June 4, 2023
by Carla Hay
Directed by April Mullen
Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed U.S. city, the sci-fi action film “Simulant” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few Asians, African Americans and Latinos) representing the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: A computer hacker illegally gives simulants (human clones with artificial intelligence) the ability to completely think on their own, and a government enforcer tries to track down and disable these rogue simulants.
Culture Audience: “Simulant” will appeal primarily to people who won’t mind watching derivative sci-fi movies about human clones on the loose.
“Simulant” is this title of this bland and poorly acted sci-fi action flick, but it could also describe how this lackluster movie is pretending to be a creative story. It’s another “human clones must be stopped” movie with no real suspense. Even if the movie’s poster didn’t give away the weak “plot twist” of “Simulant,” it still would be very easy to guess this plot twist within the first 15 minutes of the film.
Directed by April Mullen and written by Ryan Christopher Churchill, “Simulant” begins by showing a married couple—named Evan (played by Robbie Amell) and Faye (played by Jordana Brewster)—having what appears to be a stable and loving relationship, somewhere in an unnamed U.S. city. (“Simulant” was actually filmed in Canada.) The biggest problem in their marriage is that Evan keeps having a nightmare that he and Faye were in a major car accident where he was the driver and she was the passenger in their car. In this dream, the car skids and crashes into another before skidding into a lake.
The dream is so vivid, Evan thinks it’s real. However, Faye insists that nothing like that ever happened to them. But in a movie called “Simulant,” which is about trying to control human clones (called “simulants”) from thinking for themselves, you can easily predict what Evan’s nightmares really mean. It’s explained early on in this completely unoriginal movie that these simulants can be purchased by people who want clones themselves or their loved ones.
The simulants have artificial intelligence that allows them to look and act like real human beings, if the simulants are programmed that way. Brains of the simulants must keep active, or else the brains will atrophy, just like human brains. Most simulants are purchased to be employees, such as Evan and Faye’s housekeeper simulant named Lisa, who wears a creepy mask that makes Lisa look more like a robot than a real human being.
Simulants must also follow these four basic rules:
- Do not inflict harm on another human being.
- Do not modify themselves or other simulants.
- Acts against international and local laws are forbidden.
- Obey all commands from simulant masters.
When someone dies, a simulant can replace the dead person. It’s supposed to help people with their grief over a loved one’s death. But it’s also caused an underground resistance movement of people and humanoids who want the simulants to be free to make their own decisions and have their own lives, independent from the simulants’ masters. It’s led to a government crackdown where armed agents who work for the Artificial Intelligence Compliance Enforcement (AICE) are tasked with hunting down “rogue simulants.”
One of these AICE agents is named Aaron Kessler (played by Sam Worthington), a generic tough guy who spends a lot of time in the movie trying to find a rogue simulant named Esmé (played by Alicia Sanz), who has been hiding for more than three years. Esmé has superhuman strength, so the action scenes with her are very predictable. Aaron has a hatred of simulants because his only child was killed by a simulant. “Simulant” clumsily handles the Evan/Faye storyline and the Aaron/Esmé storyline with a character who comes into contact with all four of them: a computer hacker named Casey Rosen (played by Simu Liu), who is suspected of being one of the technology rebels who are setting simulants free.
“Simulant” is so lacking in suspense and is just filled with nonsensical chases, it reeks of lazy storytelling. None of the characters in “Simulant” comes close to being interesting, and the cast members’ performances are reflections of the characters’ hollow personalities. “Simulant” is another B-movie where the “b” could also stand for the boredom that viewers will feel while watching this pile of sci-fi mush.
Vertical released “Simulant” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on June 2, 2023. DirecTV premiered the movie on May 5, 2023.