If you’re a fan of The Matrix, Bladerunner, and I Robot, then you’ll have an idea of what to expect from Surrogates. In a way, it is a surrogate of all these movies — a virtual puppet in the whole sci-fi robot genre with them pulling all the strings. Set in a futuristic version of present day, naturally, it’s up to one man to save the world from utter destruction.
What was originally an idea for the physically handicapped and limbless population, this ground-breaking technology has advanced from brain operated mechanical limbs to full body surrogates. In fact, it has become so popular that now anyone on any budget can have their own surrogate running around, going to work or out to play, while the operator remains safely at home. Diseases and violence are down by staggering percentages, and even wars are fought with troops safe from any harm.
When the son of the surrogate program creator Dr. Canter (James Cromwell) is found dead due to an attack on his “surry”, FBI Agents Greer (Bruce Willis) and Peters (Radha Mitchell) are sent to investigate the baffling case. When the agents discover that a new gun-like weapon has been created that can kill operators through their robots, they have to dig deep within their own agency to find out where it came from, who has it, and how to stop them before the entire human race is wiped out.
Everyone in this movie has a surrogate, including Willis, who sports a rubbery younger version of himself with blonde hair. Though Willis can still take quite the beating in an action flick, it’s a little funny that he is the only one in the movie that had to be made to look younger as a surrogate, unlike the rest of the cast, who were made to look older as operators. It’s almost a little joke at the apparent wish of movie-goers to have their actors never grow old. The plot is solid, though predictable, and at times it was confusing since they tried to cram an entire graphic novel into a minuscule 88 minutes. It felt desperately rushed, especially at the end.
The cast is well rounded, including Ving Rhames as the leader of a humans-only group of renegades, and Rosamund Pike as Greer’s surrogate-addicted wife. All did a good job — no complaints about the acting — but of course, Willis still ruled the roost in a stand out performance. Not only did he have to play a slightly emotionless robot (with blonde hair! Still can’t get over that…), but he had to play the older version of himself, that is forced back out into a world he barely remembers when his surry is destroyed.
With director Jonathan Mostow (Terminator 3) on board, I was expecting some pretty amazing special effects, but instead got something cheesy. Sometimes the surrogates were an upgraded version of a mannequin, and sometimes they were real people standing still like statues. The difference was distractingly easy to see. The rest of the effects make G.I. Joe look revolutionary and the cinematography is full of over-saturated colors and oblique angles. It’s obvious the decided ambiance was to have a shallow and fabricated look, but the props all looked like day-glo toys. Even the super-weapon looked less like a tool of destruction and more like a Slap Chop.
Surrogates touches on a fairly popular subject that’s been circulating through Hollywood and showing up on the silver screen, e.g. Wall-E, Gamer, and the upcoming Avatar. All touch on how far we would be willing to go with the realm of virtual reality in order to have the luxuries of anonymity and the safety of living your life from behind a screen. Sorry Hollywood, the Internet is here to stay, and the idea of a technology-free Utopian society is about as silly as Bruce’s wig.
I give Surrogates 3 ‘Slap Chop death rays’ out of 5.
by Rachael Edwards