Keanu Reeves Replicas is an Interesting Mindbender - but could possibly collapse under the weight of its own structural detritus. By that I mean, this story lacks any sort of coherent logic or scaffolding that points in any real direction worth our attention. Sure, it could have just been good for shiggles, but this movie had loftier (if failed) goals. IMDB
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Is it me, or is Keanu making a huge come back over the last few years? John Wick 1 & 2 have been enormously successful… and now I’m hearing that there’s a new Bill and Ted’s movie on the way?!? WAHT?!? And I’ve been waiting for over a year for Keanu’s latest movie Replicas to come out, and finally it’s here! Any movie that plays with replicas, cloning, and some seriously Frankenstein science? It is definitely going to play well here on THiNC.
Have you seen Replicas yet? No? It’s OK, this is a condemnation free zone. So what is it about? Will Foster, a scientist working on a digital solution to transferring a dead person’s consciousness in order to sustain that person’s life. And when Will’s family has a horrible car accident, Will takes matters into his own hand, and attempts to resurrect his family from the dead. Well, obviously, it definitely doesn’t go to plan.
Generally, this isn’t a movie review site. But rather a movie discussion site. Which means? We talk about the movie from start to finish, and then deep dive on all the possible potential meanings or interesting ideas coming from the movie. Which means, that from here on out, you need to be aware of about a billion different spoilers. So yeah, if you haven’t seen the movie, please do us both a favor and watch it, then continue on further. Ok? Otherwise I will be very very angry at you. Grrrrr. See? Angry.
Replicas Movie Walkthrough
Will (played by Neo, I mean, Keanu Reeves) and Ed (played by Thomas Middleditch – you know, the Verizon guy? Oh, he also has been on Silicon Valley) are on the verge of solving the last remaining technical problems to his transferring a dead person’s memories and consciousness over to a mechanical robot for the company Bionyne. But their time is running out. Their funding is about to be pulled if they don’t successfully transfer soon.
But Will has promised his family a vacation – or something, I’m not sure why he would leave in the midst of this sort of job stress – and they are heading off to a boating expedition, Will, his wife, and three kids. On the way though, Will has an accident, and crashes the car into the water, killing everyone but himself. And rapidly, we are off to the land of bio-technical make believe!!
Obviously Will isn’t fine with his family being dead. So he quickly captures their brain memories and contents with his Bionyne patent pending, eye-piercing, technique. And once he has the contents of their brains on a hard drive, now the question is, where shall we implant them? Back at Bionyne, they had been failing at implanting the brain contents of deceased humans in robots… but as luck would have it, Will’s friend Ed, he happens to have a cloning technique that will replicate Will’s family. PHEW! Oh… but Ed only has three boxes, and he doesn’t have enough boxes for all four of his dead family members. So, what does Will do? Well, in a scene straight out of The Killing of a Sacred Deer, he randomly chooses not to reproduce Zoe. Better yet? He deletes any traces of Zoe from their memories on their memory hard drives.
Are you catching all of this?
Well, whether you are, or you aren’t, we have ground to cover. So yeah, Will isn’t out of the woods yet, because he still isn’t sure he knows how to successfully transfer the memories to their new cloned bodies. In his lab, every attempt has failed. But he realizes in a flash of brilliance, that is because he’s been trying to send the memories into a hardware edifice. But, in a flash, Will realizes that because the clones aren’t metal, it’ll work. And sure enough he does it. He manages to impregnate (wrong word? huh, seems right to me here) the brains of the three clones with their memories (sans the memories of their sister, and daughter, Zoe.) But work is still sooooo demannnnnding!!! Especially now that his boss has revealed that Bionyne isn’t a medical company, and his name isn’t Jones. And if he doesn’t solve the work problem he’s going to bust him for cloning his family without any sort of permission. Or something? And, so yeah, they still want the 345 test to succeed, which was the ability to inject the human memories into the mechanical robot form. He eventually figures out that he needs to write an anti-rejection algorithm for the memories (I am just the messenger here). And when he does, he extracts his memories from his own cranium and implants them in the 345 robot.
When Will learns that Ed has turned traitor, in order to avoid the enormous legal trouble the two of them are in, Will seems to be up a creek sans paddle. But, of course, the 345 duplicate of Will comes to their family’s rescue at the last minute.
I Skipped Explaining A Lot Of This Movie
Normally, I can’t stop myself from telling you every single detail of the movie so that we are able to discuss it more fully. But this time, even I was shocked by how brazenly lame some of this tech stuff felt. For example, when Will’s cloned wife came to, she carried herself like a fairly clueless robot would. And when the replicas began to wonder about their phantom memories of a girl that didn’t exist, Will just decided that rewiring his new children’s brains was the way to go.
