as it's repeated throughout the film.

 If you're ommetaphobic, you're gonna have a bad time watching this movie. Lots and lots of scenes of needles penetrating eyeballs. Actually that's not quite true the needles poke into the tear duct, but it's close enough.

 Will begins the experiment by uploading the dead soldier's brain into an oversized flash drive. A couple things here:

First of all, it takes literally five seconds to upload the soldier's entire brain pattern onto the drive. Every thought, every memory, every synapse and electrical pattern— all copied in less time than it takes to read this sentence. Jesus Christ, I've got Photoshop files that take ten minutes to transfer from one drive to another!

The same thing happens later in the film when Will downloads Mona's mind into her clone. Either the transfer technology is reeeeally advanced, or the soldier and Mona just didn't have a lot to transfer!

 The soldier at the beginning of the movie has obviously been dead for several hours when Will records his brain patterns. The same goes for Will's family, as he records their brains long after they were killed.

The human brain can only live for about six minutes without oxygen, and then it begins shutting down and dying. How the hell is Will able to record any electrical impulses from a dead, inert brain?

 Will uses a virtual reality interface he borrowed from Minority Report, which projects an interface in mid-air and requires him to wave his hands around wildly like a symphony conductor to control it. I have many questions and issues concerning this scene.

First off, it's never quite clear if Will's the only one who can see the holographic display or if everyone around him can as well. Since he's wearing a visor over his eyes, logic would dictate only he can see it, and the mid-air display is there for the audience's benefit. But in this movie, who knows?

Secondly, while Will's using this gesture-based interface, he rubs his hands together in a "Let's Get Down To Work" gesture. So... why doesn't the interface react to that motion and start flinging files left and right? How's it know when to react to his gestures and when not to?

THIS is why gesture-based VR interfaces won't work. I wish to hell everyone would stop trying to replace the mouse. For thirty years now I've been reading articles saying the mouse is dead and gesture interfaces are coming, and you know what? The mouse is still here. And you know why? Because it works!

No one in their right mind wants to stand up and wave their arms around all day like a lunatic in order to control their computers. Five minutes of that sh*t and you'd have to lie down and rest. If I had to control my computer that way at work I'd immediately quit and open a doggie daycare business. 

One last thing about Will's VR interface before I let it go. We see a closeup of his visor, and at the top there's a small readout that clearly says "Brain Imprint In Progress." But wait a minute... it's formatted so WE can read it! Shouldn't it be backwards to us, and right-reading for him? Is he seeing everything backwards in that visor? Oy...

• It's nice to see Sonny from I, Robot getting some work.

• As I said in the intro, the entire cast sleepwalks their way through this film like there was a gas leak on the set. The only one who seems to even be trying is Thomas Middleditch, who plays Ed. He comes closest to turning in a halfway decent performance.

• I felt kind of bad for Keanu Reeves in this movie, especially when he was forced to mourn his movie family after their horrific car accident. See, back in 2001, Reeves' real life girlfriend Jennifer Syme was killed in a car crash in Hollywood. Syme was being treated for depression after the couple's daughter was stillborn in 2000 (!). After all that, it couldn't have been easy for him to have to relive a similar incident for this film.

• I mentioned this in the plot synopsis, but it's definitely worth a repeat. The film spends a huge chunk of time establishing the fact that Will's attempting to copy the minds of recently deceased soldiers and place them in robot bodies. Got it.

Then his family's killed, and he pulls the idea of cloning them straight out of his ass with both hands.

Note that at no time has the "C-word" ever been mentioned in the film. It's all robot this, and android that. We have no idea that cloning is even possible in the universe of the film until Will mentions it thirty minutes in.

That's some very sloppy writing. In a sci-fi movie like this, you ALWAYS need to lay out the ground rules early on, so the audience knows what is and isn't possible. Heck, I'm surprised Will didn't start talking about time travel, so he could go back before the accident and save his family!

