The 6th Day, an otherwise forgettable Schwarzenegger flick from the year 2000, will always have a special place in my heart. It is the first movie my husband and I saw together (on arguable our first official date). I can’t remember whose choice this was. I was really into cloning at the time and Adam is an Arnie fan. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone as a first-date movie, but for us it’s perfect.
In any case, in honour of our wedding anniversary today, I thought I’d do a retro review of the film. Definitely with spoilers (I’ll even give away the highly predictable twist).
Adam Gibson (Schwarzenegger) is a helicopter pilot who is hired to fly some rich big wigs on a ski trip or something. Everyone on the helicopter is killed, illegally cloned, and resume their lives as normal. Except Adam isn’t on the helicopter. His friend Hank (Michael Rapaport) takes his place on the charter and Adam is cloned unnecessarily. He arrives home to find his clone has taken his place, celebrating his birthday party without him.
The rich big wigs behind the cloning send some inept thugs to kill Adam (because two Arnold Schwarzeneggers is too many) and he spends the rest of the movie avoiding death, trying to get his life back, and infiltrating the cloning company (who do legal pet cloning in addition to their illegal human cloning operation).
I really like the premise of this movie. It asks a bunch of questions about cloning and the nature of self. If I clone my dead dog, and give the clone all the dead dog’s memories, is it the same dog? Should human cloning be allowed to save a terminally ill child? If two people share the same memories and DNA, does it really matter who is the clone and who is the original? Do clones have souls? How do you know that you are who you think you are?
Instead of being thoughtful about exploring these questions the movie sort of just lets them hang there while you enjoy a bunch of action scenes. It’s entertaining and silly. And very very predictable.
The twist I was referring to earlier is that the character you’re following for most of the movie isn’t the original Adam Gibson, it’s Adam Gibson’s clone. Incidentally, this info is revealed by a cloning doctor played by Robert Duvall (I always forget that he’s in this). You can see why the reveal is a surprise to Arnie’s character. He thinks he’s Adam Gibson. He thinks that clones are fundamentally different from their originals (we know this because he worried that a clone of his beloved dog might somehow be dangerous). But even on first viewing of the movie I thought that the protagonist was the clone all along.
Still the movie has a couple fun bits:
- The ultra creepy animatronic doll whose announces “I have a boo-boo” when decapitated.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger becoming best buddies with his clone.
- Arnie delivering the movie’s only F-bomb in true Arnie one-liner fashion. He tells the cloning company CEO Micheal Drucker (Tony Goldwyn) to clone himself while he’s still alive, so that he can go F himself.
- There are more fun bits I’m sure, I’m just forgetting them right now.
But then there’s also:
- A company that talks big about all the good that cloning can do, uses the technology (at 1.2 million a pop) to clone the same inept thugs over and over.
- One of those thugs complains that her hair treatments cost a lot every time she’s cloned. They apparently don’t cost any time though because she gets her hair done in between scenes.
- An anti-cloning advocate claims he must shoot himself in the head so his “people on the inside” don’t get exposed. No people on the inside are ever revealed.
- Dropping the ball on a bunch of interesting ethical questions surrounding cloning.
- Unnecessary biblical allusions and mention of God.
On that last point. My least favourite exchange of dialogue in the movie comes when Arnie’s character says to the boss villain Micheal Drucker, “Who should decide who lives and who dies, you?” Drucker responds, “You got a better idea?” And then Arnie uses the G-word. I know, I should have expected this given the title, but up until that very late point in the film the movie hadn’t been religious at all. I happen not to subscribe to the notion of a man upstairs, but whatever you believe, we use scientific advancements to prolong life and prevent death all the time. Of course, the movie doesn’t labour too long on this point (or any point really). Anyway the tired old cliché that science is evil and good people believe in God is too tired, old and cliché for me to get too annoyed about anymore.
In the end, so help me, I like the 6th Day. I know it’s bad. I knew it was bad the first time I watched it. I knew it was bad the 6th time. Rotten Tomatoes’ 41% rating is actually pretty generous. And yet it will always be our movie. It will always remind me of the time my future husband picked me up from my parents house and took me on a romantic sci fi Arnie-movie date.