Think about this for three seconds and you’ll realize how inconceivably difficult this would be just in the real world, let alone in one’s brain. Zoe needed to be removed from every photo ever taken on every phone in the world. She would need to be eradicated not only from the photos on the walls, but also on the internet. Facebook anyone? Google photos? OH! Never mind the fact that the police would soon be wondering if Will had turned cannibal and eaten his daughter. Right? She does have a social security number one would assume. This was a thread of the movie that didn’t need to occur. OR, that is what the movie needed to be about. Kind of like an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind crossed with The Killing of a Sacred Deer. But instead this movie went 100% down the moral abyss path – and yet, didn’t adhere to the rules and strictures necessary to make this approach work. And so a lot of these crazy side threads just came off as half-cocked in my book.
Replicas Movie Explained/Discussed/Dissected
Literally, the only way to look at a movie like this one – a movie that talks about the chaos of medical technology in a modern culture – is to look backwards to 1818. Huh, exactly 200 years ago. And what could we possibly learn from a 200-year-old insight for a Keanu Reeves movie? Well, a lot actually, if the inspiration we are talking about is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. But what does Frankenstein have to do with this particular movie? Great of you to ask, self…well, actually, they are literally the same story. In every way. Sure, the tech has been updated a little (though not much, seeing as though the technology illustrated here is so thin and so vague) but at the heart of it, it’s a story about the reanimating of the dead and the potential evils inherent within the medical field. Better yet, it asks about the larger question of the soul. Which is, can science contain, transport, or manipulate the soul?
And while I’m sure that you think this story about Keanu Reeves and his fanciful replicas is fiction. Well, you’d be wrong. This is going to sound tangential, but the other day I read an article about how China was losing track of the various individuals who have had their DNA edited via CRISPR. If that doesn’t sound like the beginnings to a plot of a horror movie, well, then you aren’t paying attention. (If you want to learn more about the craziness that is the wickedly powerful technology that is CRISPR, check out this podcast from Radiolab.) Science is racing ahead of ethics and isn’t even pausing to ask the basic questions of “should we?” When there is money to be gained, there is literally no way that legislation, or medical boards, could possibly contain man’s “entrepreneurial spirit.” So it always makes me chuckle when I read the Op-Eds complaining about the advance of science and the need of the UN, and in the United States, to contain XYZ technology. But regardless, yes, there is a lot of room in this space for Replicas to run wild. But instead, the screenplay is too worried about a happy ending. Too worried about ticket sales than about making any sort of coherent sense.
The Ending of Replicas Explained
When the movie wraps up, Will convinces his boss to stay quiet about his replicas, and to partner with him in a little side business of giving rich Saudis eternal life. Uh. What? Literally. Oh, and we also see that Zoe is reincarnated once Ed is able to get them the two boxes they need in order to replicate Zoe and Jones. (Can someone explain why they didn’t just let him die for good? Because they promised him he would live again? And they are the good guys?)
But let’s go back to the book of Frankenstein as our template of where this movie should have gone as a warning against the evils of too much medical power in the world. At the end of the book, Victor Frankenstein (the creator of the monster) dies running from the hands of his own creation. And the monster dies after seeing that his creator has perished. And, in the second to last paragraph of the book, Shelley has the monster give us this brilliant oratory soliloquy:
Frankenstein wants to flee from his problems, and the creature wants revenge for having been created.“I shall die, and what I now feel be no longer felt. Soon these burning miseries will be extinct. I shall ascend my funeral pile triumphantly and exult in the agony of the torturing flames. The light of that conflagration will fade away; my ashes will be swept into the sea by the winds. My spirit will sleep in peace, or if it thinks, it will not surely think thus. Farewell.”
So, following this model, we would have had 345 chased Will to his death, along with that of his cloned wife and children. Just before Will’s death he would have realized how wrong he really was. And then achieving the death of their god, his creations would have committed suicide brilliantly.
But instead, we see the screenplay writer (Chad St. John, based on a story by Stephen Hamel) would rather congratulate their protagonist for ushering in a new age of artificially enhanced eternal life. Will, who caused the death of his own family, is lauded for his cleverness and heralded for his ability to sidestep the moral and ethical nuances of lifting his family’s memories from their decaying bodies and implanting them in clones. Consider though how we would pillory anyone that even attempted this sort of actions. Cloning himself, his children, his wife? Oh, he’d be hunted by a Seal Team and jailed somewhere near Guantanamo. We would try anyway, until the dam broke, and then we’d try and normalize relations with the coming tsunami of replicas.
Final Thoughts on The Movie Replicas
I have to say, I have a spot for our Speed Hero of yesteryear. I really do. So, even as the lights came up on this movie I was convinced I liked it. But the more I typed today, the more I realized just how horrible this movie was. Only because it could have been so good. All they had to do was to just stick to the Frankenstein playbook, dang it. (We do know that this movie went into production hell for over a year, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we found out that this film actually had a bad ending, as opposed to the ending we were given. I went looking for the screenplay for this movie, as well as a copy of the Hamel story idea, and failed on both fronts.) If they had allowed the replicas to work at first, but then to glitch out and turn against their creator it would have made more sense. But to attempt a philosophical think piece about future of medical technology that rewards their creators with happiness at the end? No. No-no-no-no. I’m sorry. But I just cannot, in good conscience, follow this logic to this particular conclusion.