Julien Neaves, Sci Fi Head Writer
Plot: Humanoid simulator Evan, a replica of a late woman’s husband, becomes entangled in a plot by a hacker to remove the restrictions on all simulators.
Review: When I saw the trailer for Canadian Sci Fi flick Simulant on HBO Max I was intrigued. There was Robbie Amell of CW fame, the always lovely and dependable Jordana Brewster (Fast and Furious films), and star on the rise Simu Liu (Kim’s Convenience, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings). And yeah, Sam Worthington is in the movie too, but as an actor I find him as exciting as watching mould grow. Unfortunately, he keeps getting roles in Sci Fi and fantasy films (Clash of the Titans reboot, Terminator: Salvation, Avatar: The Way of Water) making it difficult to avoid his unique brand of bland acting. SW notwithstanding, from the trailer director April Mullen’s Simulant looked like a halfway decent android thriller. But no, there were no thrills to be had here.
I’m a glass half full kind of guy, so let us start with the positives; don’t worry, we won’t be here long. There is not much in the way of visual effects, but what they do present looks great. And there is a scene involving a female simulator that I found moving. And…we’re done.
Absolutely nothing works here. Robbie Amell’s Evan is ostensibly the lead, but it is hard to tell whether his emotionless performance was meant to replicate his replicated character or was just bad acting. He doesn’t get a pass though, as his simulator actually had emotions and the whole plot is about him being in love with Jordana’s Brewster’s Faye, the widow of the man he was created to simulate. This could have been an intriguing exploration of grief and the use of AI like we saw in the excellent Black Mirror Season 2 Episode “Be Right Back”. But Black Mirror this is not, and Evan comes off more like a creepy, robotic stalker than a lovelorn AI, while the surface writing gives poor Brewster absolutely nothing to do but try and rebuff her unrequited lover. Simu Liu tries to insert some energy into the proceedings as hacker Casey, but the writing also does him no favours. And Sam Worthington’s Kessler is supposed to be grief-driven Blade Runner-esque agent tracking down rogue simulators but the film’s AI characters show more emotional range than him.
The plot attempts to tie in the storylines of Evan’s desire for Faye and Kessler hunting Casey but it is about as smooth as razor bumps. And the few “thrilling” sequences are completely undermined by having zero attachment to any of these one-dimensional characters. The ending is supposed to be this big “whoa” twist, but it could not have been more telegraphed if it was a British newspaper. And after slogging through one uninspired scene after another (save the abovementioned one above) I was just glad it was over.
Simulant has a few decent (if unoriginal) ideas but completely fails in the implementation. In the end, it’s just a poor copy of way better Sci Fi movies.
Editor Jules’ Score: 3 out of 10
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Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.