- on Sunday, 25 April 2010 16:13
- by Frank Wilkins
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If a film sets out to illustrate how disconnected and mechanical our lives can be because of the intrusion of computers, video games, twitter and iphones... and that film feels disconnected and mechanical, does it mean it's a successful movie? Or is it really just a poor example of art trying to imitate life?
In Surrogates, people strap themselves to a â"stim" chair, slide on headphone and eyepiece, and send their beautifully coifed, immaculately complexioned alter ego robots out into a crime-free world to perform their job tasks and conduct their social lives, while their lazy human selves veg out comfortably at home. Sounds fun, huh? The film, at times, shows great promise as it flits with many intriguing post-modern themes of the sci-fi genre such as loss of personal privacy, society's obsession with physical perfection, and the evils of over-corporatization. That's a lot to take on from Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele's graphic novel of the same name, but the problem is that the film never really demands we think much about any of this stuff. In fact, we just don't care. 1973's Westworld did a much better job of being relevant and influential while still ratcheting up the creep factor.
FBI agents Greer (Bruce Willis) and Peters (Radha Mitchell) are assigned to investigate the murder of a couple of surrogates, which mysteriously led to the deaths of their human masters. The audience is left mulling a couple of confusing dilemmas however, when we try to figure out why a homicide team even exists in a world virtually devoid of crime. And in an inexcusable abandonment of the graphic novel's sci-fi logic, why does killing a surrogate, reap equal results on its controlling human? We expect to eventually find out, but rest assured, at a scant 88-minutes, our questions will go unanswered.
As Greer and Peters track down clues, their investigation leads them through the inventor of surrogates (James Cromwell) all the way to a rebellious band of surrogate-hating humans led by a man named The Prophet (Ving Rhames).
Director Jonathan Mostow (Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines) makes it all look good and keeps things moving along briskly, but the script by Michael Ferris and John D. Brancato never really makes sense. That they fail to go anywhere with such a provocative premise is inexcusable. The science fiction genre is supposed to be a thinking man's playground with all kinds of smart musings about environmental issues, nanotechnology, and the implications of the global Internet, but somewhere along the line, the filmmakers forget this and instead turn the whole thing into a formulaic action flick with non-existent character development and unfleshed logic.
Surrogates is definitely watchable and even produces the occasional twinge of excitement - but it's mostly just downright boring. It only goes deep enough into any of its intriguing concepts to make us contemplate what direction it should have gone. The actors do as much as they can with the material, but mostly just walk around expressionless, never allowing us to care for their characters. And before you begin to wonder how robots are supposed to engage an audience, watch the late, great Yul Brenner's Westworld performance to see how it's done. In Surrogates, the who's-a-robot-and-who's-a-human twists that occasionally pop up lose all impact because there's no difference between the two.
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles are included.
Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
- Feature-length commentary track with Jonathan Mostow.
Previews - None
Music video: I Will Not Bow (3:49)
Number of Discs: 1 with Keepcase Packaging