“Maybe it’s something so crazy you wouldn’t ever mention it in public”
There’s a fatal flaw to A.P. Stevens‘ extremely short film The Clone Theory and it’s that clones are not artificial intelligence-controlled robots. At least they aren’t in my understanding of the term. To allow his character “The Human” to admit a crazy theory that clones live among us, watching our every move through social media and webcams as though they are jacked into the system mixes two sci-fi tropes into one. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if there was more to the story then that admission. At three minutes, however, Stevens has no time to deliver anything else. So rather than intrigue as a hybrid with the potential of cool genre innovations, it reads as a mistake.
The film reminds me of another where one man wore almost every hat behind the scenes as well as in front of it: Jon Alex’s 2 Kings. While that had too happening in its doppelganger thriller to seem like Alex was forcing us to realize how much work he did, The Clone Theory doesn’t have enough. This actually provides a nice clean aesthetic with Stevens sticking to a minimalist look—filming himself in close-up as though through the laptop camera reflecting in his glasses. Unfortunately, following that vantage with the reveal he ultimately delivers can’t help but confuse. Were there always two humans in the room? If not, where did the second come from? Did he materialize from the computer?
What’s Stevens’ foundation for the term “clone” as its used? There are simply too many fundamental questions like this one left unanswered to truly embrace what he’s done as more than a pitch. It’s tease to whet appetites and get his creative juices flowing for something more substantial and concrete. Science fiction isn’t a genre to take lightly—open-ended queries are ideal but only if they surround a central core. As it is, Stevens’ short is without a core. Something is obviously happening, but it’s as easily a psychotic break as it is a genuine phenomenon. We’re unable to guess which because there’s no evidence to render either true. Hopefully the filmmaker keeps going with his idea so we can one day find out.