Keanu, Clones, Robots, and Other Sci-Fi Nonsense: Replicas Movie Review

All photos courtesy of Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures

All photos courtesy of Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures

Hi everyone, and welcome back to the Layman’s Movie Corner! Today, I’ll be reviewing the latest in the long, sad history of sci-fi flicks released in the month of January, Replicas.

Directed by Jeffrey Nachmanoff and starring Keanu Reeves, Alice Eve, Thomas Middleditch, and John Ortiz, Replicas follows Will Foster (Reeves), a family man with a beautiful wife and kids who happens to be some sort of bio-neurological scientist on the cusp of a tremendous technological breakthrough: transferring human consciousness of recently deceased individuals into synthetic, robotic bodies. On the way to a much needed vacation, Will loses his entire family in a horrific car crash. Unwilling to let go, Will must decide whether or not to use his neurological capabilities and knowledge to bring them back in the form of clones, and possibly face the ramifications of tampering with his family’s consciousnesses in the process.

What Was Good?

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I’m not going to lie, I had very low expectations for this movie. Even though I love Keanu Reeves in movies like The Matrix and the John Wick franchise, he’s not…the most prolific or versatile actor, to put it politely. He has a very limited wheel-house, usually consisting of him being a stoic bad-ass. He’s not well-suited to take on heavy drama steeped in existentialism and moral dilemmas like tampering with natural law and playing God in order to cheat death. Nevertheless, here we are.

That being said, I actually thought the premise and initial set-up were fairly effective and, dare I say, competent. Some cringey dialogue notwithstanding, the first half to two-thirds of the movie were somewhat decent as far as science fiction movies go. The car crash sequence was legitimately brutal and heartbreaking, and it made me sympathetic to Will’s situation. I found myself engaged in the story and curious about whether or not he would successfully be able to save his family (or whatever was left of them).

The movie was briskly heading towards a satisfying conclusion filled with reflection on common sci-fi concepts regarding the nature of consciousness and humanity, as well as hard-learned lessons and consequences for attempting to upset the natural order of life and death. I was almost surprised. I had to ask myself a little over halfway through the movie, “Is this actually…good?” Well…

What Was Bad?

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…it was at that point that Replicas took a turn. And by “turn,” I mean a WILD, OUTLANDISH DEPARTURE from the movie that had been set up during the first hour or so.

This movie feels like two or three sci-fi plots Frankenstein’d together, hoping the audience won’t notice the stitches, scars, and bolts sticking out of its neck. The third act completely abandons any sense of moral ambiguity and philosophical musings established in the first two acts in favor of a nonsensical action movie plot. It’s like if Alex Garland ended Ex Machina (one of the best sci-fi movies of the last 10 years or so, by the way) with the robot, Ava, turning into Optimus Prime and fighting tanks. The ending simply did not fit at all.

But wait, there’s more! The acting is awful at its worst and “meh *shoulder shrug*at its best. The dialogue is awkward, overly-expository, and even cringeworthy at times. And of course, the CGI….oh my goodness! It has been about 15 years since I’ve seen special effects this poor in the movie theater. To get an idea for how bad it was, watch a behind-the-scenes featurette on a DVD for any special effects-dependent movie made in the 21st century. You will likely come across the filmmakers showing the process of how to construct their respective CGI monsters, beings, robots, etc. During that process, there are usually a dozen iterations and layering effects that go into any of these characters or creatures. This robot, on the other hand, looks like the filmmakers for Replicas simply stopped after 2 iterations and said, “Good ‘nuff.” It looked like a video game for Playstation 1 rather than a feature film with a wide release in 2019. Also, the way it moves looks as if it were done with stop-motion technology, a technique that hasn’t been used in big special effects-heavy blockbusters in decades (not to mention the technique doesn’t even apply to CGI effects, which further demonstrates how bad it was). It’s truly breathtakingly abhorrent.

I couldn’t help but enjoy a hearty laugh as I left the theater. Keep in mind, Replicas is, in no way, shape, or form, a comedy (although it attempts and fails several times to inject some light-hearted jokes from time to time…yikes). Put another way, the movie did not evoke the emotions or reaction it set out to do at the beginning.

What Should Catholics Know?

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If you are Catholic or Christian, the initial plot set-up should fascinate you, like it did me. As Christians, we believe that humans were created in the image and likeness of God and were imbued with the breath of the Holy Spirit (i.e. the soul). Therefore, even as we achieve medical and scientific miracles, humanity cannot fully recreate the omnipotence of God. Therefore, examining the consequences of humanity’s hubris in the face of technological discovery can be thought-provoking and can even be vital to understanding our limitations.

Understanding all that, there’s a point early in the movie where Will and his wife Mona, played by Alice Eve, have a mild argument (more of a discussion) about what makes a person “human.” While Will argues that humanity can be boiled down to neurological pathways, synapses, amino acids, and other natural building blocks, Mona suggests that perhaps there’s more to the human experience; maybe “a soul” is crucial to humanity and can’t be replicated artificially.

Filled with several morally objectionable actions that Will takes along the way, the plot begins to play out as a case study examining who is correct. Then, as I alluded to before, right as the metaphorical house of cards is about to fall and Will is about to face the horrific consequences and realization of his sins, the movie switches it up. The writers essentially came to the climactic point of the plot and decided to completely abandon any ramifications or lessons set up beforehand and throw them in the trash. Instead, they inadvertently teach the audience that defying God’s laws and elevating ourselves to being His equal will work out perfectly fine. No moral strings attached! In the end, if you’re looking for practical applications to your life as a Christian from this movie, you will be disappointed.

Should You See It?

While not 100% atrocious, Replicas boasts a promising sci-fi plot that devolves into utter lunacy, features horrific CGI, and fails to finish what it started. I’m not gonna sugar-coat it, guys. This is a bad movie. Whether you’re a hardcore science fiction fan, a loyal Keanu Reeves fan, or a casual moviegoer looking to kill 2 hours of your time, you’ll walk away from Replicas equally confused, furious, and/or regretful as you ask yourself, “Why didn’t I just see Aquaman for the third time instead?” Do yourself a favor and save your money on this one; I wouldn’t even seek it out on Netflix or any other streaming service to be honest.

My Score: 2.5/10

That’s it folks! Did you make the same mistake as I did and watch Replicas? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments!

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Until next time, stay tuned and God Bless!