2023, Movies

Simulant (2023, April Mullen)

This is a lame Blade Runner/Isaac Asimov rip-off which seems to completely miss a fundamental component of storytelling. That component isn’t necessary to all stories but if there are other problems, then it’s pretty fundamental.


The setting of this film is full of clichés. That’s nothing unusual for 21st high concept science fiction but this one owes way too much to Blade Runner (the simulants are replicants and it covers similar philosophical territory) and Isaac Asimov, whose “Three Laws of Robotics” this film not only steals but repeats them ad nauseum, to the point where you wonder why people haven’t risen up in rebellion just to make that company stop repeating the rules.

The film has a pretty good cast for its super cliche script and plot. But that doesn’t do anything to help. The production values around the cast are also pretty decent, at least they looked that way on the plane. Again, that’s not enough to salvage this transparently derivative concept.

I think this might all be passable in a well-made-cliche-science-fiction-film kind of way if it wasn’t for the total lack of an audience surrogate. Arnell’s character is supposed to be, I guess, but he’s not positioned as such in the early going. (He’s literally Brewster’s toy husband.) Worthington’s character seems a much more likely choice but SPOILERS!!! they kill him off. And his death isn’t treated like the audience surrogate’s death would be treated. Liu’s character absolutely isn’t the audience surrogate. And obviously Brewster’s can’t be given SPOILERS!!! how she dies. So how exactly is the audience supposed to choose sides between Worthington’s character’s position – that the simulants can’t be trusted – and Liu’s character’s position?

It almost feels like the movie wants us to accept that this is the future, and we need to think deeply about the issues, or something. But it’s so derivative it’s a joke. If you’ve seen any science fiction film with robots that look like people, you’ve encountered this debate. There’s nothing new about this movie’s interpretation.

And if the movie exists just for its twist, it’s a long slog to get to that twist, again with nobody to root for on the way.


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