• My absolute favorite part of this movie happens when Will and Ed first begin the cloning process. Once the tanks are set up, Ed lays out a series of very specific instructions for Will. He says it's vital to constantly monitor the chemical levels, emphasizing that if they're ever off by even a bit the clones will die. Will looks put out and impatient during this orientation, as if he can't wait for Ed to leave.

Ed then asks if Will has a backup generator, saying it's important that the power stays on throughout the process. Once again Will looks annoyed and says no, then goes out and steals a bunch of car batteries and hooks them up to the tanks.

Will then looks at Ed and says, "Is there anything else?" in the most sarcastic and condescending tone possible.

Jesus Christ, dude! You're friend's trying to help you grow three humans in a bunch of tanks in your basement! So maybe lose the attitude, OK?

• What's going on with Will's daughter Sophie? We first see her when the family's packing for their fishing trip. At that point, she appears to be sixteen, possibly even eighteen.

This is the Sophie 2.0 clone. What the hell? Look at her! She looks like she's all of twelve years old! She even seems to be somewhat shorter! Is this the same actress?

Apparently Ed must have made a mistake with Sophie's "levels," or he and Will took her out of the vat a day or so too soon.

Was this a subtle little plot element on the part of the filmmakers? Ah, who am I kidding. No one involved in this movie is that clever or talented to think of such a thing!

• When Will finds out there are only three cloning vats, he has to decide which member of his family will be left out and stay dead. In order to help him make this horrible decision, he writes their names on sheets of paper and draws them out of a bowl (!!!).

Note that the camera makes a point to focus on the sheet labeled "Sophie." I guess you could say Will's facing a real Sophie's Choice here! Eh? EH? GET IT?

• Once the clone vats are all set up and percolating, Ed asks Will how he'll explain Zoe's absence to his newly-grown family.

Incredibly, Will plugs all their flash drives into his computer, and actually types in a search for Zoe! The exact same way you'd look for a particular file on your hard drive!

The computer locates every single instance and memory of Zoe in his family's virtual minds, as it displays a readout that looks much like a map of the London Underground. I swear I'm not making up any of this.

Once the search finds all memories of Zoe, Will hits delete and all the mapped pathways are quickly erased. It's just that simple!

• In order to complete his cunning ruse, Will then goes around his house and eliminates any and all traces that Zoe every existed. He does this by removing all photos of her, along with all her clothes and toys and stuffing them into one medium sized box. Seriously? Most kids would have an entire dumpster full of crap in their room and around the house!

Anyway, Will takes the box and casually tosses it into the trash can at the curb. Hilariously, the lid doesn't even close all the way! Hopefully the police will never come around about her. It'd look really bad for Will if his daughter was missing and all her stuff was sitting in the trash barrel!

• After seventeen days, the three clones are fully grown. Will and Ed successfully decant them, then place them in their respective beds. Ed then takes his leave and tells Will, "Well, I'll see you at work!"

Are you fraking kidding me? These two men just created three new lives! They're literally gods. And Ed saunters off like the two of them just finished watching a ball game or playing Call Of Duty.

• This next scene is my absolute favorite part of the movie. Take a look at Mona lying serenely in her bed there. According to Replicasthis is what a freshly decanted clone looks like!

Apparently not only does the process duplicate a person's genetic code, it also copies the length, color and style of their hair, along with the makeup they were wearing at the time of death! Amazing!

• After Mona 2.0 wakes from her involuntary days-long sedation, she says she feels so invigorated she's going for a run. She jogs for several blocks and then stops, as a worried look crossed her face. She clutches her chest as if she's in pain.

In a similar vein, during dinner Matt drops a hunk of food into his glass, and Sophie spills the milk as she's trying to pour it.

I was sure these events were a sign that was about to go wrong with the clones. Like they'd start melting or rapidly again, or maybe even go nuts and try to kill themselves or others. Will would then be faced with three Frankenstein monsters of his own making.

