Saturday, August 31, 2019

Movie Reviews: Replicas

directed by Jeffrey Nachmanoff
Replicas is a example of how even a movie that has A-list stars is still subject to story limits. Top stars paired with a great story usually means a great movie. Top stars paired with a mediocre story often means a mediocre movie. And top stars weighed down with a sh***y story usually means a sh***y movie, for example, Replicas

It's a mystery that the head producer and studio executives didn't watch this completed movie, pull a sap or baseball bat out of their desk drawer, yell "Come here, come here!" and chase the director and writers of this tripe around the office and through the building, trying to belt them upside the head. 

If I gave someone $30 million dollars and they turned in this crap I would do them bodily harm. I would presume they were deliberately trying to get me fired. If I were the studio head, owner or distributor and learned that an executive spent $30 million of company money on this movie I'd fire them before they left on Friday. I'd call competitors to ensure, as the hoary phrase goes, that the offending person would never work in this town again.

Some say there are only a limited number of stories. I don't know. I do know that there are some common themes which inspire or lurk behind many films or books. We need romantic/physical/sexual love. We want material success. We fear the unknown. We want to live and avoid illness and death. We want to protect our loved ones-whether they're young and naive or old and frail. Those themes are what the viewer is set up to expect will be explored in Replicas. Unfortunately they were ignored or ineptly handled.
William Foster (Keanu Reeves) is a neuroscientist/project manager working  at your typical ominous mega corporation. His boss (John Ortiz) doesn't walk around with an "I'm evil" shirt but his threats and sudden appearances and disappearances unsubtly inform the viewer that he's the bad guy. Foster's job is to successfully transfer human consciousness after death into an android. Replicas handwaves away all the moral and legal challenges, that Foster never considers WHO is backing this project, or that religion, philosophy and science have different and occasionally contradictory ideas about just what entails human consciousness and intelligence and individuality. Nope. 

In Replicas humans are just electrical brain impulses that can be collated and downloaded provided the brain hasn't been destroyed and the corpse is fresh. This idea was handled MUCH better in the movie Reanimator, but Replicas has no interest in a horror or camp approach. It takes itself seriously. More's the pity. Foster has so far failed in this neural transfer. This failure irritates his boss. 

Funding will soon disappear. Foster and his top assistant Ed (Thomas Middleditch) are under the gun, up against the wall, feeling the heat, and under pressure, which apparently is why Foster decides to take a family vacation with his wife (Alice Eve) and kids. Yes, that makes no sense.  Every time I'm working 18 hour days with an inflexible deadline, I say screw it and go on vacation. Don't you?

Foster is an even worse driver than he is a scientist. Driving through a thunderstorm he loses control. His wife is impaled; the vehicle skids into a nearby body of water. Foster lives. His entire family is dead. Well I guess Foster now has the fresh bodies and just as importantly the incentive to get the neural transfer and his handy dandy heretofore unrevealed clone program working properly.

Now this could have been an interesting film that asked if anyone had the right to play God, challenged the viewer with what lies beyond death, imagined that someone came back with significant emotions and responses missing. But the writers ignored all of that and went with a hackneyed evil corporation chases heroic scientist. The film didn't even do that well. This was a wasted story and wasted cast. Skip it. There is no beauty (Alice Eve aside) or prose here.
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