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“Replicas” wants to be many movies, can’t quite be any of them

As someone with a great love of Keanu Reeves, I’ll watch pretty much any movie he’s in so when Replicas came my way, I ripped the packaging off that DVD with great delight and fervor. I mean, this was Keanu Reeves in a science fiction action movie about the dangers of pushing science too far (a theme I can get behind) and, like I said before, Keanu Reeves.

Replicas starts pretty much as expected. In a modern science facility in Puerto Rico called Ionyne (tell me that doesn’t sound perfect) where we meet Keanu Reeves’ William Foster, a brilliant doctor who’s working on a way to transfer the human consciousness into a robot, in essence, cheating death and giving the deceased a chance to live again.

The project, however, is running into a wall. The consciousness is transferring, but once it’s in the artificial body, it can’t seem to assimilate and things go very, very wrong. Foster’s under intense pressure from his boss, the always wonderful John Ortiz, who tells him that if he can’t get this to work, the whole project is going to be scrapped.

Knowing what I knew from the trailer, I was able to guess what came next pretty easily. When there’s a looming problem in a movie, fate offers a solution and the solution in Replicas is a car crash that involves Foster, his wife Mona (Alice Eve), his older daughter Sophie (Emily Alyn Lind), his son Matt (Emjay Anthony), and his youngest daughter Zoe (Aria Lyric Leabu). Next thing we know, William’s the only one alive. The rest of his family is dead and he’s understandably bereft which sets up what’s going to happen next.

Or so you think.

Here’s where Replicas takes it’s first left turn.

It turns out that while William’s been working on transferring the brain from a body into a computer, his fellow scientist Ed Whittle (Thomas Middleditch in a role I didn’t expect for him but really dug him in) has been working on cloning animals as part of another consciousness experiment.

You see where this goes, right?

Sort of.

The next thing we know, William’s calling Ed and Ed shows up with 3 pods and the equipment and whatever primordial soup they need to build new clone bodies for William’s family.

In William’s basement.

Slight issue: there are 3 pods and 4 bodies. Because all Ed could get were 3 pods from this secret facility that we won’t even get into asking how he got those three pods outin the first place. Poor William is forced to play the worst game of Eeny Meeny ever and it’s his youngest, Zoe, who isn’t replicated.

If you watch the “making of” featurette on the Blu-Ray/DVD, one of the things the filmmakers themselves tell you is that Replicas isn’t just a sci-fi film or just an action film or just an anything “insert genre here” film. And I truly believe everyone involved with the film was trying to make a movie that didn’t adhere to any specific genre or trope but explored the possibilities of the numerous challenges involved with the ethical questions involved in the science behind both human cloning and the idea of what makes a soul.

The problem is, the movie hits those questions head-on but never really asks them. It just crashes into them.

William brings his family back, in newly cloned bodies, with their memories transferred using tech that hasn’t been fully tested and then, on top of this, has to make his newly regrown family forget there was a 5th member of their family. There are some super squicky questions here about memory manipulation and god complexes and autonomy that the movie never addresses.

But that’s not enough. There are also car chases and shootouts and moral dilemmas and double-crosses and a whole side bit where William steals a bunch of car batteries to keep growing his family in pods in his basement.

In the midst of everything, the film goes for comedy. It, sadly, misses.

By the time you get to the end of the movie, you’d asking yourself what you just watched and why. Which, for me, was a real bummer because I genuinely enjoy Keanu and I thought his performance was great. I thought his family’s performance was great. I thought Middleditch was great. I thought certain parts of the film were really interesting.

It just…it was all too much. By the end, I was just glad the movie was over and I wasn’t able to even really enjoy the looming question it ended on. Which is a bummer, because it’s a great looming question.

Replicas is a passion project. Keanu Reeves has been working for a long time to get it made and I can see why he wanted to make it. My love for him makes me want to like it because I can see the possibility he saw in the movie.

But I have to say, if I were going to give this film a rating score, I’d rate it 1 Sad Keanu. It’s really all I can give it.

You can check it out for yourself, of course. Replicas is out on VOD now out on Blu-ray™ Combo Pack and DVD on April 16th.

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