Nope! Instead, nothing happens. The matter's completely dropped and never mentioned again for the rest of the movie. What the hell?

I'm probably giving the filmmakers way too much credit here, but I assume maybe Mona's chest pains were caused by the fact that her heart— heck, her entire body— is brand new, and it's not used to physical exertion yet. Same goes for the kids' lack of coordination— they're not used to using their hands yet.

If that's what was really happening in these scenes, then that would actually be pretty clever. As I said earlier though, the hack that made this film are nowhere near that talented.

• For some reason, once Will's family's been cloned they all begin acting like emotionless automatons, and speak in flat, emotionless voices. Well, even more than when they were alive.

Again, for a brief second I thought this behavior signified something was going horribly wrong was happening with them and the movie would veer into horror territory. I should have known better though, as that would have been an interesting development.

• Mona 2.0 begins asking too many questions, so for absolutely no good reason, Will tells her she and the kids were killed, and he used science to resurrect them.

For the record, this is the face of someone who's just been told they're a clone. Mona shakes her head in disbelief, spends maybe thirty seconds of screen time looking sad and pensive, and then is completely fine for the rest of the movie.

I cannot emphasize enough— the idea that she's a copy of a dead woman generates little or no reaction in her. In fact she'd probably be more upset if she found out Will taped over their wedding video.

In the hands of a better writer and director, this could have been a smart little film taking a hard look at the concept of the soul, the nature of existence and what it means to be human.

Unfortunately the filmmakers either lacked the talent and skill to examine these challenging concepts, or simply didn't want to deal with them. They might as well have gone the intellectual route, as it's not like they filled the runtime with action!

In a similar vein, this is the expression one uses when one finds out that one's daughter was killed, and one's husband erased one's memory of her from one's brain.

• When Will's family goes shopping for an Xmas tree, Matt points out one he likes. Mona looks at it and says, "No, I hate those ones. Those are fake." Aside from being horrible grammar, was... was that line an attempt at being clever?

Nah... once again, these filmmakers aren't that talented.

• Jones arrives at Will's house and tells him he knows all about the clones. This isn't all that surprising, as he probably noticed Ed carting the lab's entire stock of cloning vats to Ed's house and figured out what they were up to.

But then he says he knows that Will told Mona she's a clone. How the hell could he possibly know THAT? The only way I can figure it he secretly had Will's house bugged at some point?

 For some reason Will records his brainwaves, which contain the "How To Transfer Consciousness" algorithm, onto a flash drive. Jones somehow finds out about this (?) and demands Will hand it over to him.

Instead of doing so, Will sticks the drive in the microwave and fries it. A bit later Jones finds the ruined drive and says, "I'm disappointed Will. Verrrrrrry disappointed." You have no idea how much Jones sounds like Elmer Fudd when he says this line. I think I actually laughed out loud in the theater.

• Jones' goons use a little tablet device to locate the clones, who all secretly have trackers implanted in their bodies. Will drives to Mona's clinic, where she uses a defib machine to short out the trackers (which is actually a pretty good idea!).

As she does so, the red dots (which indicate the location of the clones) flicker and disappear from the display. When the last dot disappears, the goons are stymied, as they can no longer detect them.

Wha...? OK, so the clones don't show up on the tracker anymore. But the goons can clearly see which room they were just in. Why can't they rush to their last known location and grab 'em? It's not like they teleported away!

By the way, when the goons start tailing them, Will says, "Bionyne puts marking trackers in all its experimental animals." Just when the hell did that happen to the clones? The movie goes out of its way to emphasize that Will or Ed spent EVERY second of the seventeen day gestation period with them. There was never a moment when Jones could sneak in and implant trackers in them.

Was this part of Ed's sudden and inevitable betrayal? Did he install the trackers while Will was at work? Or did the filmmakers just hope we wouldn't think about this?

• For reasons known only to him, Will uploads his brain pattern into the 345 robot. It achieves "watershed consciousness" and is then a robotic duplicate of Will.

