In the world of cinema, from the very beginning, artificial intelligence and the threats to humanity when it comes to technology have been explored through various mediums. One of the first films to delve into these themes was the German classic Metropolis which is still beloved today as one of the original sci-fi movies but also marked the first time artificial intelligence appeared on a screen.
Many years later, people like Star Wars, Bounty Hunter, and many more have shown an explosion in the popularity of technology in film. In 2023, the beginnings of on-screen realities could be reaching everyday consumers in the rich world, especially as concepts like ChatGPT expand and develop.
But in the Canadian movie simulant, the foundations laid by previous movies and television shows are once again explored. The film, directed by April Mullen, stars Robbie Arnell, Jordana Brewster, Simu Liu, Sam Worthington, and Alicia Sanz. It was released in its native Canada before expanding to a US release in June 2023.
Set in a world where artificial intelligence, technology, and simulations are commonplace, and robots walk the streets alongside normal humans, it seems all too easy for someone to buy an android or robot to help out around the home. But avid fans of the genre may already be aware of this well-known fact: be careful what you wish for. When robots learn human emotions, they could rebel and reverse the power dynamic.
A world of simulations and regulation
simulant begins with a tragedy: the protagonist, Faye (Jordana Brewster), recently widowed. Faye isn’t dealing with the circumstances of her husband Evan’s sudden death, especially since she survived the accident that claimed her life. In the world of this movie, humanoids and androids are a very real concept—the couple even has one that makes them breakfast every morning. This mix of robots and contemporary life proves to be very convenient for Faye, as she ends up acquiring a simulator that is meant to replace her late husband.
However, the new version of Evan is struggling with the circumstances of the original Evan’s death, as he continues to have memories of the accident that killed him. At first he doesn’t realize he’s a pretender, so when he finds out the truth, he crushes him. At first, he thought he was a normal human and the original Evan, but this knowledge leads him to go out and try to figure out the meaning of what it means to be human.
But as the camera pans away from Faye and Evan’s situation and towards the outside world, where holograms dictate the merits of living forever as a simulant and the streets are full of them, it quickly becomes obvious that they are coming into play more important problems on all of them. this.
When the camera shifts from Faye and Evan to Aaron Kessler (Sam Worthington), who works for a government agency called AICE (Artificial Intelligence Enforcement and Compliance), a different context is provided. He was first seen trying to apprehend a simulacrum on the run and as the audience learns early on with him, there have been entire groups of simulacrums breaking free from their owners’ control and living outside the script set for them. . even if it means attacking humans in the street.
A hacker is on the loose, allowing simulators to discover the true range of human emotion and thought. After stopping a simulant, he crosses paths with his neighbor, Casey Rosen (Simu Liu). It turns out that Casey also knows Faye. Throughout the plot, these coincidences keep coming up and all the characters are linked even when their connections don’t feel so organic. Evan’s quest to discover the meaning of life from him, even if he is a humanoid simulation, sets him on a collision course not only with the wanted hacker on the loose but also with a possible uprising and government crackdown behind it. scene.
Reduced bets and predictable situations
From the beginning, simulant he plays all his cards early on, making him and his characters’ motives quite predictable. Many of the characters are quite static, their motivations are straightforward. The most complex character is Liu’s Casey, who, with (or perhaps despite) his fondness for Russian literature and politics, manages to become a mastermind working against the established system and society.
It takes a while to get to the suspenseful elements of the film; the plot doesn’t begin until around 45 minutes into the movie when Evan is able to go out and explore the world on his own terms. But even then, the stakes feel low. But even when the suspenseful elements are intertwined and fed into the film, they feel non-existent and move at a leisurely pace.
The main cast of the film does an excellent job of anchoring the subtext, bringing the film more to life, and creating something that is quite easy to watch. simulant it runs for an hour and 35 minutes, which is the perfect length in the film’s current form. Although we come to understand the motives behind Evan’s actions and why he ends up making the decisions he does throughout the film, the emotional payoff is poor for the viewer. As a character, he can be easily understood through his motives, but as a protagonist, there just isn’t enough for the audience to care beyond the trope of what he’s like as a simulation trying to figure out how to be more human after encountering a woman. devastating revelation.
Each character opines from a different side of the arguments behind artificial intelligence and the rise of technology in everyday life, but one thing Simulant does not take into account is the socioeconomic dynamics that intervene in such decisions and purchases. The basics are established early on, but in the world of the film, the characters are portrayed as wealthy elites, or those who held, or hold, positions of power and influential jobs and become disillusioned with the system as a whole.
There are many missed opportunities for the script and story to explore what makes this world within the film unique as a whole, aside from the fancy imagery and repetitive government holograms that send messages to the general population.
Simulant gets the point across
As artificial intelligence and its use become more widespread around the world, serious ethical concerns have already been raised. Whether it’s the writers’ strike in the United States, putting Hollywood on hiatus indefinitely, or the endless possibilities that come with using AI in the workplace, the news cycle and everyday conversations are becoming more and more about technological advances.
simulant delves into familiar concerns on these issues, testing the waters on themes and themes that have been a staple in the science fiction genre for over a hundred years. There’s nothing new or entirely groundbreaking about the territory the film covers, but it still manages to tread these waters without feeling like it’s entirely like a rehash of another movie.
The film’s cinematography and visuals add another layer that makes the film more attractive to watch at all times. Although there is an underlying fondness for aerial drone shots, some scenes, especially when combined with more sci-fi elements, add an element that makes them more interesting to watch.
However, the film’s editing can be jarring and chaotic throughout, scenes tending to jump from one moment to an entirely different character and plot elsewhere. And perhaps that could be what some describe the film as a synthesized group of ideas put together to form a cohesive narrative, but without the execution that would take it to the next level.
By its end, simulant does the job. It may not reinvent the wheel when it comes to the specific subgenre it lives in, but it’s quite effective at getting its points and messages across throughout its runtime. However, it gets bogged down in details, jumping from character to character to cram in all the subplots before it’s too late. Sam Worthington’s character, Aaron Kessler, becomes a victim of this; The character of him and the story arc of him feel unnecessary at times, as they don’t add as much value to the grand scheme of things. It’s a solid effort, but audiences may not be eager for movies like this.