The 6th Day

The Clones are Coming, The Clones are Coming!

The 6th Day opens with the hint of an engaging story line. I say “hint” instead of “promise” because I realize that this is “Ah-nold” (Schwarzenegger) not Shakespeare. So by lowering my expectations, if his movie doesn’t quite live up intellectually to it’s subject matter I won’t too be let down.

As the credits roll in an epileptic pace, a time line is set for our benefit. This little exposition includes the recent cloning of Dolly the wonder sheep and the completion of the human genome project. Then it turns fictional with a failed cloning attempt on humans in the near future. Subsequent legislation against the practice of human shake-‘n-bake gives us the film’s title, a biblical reference from the book of Genesis (man being made on the sixth day of creation).

There’s so much good sci-fi fodder here. From its premise, we have potential philosophical conflicts as theology and science collide. Just where should humans draw the line on genetic splicing and dicing? What are the ethical implications of cloning? On both camps the questions are equally relevant. For the scientist: are the clones fully sentient? For the religious: do the clones have souls?

The film only asks these questions briefly, let alone muster an hypothesis. As with all the good Ah-nold movies, the script is a vehicle for the action, and that’s ok. Otherworldly predators gave Ah-nold and his marines stuff to blow up. A metallic exoskeleton and a mission to terminate gave Ah-nold stuff to blow up. Same general rule applies here.

This time around, director Roger Spottiswoode is up to bat. He does a pretty good job giving Ah-nold reasons to blow more stuff up. Roger’s only claim to fame so far has been Tomorrow Never Dies. He certainly won’t be remembered for the awful Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.

The setup is very reminiscent of Total Recall, another classic Ah-nold movie. Instead of a construction worker, Ah-nold is now a corporate helicopter pilot. In lieu of stolen memories and evil corporation Rekall, Inc. are stolen identities and evil corporation Replacement Technologies. It’s CEO, Michael Drucker (Tony Goldwyn) has a big-money agenda for using human cloning as a leverage tactic against everyone from senators to pro football players. Despite it’s illegality, he’s funded a top notch cloning scientist (Robert Duvall) to do his dirty work for him in exchange for immortality for his sickly wife.

How Ah-nold gets in the middle of this is all good fun. With the element of cloning, a whole new dimension for relentless villains is introduced. To the movie’s detriment though is more than one awkward moment of gallows humor and bizarreness. There’s an entire segment that should have been cut involving a freakish “lifelike” doll that Ah-nold buys for his daughter. Then there’s a pointless scene where the evil lackeys use cloned dogs under genetic remote control to pin the daughter. Why? The more direct and less obvious approach would be to simply grab her and skip the middleman (er, dog).

Despite these few detractions, this is exactly what Ah-nold needed to recover from his dismal End of Days. I still say it’s a shame there wasn’t more debate between the religious fundamentalists and the mad scientists. Subject matter this relevant deserves a pacing as thoughtful as Gattaca. Unfortunately, The 6th Day doesn’t reflect on the human rights implications until the very end. In his own words Ah-nold concludes, “Well, enough about philosophy ah-ready!” Whip out the laser rifles.

You really can’t blame him or his movie that it barely scrapes the surface here. This is an Ah-nold movie, so it’s requisite that you don’t watch with hopes any higher than slam-bam action.

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