Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Rapaport, Tony Goldwyn, Michael Rooker, Sarah Wynter, Robert Duvall, Terry Crews, Rodney Rowland, Wendy Crewson, Taylor Anne Reid, Jennifer Gareis
Directed by Roger Spottiswoode
Expectations: Cloned Arnold? The more Arnolds the merrier!
[I spoil the end of the movie below. Read at your own discretion.]
I gotta say: for the amount of fun I had re-watching The 6th Day, it feels a bit cruel to slap it with a meager 2½-star rating. But as much as I enjoy this one, I am aware the entire time that I’m enjoying it despite its flaws. The 6th Day is also trying fairly hard to resurrect an older style of Arnold movie with less-than-perfect results. There’s a lot about this one that screams Total Recall, but recalling Total Recall while watching The 6th Day only drives home the fact that The 6th Day isn’t Total Recall. It’s also not an action movie, but at times it tries to be, so as the film progresses it never quite scratches the itches it gives you. But whatever, it has two Arnolds! That’s gotta count for something!
The 6th Day tells the story of Adam Gibson (Arnold Schwarzenegger), an everyman who operates (and presumably owns) a helicopter charter service. One day he receives a job to take cloning billionaire Michael Drucker (Tony Goldwyn) to the top of a snowy mountain. Don’t ask why. I don’t know, and I’m not sure if the screenwriters knew either. Perhaps Drucker wanted a drink of water and only fresh mountain snow would do. Anyway, it’s also Adam’s birthday, so his partner Hank (Michael Rapaport) tells Adam to take off early and let him take Drucker to the top of the mountain to get his snow water. Adam agrees, setting into motion a series of events that will change his life forever.
The near-future setting is by far the most successful aspect of the film (not counting my boy Arnold 🙂 ). It plays with a future that uses the ’90s experiment that resulted in Dolly the Sheep as a jumping-off point, attempting to leverage people’s then-current built-in fear/fascination with clones and translate it into
social commentary stacks of cash. Cloning people is obviously a big no-no, but I can imagine the other applications seen in the film becoming reality. Re-Pet, for instance, the service for cloning your dying or recently deceased pet, would be a multi-million dollar business almost immediately. Personally, I would reject the clone pets as “fake,” like Adam in the film, but I would guess others would be far more welcoming.
Take the CG in this film as an example. When Adam talks with Hank about his qualms with Re-Pet, the pair are riding in a slightly futuristic helicopter. The exterior shots of the helicopter show that it is clearly created via CG and inserted into a photographed landscape. The CG isn’t bad or even obvious, but when I look at it I can’t help but think, “That’s CG.” I’m of the opinion that CG will always be noticeable to the human eye, no matter how “good” it gets. It remains a construct, that, when placed in front of actual photography, will always present itself as something slightly off. And this is where I get to thinking that at some point the film industry will move away completely from traditional photography, adopting something of an Avatar model of digital filmmaking within a pre-constructed digital world.
In the case of clones, if the cloned pet (or human?) was as perfect as the film claimed, there would be no way to tell and thus the human ability to bond would take over and the clone business would thrive. Ultimately, this is the underlying theme of The 6th Day, as we come to find out that the Arnold we’ve been rooting for is actually the cloned Arnold. But in that moment that we find out, we realize that the clone is capable of everything a human is, and as such is worthy of our affection. We seamlessly go from rooting for “this Arnold” and wanting “this other Arnold” out of the picture, to rooting for both Arnolds to triumph. And then they get to have scenes together! I am beside myself, enjoying Arnold being beside himself!
The climax involving both Arnolds is not an action tour de force on par with true Arnold classics, but just the fact that we are rooting for — get this — TWO Arnolds makes it twice as exciting as it normally would have been. So it actually ends up being damn entertaining and a great release to the tension leading up to this climax. The 6th Day is fairly light on action overall — it’s more of a sci-fi thriller — so the explosive climax is welcome and satisfying. Unfortunately, the editing in these action sequences is on-par with the standard of the late ’90s/early ’00s, which is to say, “It’s shitty.” Not shitty enough to ruin anything, but shitty enough to take you out of the scene multiple times to think, “Boy, that’s some shitty editing.” But like noticing the CG, perhaps this is not something that everyone would think?
The 6th Day is too long for its own good, and it’s not as exciting as it thinks it is, but every time I watch it I grow fonder of it. It really has a lot going for it, like: Michael Rooker in a Michael Ironside Total Recall lead henchman role, the film debut of Terry Crews, Robert Duvall, dope laser pistols, and Tom Woodruff, Jr. & Alec Gillis’s Amalgamated Dynamics delivering fantastic makeup FX work! Oh, and did I mention there are two Arnolds???? 😎
But beyond my paltry jokes, I really connected with the intriguing premise of The 6th Day. What would happen if you were cloned and the cloned you took over your life? Pretty scary stuff to consider (if you can suspend your disbelief enough), especially when you consider that the film is about billionaires clandestinely cloning humans. For all we know this is exactly what some billionaire out there is doing! For that matter, maybe I’m a clone and I don’t know it! Or maybe you are! Or maybe we all are! AAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Next up in this chronological journey through the films of Arnold Schwarzenegger is Collateral Damage from director Andrew Davis! See ya then!