Starring: Bruce Willis, James Cromwell, Radha Mitchell
Directed by: Johnathan Mostow
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, disturbing images, language, sexuality and a drug-related scene
Movie Released: 2009
I was promised a flying car years ago from scientists. Back to the Future has told me that in less than a few more years we will be zooming around town on hovering skateboards and the Chicago Cubs will actually win the World Series. But perhaps the single greatest theme in sci fi cinema is the inevitable rise of the machines. After all, what futuristic movie doesn’t have machines taking over the world? If you believe what you see in the movies, it will be almost inevitable that android robots will be wandering around the world, blending in with humans. Luckily, there hasn’t been an “Iphone app” that transforms your phone into a functioning cylon robot just yet (don’t say I didn’t warn you), but that doesn’t stop Hollywood from cranking out these futuristic tales of robot paranoia to the masses.
Surrogates happens to be one of these paranoia robot tales. Set in the future, robots called surrogates are used to interact with the world on a day to day basis. You can program your surrogate to look exactly like you (at a younger age), or you could decide to become a completely different person. As your surrogate travels around town, you sit safely in your chair, controlling the movements and interactions for the surrogate. At first glance, surrogacy doesn’t seem like a all out terrible idea, after all your surrogate is nearly indestructible. But when someone murders a surrogate using a weapon that kills it’s operator as well, it is up to a police detective to stop this killer before he kills every one of the millions of surrogate users around the world.
I stared at the screen for the 89 minutes that Surrogates ran for and left the movie with a few more questions than I had answers. My biggest question was, why surrogates? I guess the big selling point of surrogacy was that you could “be” whomever you wanted to be in the outside world. If you wanted to become a 80 year old African American woman, all you had to do was switch robot surrogates. I gathered the other benefit of surrogacy was that you couldn’t be killed as a surrogate. Say for example, you decided to have your surrogate walk out into oncoming traffic and it was hit by a car going 80 MPH. Your surrogate would be a heap of mangled metal, but your human self would be sitting safely at home unharmed. My point is, the whole idea of people using surrogates is fine, but I don’t really understand what the big appeal of them are. The film never really gives you a good answer for it as the plot plods ahead full speed.
Bruce Willis phones this sci fi action flick in as he wanders around from scene to scene delivering the mediocre dialogue that goes with this mediocre script. I know for a fact that Willis has a much better range than this and can be a better actor. However, Surrogates seems like it is Willis collecting a paycheck rather than doing anything long lasting and meaningful. Alongside Willis are performances by James Cromwell (someone most people call “that guy”) and Ving Rhames as the crazy Rastafarian anti surrogate leader known as “The Prophet.” Again, neither of these actors bring anything exciting to this bland storyline.
I really can’t blame the actors. The script is a terrible, plot hole ridden waste of paper that inevitably became a waste of celluloid. Director Jonathan Mastow’s work looks and feels much like Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, which coincidentally happens to be the last theatrical film he directed. However, this sans-Schwartzenegger flick is low on action, and high on incomprehensible techno-garble. Mastow does little to bring these characters to life, or to really make them people you want to care about. In fact, the only thing that keeps you going is wondering who is behind the surrogate/operator murders, which is only partially resolved by the film’s ending.
When it is truly all said and done, I didn’t hate Surrogates. I just really didn’t like it either. It brought nothing new to the table. It didn’t do anything spectacular, amazing or anything of the sort. It was simply just a film that was there. While Surrogates isn’t an extremely terrible film, I really can’t recommend it either. After all, there are plenty of “robot” futuristic paranoia flicks out there that are so much better than Surrogates. Why waste your time on this flick, when you could be doing something more productive?