Tales of creating humanoids in labs goes back more than 200 years to Mary Shelley or to her inspiration for “Frankenstein” in Greek mythology, Prometheus.
The notion of man-made robots and especially artificial intelligence has multiplied the number of such stories in generations of sci-fi tales from “I, Robot,” “2001: A Space Odessey” and “Westworld” to “The Matrix,” “Blade Runner” and “Ex Machina.”
Canadian director April Mullen realizes she’s part of this continuum in her film “Simulant” but has nonetheless devised a decent sci-fi story despite its indie film budget. But with a surprisingly robust cast, fine cinematography and convincing, though subtle, special effects, it’s deserves its modest place in the robot takeover canon.
The film, from the first full length produced screenplay by Ryan Christopher Churchill, repeatedly pays homage to Isaac Asimov’s three rules of robotics (roughly, that a robot may not injure a human, must obey orders from a human, and protect itself where it doesn’t conflict with the first two rules).
The rules are spoken mechanically over and over, at the menacing factory where new model simulants are being turned out — as much as an improvement as the Tesla from the Edsel.
While things don’t really look too far in the future in the film (and even might be retro, with cathode ray tube TVs), one nice touch is that the corporation turning out these simulants are advertising via sky projections and holographs, constant upgrades.