Godsend! Part of the technothriller triumvirate with Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace and Ghost in the Machine. Get it? God, Man, and the (Holy) Ghost. Thank you, thank you. Let’s get this going.
What?! Paul and Jessie have the perfect life until their son Adam is tragically killed in an accident. Approached with the possibility of cloning him, they take the chance, only to have the clone turn evil around the age that Adam was killed. Can they stop this evil Adam clone monster that they’ve unleashed on the world before it’s too late? Find out in… Godsend!
How?! The storyline starts as more of a family drama than a science fiction horror. We spend a good half hour watching a loving family get torn apart by the tragedy of a life cut short too soon. Even worse, when Robert De Niro’s creepy baby clone doctor, Dr. Wells, enters the picture (all too eager to “help” a family in mourning), you only feel sorrow. In almost any situation you would presume Dr. Wells was there to scam them with expensive false promises of cloning their lost child. But of course in this case his promises aren’t false and a new Adam is born. They live a wonderful eight years together until he begins to act super weird and have crazy violent nightmares. It would seem that he has some psychic connection to an evil, murderous child named Zachary. But who is Zachary? Twist Alert! Paul investigates and figures out that Zachary is in fact the long dead son of Dr. Wells himself! He’s a mad scientist who used Adam as a vessel to bring parts of Zachary back to life! Uh oh! When Paul confronts Dr. Wells about this things turn violent and Dr. Wells escapes. Paul recovers just in time to stop Adam/Zachary from killing Jessie. Realizing that they have a child possessed by pure evil they do what any parent would do: move away and pretend like everything’s fine… nothing to see here.
Why?! The motivations of Paul and Jessie are perfectly consistent: they mourn the loss of their child and will do anything to get him back. After they do get him back they will do anything to keep him. As for Dr. Wells, he uses a tenuous connection to Jessie to pretend that he just wants to help her with his scientific gift. Of course, after the twist is revealed it becomes clear that he shares the same motivations as Paul and Jessie for his own dead son, but chooses the evil, twisted route of incorporating his genes into Adam’s DNA without their knowledge. Finally, Adam’s motivation always was and always will be to get those sweet Reebok Pump Verticals. Pump up and air out, Adam/Zachary.
Who?! There is a nary a speck of humor in this film, so no possibility of a Planchet. No animals, no cameos, and no Presidents. The only Who?! I can think of is the fact that this was the first feature film that Mark Cuban’s production company produced. What a stain on our future President’s legacy.
Where?! Great settings film. When Adam is killed in the beginning of the film you see several cars with Massachusetts license plates in a big city. You can presume they lived in Boston. After they move to pursue the cloning, the family’s car changes from MA plates to Vermont plates. This is confirmed once Dr. Wells escapes as local newspapers list the location of the cloning center as Riverton, VT. Of course back when we were filling up the Mapl.d.map we had no way of knowing this and watched god damn A Change of Seasons for that state. What a waste. C+.
When?! No clues are given other than suggestions that the first part of the film takes place in the mid-90’s. There is a tagline from a poster for the film that says “Adam Duncan. Born: December 11, 1987. Died: December 12, 1995. Born September 23, 1996.” So if we take that at its word we have a perfect exact date as the films takes place after his second 8th birthday: September 23, 2004. All fits within the film’s context, but not clear from the film itself. D-.
I would describe the film as a slightly better version of Bless the Child until you hit the twist. From there it makes no sense with the rest of the film and leads to an stunningly bad ending (that might still have been the best of the several endings shot for the film). Woof. Patrick?
‘Ello everyone! Godsend? More like God, Send it Back! Amirite!? A couple’s child dies and Robert De Niro crashes their mourning period to reveal a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: play God, abandon the life as you know it, and lie to your child for the rest of your life and you can get him back! I mean, what is the downside?! Let’s get into it:
The Good (Sequel, Prequel, Remake) – For the most part the first two thirds of this film are at least okay. Not really “thrilling” maybe, but the acting is solid, a few jump scares here and there, and the premise is interesting enough to sustain the film for a good hour at least. Sounds like it is time for a sequel. Fifteen years later and Dr. Richard Wells is still missing, and his “son” Zachary has been quelled and is controlled within Adam, now a New York City detective. When episodes involving Zachary become more frequent, and disturbing stories of a mad doctor start to float around the precinct, Adam has a sinking feeling Wells is back to his genetic research games. Following leads through back alley clinics and mafia doctors Adam discovers with horror that Wells has perfected a procedure to transfer consciousnesses from one man to another. How does one catch a man who can change faces at will? Godsend: Face / Off. The New York Times calls it “a piss-poor sequel built entirely upon the premise that Robert De Niro refused to return to the series”.
The Bad (Seven Deadly Sklogs) – Mainly the issue with the film is that the ending is garbage. Not only that, all four alternative endings they wrote are also garbage. The writing gets seriously shaky in the third act, although it includes the gloriously evil-scientist line “Tell me something, if I’m not supposed to do this Paul, how is it that I can?” from Dr. Wells. If I had a nickel for every time I screamed that while doing my PhD work I would be a rich man. I’m not sure the sin (Lust, gluttony, greed? Probably greed), but I think all of the issues stem from the producers accidentally landing Robert De Niro and then rushing to expand his part (allegedly all shot within a very short time span). I would guess by expanding Wells into the main antagonist role they painted themselves into a corner with the ending. That’s my take anyways.
The BMT: Legacy – I do think Wells gets up there in the pantheon of evil bad movie scientists, along with Dr. Alexander McCabe from Bats. Along with that it also joins movies like The Call in which the first two thirds are pretty good and then the last act (often just the ending) ruins the entire film. Interesting, but this movie won’t be in any bad movie marathons, I don’t think. For the most part the film is too good in its first two acts to be anything that sticks around.
And wrap with StreetCreditReport.com as is usual these days. Godsend, not surprisingly, got no love at the time despite being the third lowest rated films on Rotten Tomatoes of the year. Ebert neglects it in his recap, and I found nary a list that mentioned it. But 2004 was an amazing year (Catwoman, Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2, New York Minute, White Chicks, The Whole Ten Yards!!) and Godsend is amazingly forgettable. Street cred? More like No Cred. For shame.