Human perfection. What could go wrong?
Director: Jonathan Mostow
Cast: Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, Rosamund Pike, James Francis Ginty, Boris Kodjoe, James Cromwell, Ving Rhames
RunTime: 1 hr 28 mins
Released By: BVI
Rating: PG (Violence)
Official Website: http://chooseyoursurrogate.com/
Opening Day: 1 October 2009
FBI agents (BRUCE WILLIS and RADHA MITCHELL) investigate the mysterious murder of a college student linked to the man who helped create a high-tech surrogate phenomenon that allows people to purchase unflawed robotic versions of themselves – fit, good looking remotely controlled machines that ultimately assume their life roles – enabling people to experience life vicariously from the comfort and safety of their own homes. The murder spawns a quest for answers: in a world of masks, who’s real and who can you trust?
is all about the great pretend- pretending to be more beautiful,
more perfect, more desirable than who you really are. All
you need to do is design your ideal self, then recline in
your seat at home and use your mind to control your robot
avatar. Imagine the possibilities- you may be shy, disfigured,
disabled, or even disillusioned (say with your gender) and
still be able to live vicariously through your duplicates.
Such a beguiling science-fiction conceit is at the heart of
"Surrogates". Though based on the little-known graphic
novel by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele, it is no doubt
inspired by the way people today are living their lives, increasingly
dependent upon their computers and other electronic devices
and projecting themselves into the world through them. But
despite its nifty premise and prescient relevance, "Surrogates"
is much less clever than it would seem.
Indeed, what appears to be an intelligent sci-fi thriller
mixed with good ol’ Bruce Willis action is in fact a
half-baked copy of other far superior films of the genre-
its most direct equivalent "I, Robot", right down
to casting James Cromwell as the creator of the technology
inside. But where its peers have made good on their no-more
superior ideas, "Surrogates" is content to wallow
in its simplicity, turning what is a rich promising conceit
to a one-note exploration of the human condition.
Yes, the human condition. If you believe "Surrogates",
everyone rich or poor would soon hide behind their surrogate
selves, creating a perfect world without crime, racism or
bigotry. In other words, we would be living a lie. Besides
the logical lapse of how everyone could afford what looks
to be an expensive piece of equipment, there’s also
the fallacy of assuming there’d be no human ills just
as long as we are free of the constraints of our bodies. Isn’t
the mind the root of all evil? And isn’t the mind apparently
the control over one’s surrogates?
Were screenwriting duo John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris
more imaginative, we’d be more willing to overlook these
lapses. But no, it seems the only consequence they could envisage
out of such a surrogate-inhabited world is denial. So instead
of facing up to the truth of their son’s death, Bruce
Willis’ Detective Greer’s wife simply plugs into
her surrogate and buries her pain beneath her other self.
Really? That’s the worst that could happen?
Squandered away are not just the possibilities that "Surrogates"
doesn’t even delve into, but also the limited opportunities
that it does flirt with. What about the "Dreads"-
actual human beings who reject the idea of surrogacy and live
on reservations on the outskirts of the city, their dreadlocked
leader The Prophet (Ving Rhames)? Surely it’ll be interesting
to see some sort of confrontation more than a street protest
told over the TV news.
Or how about that near future populated by our robotic selves?
Certainly besides the ability to customize our own robots,
there must be some other forms of technology that mankind
must have developed. Why then does the world in "Surrogates"
look so uncannily like our world now- the cars, the shops
and even the computers? Are we supposed to believe that almost
every other technology was halted while surrogates were being
But if "Surrogates" isn’t good science-fiction,
it’s even worse as an action flick. Reuniting with his
"T3: Rise of the Machines" screenwriters, director
Johnathan Mostow doesn’t even match up to the serviceable
standards of T3. Aside from one foot chase, action junkies
will have to wait till the last 20 mins before the already-brief
88-min movie picks up its draggy feet. Even Bruce Willis'
usual roguish charisma is absent from this mechanical affair,
leaving only to admire how wonderful a job the makeup artists
have done in making Willis appear 20 years younger with a
Like surrogacy, "Surrogates" is one great pretend-
pretending to be smarter, more exciting and more promising
than it really is. Imagine the possibilities that "Surrogates"
could have been with its clever premise… and erase all
that. This is one ho-hum thriller masquerading as intelligent
sci-fi- ultimately a poor substitute for either.
(Interesting though its premise may be, "Surrogates'"
inspiration seems to have ended right there)
Review by Gabriel Chong