Friday, December 8, 2023
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Simulant Review

Throw around as many disconnected narrative patterns as you like, Simulant, it is all lah-di-dah when the hackers and overthrowing the eerie, Black Mirror government shuffles through. Charlie Brooker ruined everything for audiences who are even somewhat aware of his once-threatening and menacing programme. Now viewers are wiser to his weirdness and so too the lack of it in other sci-fi, particularly the lower budget, yet highbrow draws of shlock like Simulant. Dismiss Sam Worthington and Simu Liu’s presence here, their careers peak and crescendo with the tides of major budget franchising. To fill the time in between, they ham it up and slow it down with pieces like this from April Mullen. Should it be any surprise the mind behind Wander is now in charge of this? 

A little, yes. At least Wander had the oddball relevancies of the podcasting hellhole to it. But so too did Don’t Worry Darling and that has died an immediate cultural death. Rightly so, it is as bland and wafer-thin as the criticisms levelled by Wander, which are frankly as tight as Hemingway’s finest when compared to Simulant. Low-hanging cameras and beanie hat-wearing protagonists make up most of the dramatics, or at least Worthington scorning makes up what constitutes thrills. “The future is forever,” an ominous entity in the sky advertises to the people who likely cannot afford a second trip around in the same vessel. Even then, the offer is there and part of what ruins Simulant is its half-hearted take on dystopian fiction.  

Tech troubles and the benefits of it used by corporations to shill a product or a previous life are used with such a lack of care it is too easy to familiarise themselves and feel uncomfortable by the simplicity of it. At least Jordan Brewster is enjoying herself in this Blade Runner meets Watch Dogs arena. Somebody has to. Certainly not the viewer. For they must settle into a feature which sees Worthington wander the streets in an ill-fitting leather jacket, handling a poor prop weapon which looks like something dreamt up for Garry’s Mod. The fatal flaw for Simulant is in its use of expected blue colour schemes, the darker palette which never looked better than it did on Children of Men. Mullen is certainly chasing that but makes the scale too big and the leading man too dull. What else can be expected of Robbie Amell? He is the generic face in which audiences can see themselves. 

If you can see yourself in the empty charms of a man with good hair and little else, then take some time to think about that. You may be a titular simulant, gurning away in front of the recent pop releases which are thankfully destined to be forgotten relatively quickly. Mullen has no specific clue as to where she wants this science-fiction trip to go, and subsequently loses out on the chance to catch wind of a real criticism of comment on the ever-growing fears replicants, artificial intelligence and the fear of the future can bring. It should be easy enough, and considering the large swathes of sci-fi already out there, it is clear there is plenty to run from and hide away. For Simulant to learn and do nothing is a slap in the face for the viewer, but a definite sign of laziness on the part of writer Ryan Christopher Churchill.  

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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