Thursday, November 16, 2000
The new Schwarzenegger film takes its title from Genesis 1:27, where God makes man on the 6th Day of creation. The 6th Day is all about the wrongness of playing God, a theses that''s maybe out of place in an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie--after all, he''s been deciding who will live and who will die on screen for decades now. Here, snapping the neck of a villain (Rodney Rowland) who keeps being reborn, Schwarzenegger mutters, "Try to stay dead this time."
In The 6th Day, Schwarzenegger plays Adam, a Vancouver helicopter pilot in the near future who''s on the run from an evil, omniscient bio tech company which is in the illegal business of cloning human beings. They''ve got the process down very tight. Two hours is all they need. They have a "Syncorder"--that metal thing Arnold is peering into in the posters--which dubs your personality into one of these clones. The diabolical millionaire executive Michael Drucker (Tony Goldwyn) feels that murder is necessary to cover these inventions up. But it won''t wash. Adam, cloned without Drucker''s knowledge, supposedly witnessed a crime that could reveal the existence of human clones and there''s no reason that Replacement Technologies couldn''t just kill him. They apparently own the police, and the villains would have no trouble making the death look like an accident, either--Our Hero likes to have chicken races in jet-powered helicopters. These race scenes in a narrow, snowy canyon are plainly just there to goose the movie; they''re similar and inferior to the pre-title sequence in the 007 film Tomorrow Never Dies, which was also directed by Roger Spottiswoode.
Spottiswoode and the screenwriters Cormac and Marianne Wibberley are more fascinated by the gadgets of the future than the forgettable fights and explosions, cloned one too many time from other movies. The best parts of The 6th Day are the bloodless moments--such as the one in which Adam tries to decide whether to resurrect his dog courtesy of the "RePet Corporation." The scene is like the parts of Phillip K. Dick''s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? left out of the film Blade Runner. Too creeped out to clone his dead dog, Adam brings home a toy to console his daughter. It''s a cyborg "Synpal"--a gnomish, talking fleshapoid. The 6th Day has a moment of unexpected gravity, too. Robert Duvall, as a head scientist at Replacement Technologies, has a discussion with his dying wife (touchingly played by Wanda Cannon) who wants "do not clone" as part of her Living Will. These scenes would be a credit to any serious drama.
Mock his Austrian accent if you want, but Schwarzenegger is one of the few movie stars to take speculative fiction seriously. The scene of the doctor offering him a pill in Total Recall says everything that The Matrix said, and says it faster and better. Already I''ve heard complaints about not enough asskicking action in The 6th Day. Yet the real meat of this film is the way it shows the near-permanent state of future shock in which some older men live. These days, Schwarzenegger is most watchable when he''s facing the world''s changes uncertainly, heavy jaw hanging in disbelief.