Since the emergence of such films as Ex-Machina and 10 Cloverfield Lane, and The Girl with All the Gifts in the indie science fiction motion picture scene, it is easier to be willing to give other films in that genre an increased benefit of the doubt in order to find that next great sci-fi masterpiece. Replicas is not that film due to lazy screenwriting, a confusing visual effects budget, and an unrealistic expectation for the suspension of disbelief.
Replicas stars Keanu Reeves and Alice Eve as William and Mona Foster. William is a scientist working at a specialized bio-medical facility in Puerto Rico called Biotynne that is on the verge of a successfully transferring human consciousness from a deceased host to a silicone brain hosted in a robot body. With the assistance of William’s colleague and friend Ed, played by Thomas Middleditch, the initial mental transfer succeeds, but the consciousness of William’s test subject rejects his new robot body and begins tearing itself apart before the test is shut down. Back to the drawing board. Waiting in the background of the test is John Ortiz’s Mr. Jones, the mysterious owner of the bio-medical facility who is there to notify William that their board of directors is about to pull the plug on their experiments without significant improvements on their next test.
Back at home, the Fosters, with their three kids Sophie, Matt, and Zoe, set out for a boating trip over the Christmas Holidays. On the way, and after dark, it starts pouring rain, which you should predict by now, causes a car accident when a tree falls onto their car and a branch impales Mona in the passenger seat. William loses control of the vehicle and they go over the side of the road into a pond. When William regains consciousness, he discovers that his wife and all three of his children are dead. Faced with the choice of accepting their fate or using the resources at his disposal to replicate their minds, William calls Ed to rush equipment out to the scene of the crash in order to save them as fast as possible.
Before we as an audience have any time to try and remember the names of William’s family members or to mourn their deaths, he and William have successfully transferred their respective consciousness to high-tech data drives and are at the Biotynne facility stealing other resources such as gestating pods designed for animal cloning tests.
Ed brings all the equipment to William’s home, only to discover that there are only three cloning pods, and William has four deceased family members; one will have to be sacrificed. To say a lot is demanded on the audience’s capacity for suspending disbelief is an understatement as the time it takes for Reeves’ William to get from processing that he can’t revive all his family members to putting their names in a bowl and randomly picking one for sacrifice is literally sixty seconds in film time.
In any by the numbers thriller that gets released in January, naturally there is a twist coming, but really the plot choice they went with can’t be called a true twist as it makes sense for the context of the story. The filmmakers even had a chance to include a true twist that I would have given them immense credit for but they passed it up as predictably as the rest of the film.
As seen in the trailer for the film, the robot that William was trying to transfer consciousness to at the beginning of the film does eventually work and does move around, but in the film, the visual effects work is atrocious. I was rather surprised at how poorly the robot was put together as the digital interface that William uses to conduct his work looks more sophisticated and put together than Tony Stark’s user interface used in Marvel movies and yet the robot moves as, well, robotically, as any computer graphic in the early 2000s Spy Kids movies. It makes the robot in iRobot look like Iron Man.
Replicas is the culmination of a near infinite number of missed opportunities. There are some solid science fiction ideas that could work well in a motion picture. If this story had been handled by any one of the filmmakers behind one of the other science fiction indie darlings of recent years, Replicas could have been made into something special.