Replicas is unequivocally a terrible film, filled with terrible writing and terrible performances. The experience of watching it may be fun, if the mood strikes, but “so bad it’s good” is not the same thing as actually good.
Starring a very domesticated Keanu Reeves, Replicas wastes no time jumping into the plot. Doctor Will Foster is on the brink of the most important scientific discovery of our time. With the help of his faithful assistant and cloning expert, Ed (Thomas Middleditch), Will has nearly perfected a process to extract the mind – memories, personality, cognition, everything – from a dead person and then upload it into a robotic facsimile of a human body. The only problem is that the pesky things keep killing themselves as soon as they “wake up” in their steel bodies.
Will is going through the struggle of butting heads with the man who writes his checks and getting his family packed up for a vacation when catastrophe hits. Within the blink of an eye, he’s the lone survivor of a freak car accident. His wife (Alice Eve) and three children lay lifeless on the side of the road, while Will is relatively untouched but panicking. Want to guess what a mad scientist like Will might do next? If you guessed that he would upload all of his beloved family’s minds into hard drives and call his clone-happy assistant, you’d be correct!
Though Replicas tries its best to flirt with the gargantuan legacy left by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in the field of scientists playing god, it barely approaches even a basic understanding of the weight of those issues. It’s as if the filmmakers made a checklist of tough conversations for the characters to have about resurrection, then shoehorned them into the film at random times, and made sure as hell that they had no relevance to the plot or character arcs. So yes, Will does talk to his wife about her concerns with his work, and about the nature of a “soul,” but this has no bearing on their relationship or his work in the slightest.
Replicas also seems to think that the audience is really interested in the exact process of Will’s experiments. Every step is explained in great detail. These scenes are edited with some (admittedly cool-looking) graphics swirling all around the room, played to tense music, as if the focus of the action is somehow algorithms and chemistry. This attention is at the expense of any emotional connection between the characters or any motivations deeper than a wading pool.
Worst of all (and I’m considering some truly terrible CGI in my assertion), Replicas has supposedly smart characters making dumb decisions. Both Will and Ed are the best scientists in their field, but neither seems to operate any further beyond the logic facilities of your average basset hound. Though I’m keenly aware of the type of genius who’s book smart but not street smart, that’s really not the case here. Their actions are framed as quick thinking and inventive, but they fail to think of even teeny, basic realities that they’re introducing through their work.
Replicas is exhausting to watch. I can see this gaining a cult following in years to come among fans of The Room and Manos: The Hands of Fate, but in my opinion we have already reached our cultural quota for these sorts of stinkers.