There was a time when the name Keanu Reeves was closely associated with one of the most memorable sci-fi movies ever made, The Matrix. There are some parallels between that 1999 film and Reeves’ new vehicle, Replicas, a sci-fi vehicle as bereft of substance as it is underwhelming, in that both employed concepts that we have previously been acquainted with.

Like Replicas, a film that explores the moral and ethical consequences of human cloning, The Matrix did not come with a wholly new plot concept, which was centred on the physical world being a fabrication by a malign entity.

Roger Ebert argues that Dark City, which came out a year earlier, had more cinematic style and elegance than the Watchowski’s action extravaganza. The great late critic does have a point but it is hard to feel indifferent about The Matrix. It was a movie rich in detail and creative in its execution. Its derivativeness is easy to excuse.

“You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more,” a line, delivered by Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus in a wonderfully shot scene, which alone would have made any movie’s incompetence forgivable.

Replicas too takes on a concept that has been explored before. It nonetheless forgets that it is not the first to do as such, and presents it without depth, an edge, style or, really, a reason to watch it.

It stars Reeves as William Foster, a neuroscientist working on a project to transfer the mind of a dead soldier, by capturing his neural map, to that of an android. This is evidently one research team on whom countless analogies of the Frankenstein cautionary tales have been lost. The resurrected soldier, not unsurprisingly, kills himself ones again.

The project becomes personal when Foster loses his wife and all his three children in a car accident. The first human to be resurrected killing himself in terror fails to act as a deterrent of the implications of the project, and the neurologist proceeds to clone his family.

The plot and poorly explored themes of the movie become worse in the second and third acts. Somehow, Foster manages to hide from the authorities, relatives and friends, his children’s school and his wife’s work colleagues that they are now dead. The fact that he cannot legally resurrect a human being and that the experiment itself will cost millions of dollars that he does not have is also another hitch he manages to get past by.

Since the company that owns the project has only three cloning pods Foster and his colleague could find, he has to choose which of his family members he has to leave dead. It is not the wife, but the youngest child that does not get to come back to life. He gets to play God more by editing out the memory of that child from the rest of his family’s members before their resurrection.

The film does not say how Foster intended to explain the fact that the family is missing a child to the rest of the world, or just an old friend or a relative who would ask, “hey, didn’t you guys have a third child whose birthday I attended?”

The film is directed by Jeffery Nachmanoff, who wrote The Day After Tomorrow, a film about global warming that manages to make such a critical and existential issue a ridiculous antagonist one can fight off by staying inside. He does the same to this movie.

At a time when bio engineering is easier and inexpensive than ever before, cloning is a matter that requires serious discussion and deliberation, which the filmmakers of Replicas were entirely ill-prepared to provide us with.

A far more philosophical and profound movie about cloning is Duncan Jones’ Moon, an under the radar sci-fi film that was able to do justice to the existential implications, not just on society or humans, but the clones as well.

PUBLISHED ON Mar 09,2019 [ VOL 19 , NO 984]

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