Replicas Movie Review – A mostly great sci-fi concept that unfortunately lacks a focused vision or much needed dramatic pay-offs.
Mad scientist, genetic cloning, robots, and neural imprinting… what could go wrong? The answer is pretty much everything.
Keanu Reeves plays a scientist by the name of Will Foster attempting to transfer the consciousness of a deceased individual into the mechanical body of a robot. This is made possible by the goofy 90’s head gear that allows him to copy and edit memories of anyone alive or dead. So far, attempts to imprint human memories into a robot brain have proven unsuccessful. Tragedy suddenly strikes when Keanu’s entire family is killed in an unfortunate car accident. whoops!
This is where I should probably mention cloning exists (totally not a big deal either, don’t think about it too hard). And although considered illegal, Keanu’s company lab just so happens to have three cloning pods stashed away.
So obviously, with the help of his way too trusty cloning-specialist friend Ed, played by Thomas Middleditch (Silicone Valley, Search Party) Keanu secretly uses this risky tech against the clock to replicate his wife and three kids. This is where the movie genuinely becomes interesting…
The film nicely sets up a few great Sophie’s Choice scenarios. Keanu is forced to choose between a couple of horrible options. These will have monumental consequences to the well being of his family and his own personal morality. At this point, I would say I was hooked and eager to see how he’ll confront everything.
Shamefully, all of this comes crashing down in the final act….
The movie then shifts gears into a generic action movie script. Keanu’s boss just so happens to be a cheesy 80’s villain. Remember the company lab Keanu works for? yeah, well turns out they had some evil plans for the robots. Keanu’s boss will stop at nothing to make sure he gets what he wants.
Now… I should mention the movie’s biggest weakness. Her name is Mona, played almost bewilderingly by Alice Eve (Iron Fist, Star Trek: Into Darkness). I rarely ever find myself commenting on acting, but she was completely and utterly lost. Her character and mannerisms would drastically change from one scene to another. There’s almost no telling which version of this character Keanu will be talking to during a scene… some of our options include: Creepy Stepford Wife Clone, Manic Outrage, Confused, Irrational/Rational, and Contractually Obligated Badass? (I’ll get to that later). This schizophrenic character shatters all the solid groundwork laid out for dramatic pay-offs. Without exception, the film always chooses the quickest exit out of drama between Keanu and Alice — all for the sake of getting to the next generic action beat.
In one laughably pointless action scene we find Keanu and his family on the run from evil henchmen hired to kill them. His family has implanted tags in their bodies being tracked by said henchmen. Car chase ensues. This is where I assume the writer chose to have Alice be more than the cliche useless wife. Being a doctor, Mona comes up with a smart plan of using a defibrillator to overcharge the trackers in their bodies and escape. The plan succeeds… but only to have her and the kids immediately kidnapped by the henchmen, and used as leverage against Keanu.
One final noteworthy point is the visual effects. And by that I mean how shockingly awful they were. I had to look up the budget of this film in hopes that it would be understandably low. Nope! this baby cost an estimated $30 million! The movie opens on a cheap stock model CGI helicopter shot and an appalling CGI robot (shown in trailer). We’re talking on the level of now-outdated The Terminator (1984) stop-motion endoskeleton scenes. The goofy head-gear virtual hologram is probably the least offensive visual effects in the film… and that says a lot.
FINAL VERDICT: Keanu Reeves is undeniably fun to watch as a desperate scientist struggling to make the right choices. However, the clashing action movie subplot ultimately turns the film into a disposable sci-fi rental from the 80’s.
Rating: PG-13 (for thematic material, violence, disturbing images, some nudity and sexual references)
Genre: Mystery & Suspense, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By: Jeffrey Nachmanoff
In Theaters: Jan 11, 2019 wide
Runtime: 107 minutes
Studio: Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures