Tuesday, February 09, 2010


Well, it’s back to loud, SFX-laden action movies, at least for the moment. SURROGATES takes place in a near-future world where people have stopped leaving their houses and live their lives vicariously by means of amazingly life-like robots which they control mentally through a vast computer network. Also, there are enclaves of humans who rebel against the concept of robot surrogates and think that people should go back to living in their own bodies. Got all that? If you can accept that premise, the rest of the movie makes sense for the most part.

What you wind up with is a world full of amazingly good-looking people, because who’s going to pay good money for an ugly surrogate? It’s an idyllic world, almost free of crime, but then somebody starts murdering surrogates, which also kills their human operators, who are supposed to be protected from such dangers by fail-safes built into the computer network. Obviously, someone has found a way around those fail-safes.

Bruce Willis is an FBI agent assigned to investigate the case, using his own robot surrogate. (Wait a minute. If there’s no crime anymore, why does the FBI still exist? Oh, never mind . . .) Willis’s surrogate gets trashed in one of the many action sequences, and the FBI won’t give him another one because of course he’s one of those maverick cops who plays by his own rules. So he’s forced to carry on the investigation in his actual human body, which is, not surprisingly, a lot scruffier than the surrogate version.

This is a pretty silly movie, but it’s also pretty entertaining if you just go with it, and it has a very effective ending. Willis has played the beat-up but still hardnosed cop role so many times he could probably do it in his sleep, but he doesn’t phone in his performance and is especially good in the scenes where his human self has to adjust to being out in public again after years of using a surrogate. I liked SURROGATES, and if you’re a fan of futuristic action movies, I think you probably will, too.


Caine said...

Nice Review. Thanks for not busting the movie for it's more "goofy" elements and slamming it. It's nice to have found a reviewer who can review the movie in it's entirety.

James Reasoner said...

Goofy is good most of the time, as far as I'm concerned. As long as a book or movie has enough internal logic and consistency, I don't care how over-the-top it goes.

Lagomorph Rex said...

I really like how, on the commercials for this DVD, they omit any mention of it being Sci-Fi and just have some quick cuts and Bruce Willis growling " we've got to get that weapon back! " then it cuts to the " buy it at walmart now! " bit..

Carl V. said...

I have no doubt I'll enjoy this once I get a chance to watch it. I generally am not disappointed with Willis' films, even when they are silly.

Steve Oerkfitz said...

Movie had a premise that could have been interesting but instead of developing that they just turn it into another action pic. SF is seldom done with any respect in films.

Charles Gramlich said...

I see this appears to be based on a graphic novel. I saw it in the SF book club mailing. I may get the book.

WalkerP said...

Dude, this movie absolutely sucked. I actually kind of enjoyed watching it, as it brought me back to that period in the late 80s and early 90s when the *best* popular science fiction films was drek like Total Recall.

The worst (of many) sins of this movie is what Steve Oerkfitz points out in a comment above: the principle conceit was completely undeveloped. Other than the one lame 80s punk couple on the subway, nobody did anything interesting with their surrogates. Can you imagine what a world would be like where we could custom-build our own bodies? We'd have all kinds of bizarre exaggerated sexual traits, walking furries, insane athletes, rock stars who really looked like Gwar, anime kids. The list goes on and on. And here all they can do is make them look like a bunch of hollywood extras. This movie was so not over the top.

And just as a movie it was terrible. I mean Bruce Willis isn't even in the climactic scene! And what is that scene, a guy forcing a fat nerd to tell him which buttons to press. Whoo, exciting!

I appreciate you wanting to give it the benefit of the doubt and I was fine with the goofiness. Bruce Willis is always likable. But Surrogates was really, really bad. And I watched it on a plane, where one's critical faculties are usually quite dulled!