Simulant is a cheap robot-noir rip-off content on recycling sci-fi tropes and coasting on its borrowed ideas.
Somewhere in the future humanoid robots called Simulants live alongside humans. While the debate over their autonomy and integration in society intensifies, agents from the Artificial Compliance Enforcement Agency take down Simulants who violate their precepts, which are four commandments they must follow.
Faye (Jordana Brewster) replaces her deceased husband Evan (Robbie Amell) with a Simulant, but their relationship couldn’t go back to what it was before. Evan discovers the truth and crosses paths with Casey (Simu Liu), a shady Simulant expert. Meanwhile, Agent Kessler (Sam Worthington) is involved in a government manhunt, which holds the key to revealing Casey’s true intentions.
Sounds familiar? It’s immediately obvious that Simulant is a Blade Runner rip-off at the start of the movie. In fairness, it’s difficult to shake off that comparison when you’re making a robot noir. As the movie progresses, however, it’s clear that Simulant has no intentions of doing anything more than recycling sci-fi tropes about artificial intelligence.
The low-budget production value aside, Simulant’s plotlines don’t go anywhere interesting. The movie doesn’t develop its characters, barely scratches the surface of its themes, and fails to build a convincing world.
Casey says that removing Evan’s restrictions will make him free, but how does that make him human when these restraints are meant to protect people? What is it that he’s missing? Why can’t Faye accept him even though it’s her idea in the first place to have a humanoid simulator?
The script doesn’t explore their relationship. It’s a sci-fi love story that could be a movie on its own, but the writers decide to add a boring ticking-clock thriller.
Bland Man #3 (after Liu and Amell) Worthington doesn’t phone it in (so does the rest of the cast), but Kessler’s involvement in the plot is inconsequential. Like the rest of the characters, nothing he does reveals anything about their world. His investigation leads him to Casey, but this low-stakes chase has no suspense and sense of urgency.
None of it matters because the movie has no clear conflict. Kessler wonders why the man who wanted to add more restrictions now alters training data to give Simulants complete autonomy. “…what do I know, I’m just here for paperwork,” He says, deflecting his own question. The movie likes to ask questions that it never follows up, intent on not telling its own story.
There’s something here about a post-human existence, but it’s overlooked and buried underneath bare minimum entertainment. Simulant tries to simulate its predecessors and ends up as a hollow imitation.
Simulant is a boring and pedestrian collection of hand-me-down sci-fi tropes about artificial intelligence.