‘SIMULANT’ is a futuristic film where people can make an android clone of themselves called simulant. The movie starts with a car crash where Evan (Robbie Amell) died and his simulant is activated by his grieving wife, Faye (Jordana Brewster), as a replacement.
But Faye soon regrets what she did, realizing that the simulant is not really her husband. But Evan the android insists that he has real feelings of love for her and continues to try to win her.
Meantime, a government agent of the Artificial Intelligence Compliance Enforcement Agency (AICEA), Kessler (Sam Worthington), is assigned to hunt down robots that rebel and won’t follow the rules they’re meant to obey.
One of these rebel simulants is Esme (Alicia Sanz), who not only disobeys Kessler but even hurts him, which robots are forbidden to do to humans. Upon investigation, he learns from Esme that a simulant expert who used to work for the enforcement agency has gone rogue, Casey Rosen (Simu Liu).
Casey’s goal is to delete the programming of all robots so they can just be equal to humans. This means they can be autonomous and even stage a collective uprising.
As Casey tells Evan, getting rid of his core robot guidelines would make him and other simulants like him free of their programming controls. To which Evan replies: “I don’t actually know what that means.”
Casey says it would make him more human, but judging from Esme’s behavior and later, that of Evan too, liberating them from their core precepts didn’t really make them more human, specially Evan and what he does to Faye at film’s end.
Kessler’s involvement in the story is motivated by the fact that his own son was killed by a simulant babysitter, so it’s understandable why he’s not sympathetic with them and believe that they pose a serious threat to humans. When he orders that the simulant Esme be killed by erasing all her core memories for betraying him, we actually side with Kessler and not the simulants.
But in the end, Kessler proves to be ineffective in countering what Casey has in mind. The basic existential concept of the film is quite thought-provoking and has emotional potential as it delves into love, loss and grief.
But it gets stunted by the Director April Mullen’s attempt to turn it into a thriller that pits human against robots. Once the restrictions are lifted, it is believed that the simulants can actually feel love and therefore should be allowed to live life according to their own choices.
But it’s obvious that uncontrolled simulants can be problematic and the movie’s lack of a concrete point of view only fosters confusion and disappointment in the viewer’s mind. The film obviously wants to get viewers to seriously think about these situations, but their position is not so clearly articulated.
The movie has an impressive cast. Sam Worthington is the star of the “Avatar” movies. Jordana Brewster is from the blockbuster “Fast & Furious” franchise. Simu Liu played the title role in the big Marvel hit, “Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”.
And the hunky Robbie Amell starred in hit TV series like “Upload” and “The Flash”, but he’s better known as Max in the horror comedy, “The Babysitter”, and its sequel. It’s just bad that they are not well or fully utilized in this movie, specially Sam Worthington who turns out to be playing a somewhat thankless role in a sci-fi movie that just lacks energy and tension.