Amazingly, the mechanical Will 2.0 is only slightly less expressive and emotive than the real thing!

• The Will 2.0 robot is brilliantly realized with the finest 1997-era CGI. Seriously, it's bad. Really bad. Especially for a movie that allegedly cost $30 million dollars. I've seen better effects on made-for-Siffy-Channel movies. It's almost like they didn't have time to fully render the robot scenes and just used the animatics.

• When we're introduced to Will's family at the beginning of the movie, Zoe wears a bright red dress.

At the end of the film, Will somehow finds a way to clone Zoe after all, and walks down the beach with her. Note that once again wearing a red dress. Do you get it yet? It's his daughter! The one he chose not to clone! Get it? Do you understand now? The movie thinks you're all a bunch of idiots, so it's using the red dress as a visual cue! Get it?

Of course the fact that Zoe's been resurrected makes absolutely zero sense. Apparently at some point after Jones was killed, Will must have sent Mona and the kids to a secluded island getaway. I guess he then went back to his house, filled one of the now empty vats with chemicals and dumped a tissue sample of Zoe into it. He then sat there for seventeen days, monitoring the levels, and once he decanted her, uploaded her brain pattern into the clone.

And he had to have done all this without Mona's knowledge, as she looks surprised to see Zoe when she spots her on the beach.

Also, I assume we're supposed to believe that Mona's natural motherly instincts kick in here as she embraces her daughter. That has to be what's happening, right, since Will deleted her memories of Zoe?

• I wondered why Will didn't use his newfound cloning abilities to create a copy of poor ol' Ed. After all, he was the expert in this field, and without him Will wouldn't have his family back. But then I remembered Jones shot Ed in the head, which probably made copying his brain impossible.

• In the final scene we see that Will 2.0 has resurrected Jones, and apparently edited his brain to make him "good" while he was at it. The two are now living in Dubai, where they've set up a lucrative business offering immortality to the ultra-rich.

A frail, elderly billionaire is wheeled into the office, and presents Jones with a briefcase full of cash. Jones says, "Mr. Kesam. I am so glad you could make it. Trust me, you won't regret it. Because I ask you, what price can you put on a second lifetime?"

The movie wants us to think that Jones' clients will live forever, and he's taking the brains of sick, elderly billionaires and placing them in healthy young cloned bodies. Actually, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Jones is simply making copies of his clients. Mr. Kesam is still gonna end up dying. Sure, there'll be a younger version of him running around, identical down to the cellular level and with all the same memories. But it won't be him. It'll be a completely separate entity.

That's a pretty unsatisfying version of immortality. I'm not sure I'd want to spend millions so a COPY of me could run around and have a good time, while I was lying dead in a casket.

The movie knows this too. Up to now it's taken great pains to spell out that Will's cloning process produces copies, and that his original family is still dead. But for some reason in the final thirty seconds of the movie it completely turns this concept on its side, just to have an allegedly "clever" ending. Feh.

• Hilariously, the movie ends with this shot of Will 2.0 dressed in a snappy Armani suit. Because the sight of a naked robot walking around downtown Dubai might cause a panic. But if it wears a business suit, then everyone will be fooled and think it's human.

Replicas is an embezzlement scam, er, I mean a film that's so inept in every measurable sense that it becomes fascinating to watch. It's poorly written, directed and especially acted. Its storyline brings up though-provoking questions on the nature of existence, which the film couldn't possibly care less about. I give it a well deserved D+.

1 comment:

  1. "I'm probably giving the filmmakers way too much credit here, but I assume maybe Mona's chest pains were caused by the fact that her heart— heck, her entire body— is brand new, and it's not used to physical exertion yet. Same goes for the kids' lack of coordination— they're not used to using their hands yet."

    From where she's holding her abdomen I think it's a cramp, not a cardiac event. Although cramps usually happen on the right, not the left.


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