17 May 2010 | Movie_Muse_Reviews
A sci-fi concept well examined despite predictable story patterns
With the number of mainstream movies centered around a future human dependency on robots, it would be incredibly stupid if we actually let that happen. "Surrogates" is the latest of these concepts and surprisingly one of the more well thought-out ones. Based on the graphic novel by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele, "Surrogates" imagines a world where humans interact with the world solely through robot versions of themselves called surrogates. They don't have to leave their homes and are impervious to danger.
Writers Michael Ferris and John D. Brancato, who previously collaborated with director Jonathan Mostow on "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" and sadly also wrote the Halle Berry "Catwoman," do their best work with this script, which is of course not saying much. The positive here is that they truly embrace and explored the possibilities of a word where people don't interact with people -- just the robot versions of themselves. It's the saving grace of the film.
Bruce Willis stars as a homicide detective assigned to the very first case on record where the actual human operator of a surrogate died when the surrogate was killed. With nearly all of the planet using surrogates, any knowledge of danger would throw the world into panic. Willis -- Det. Greer -- must track down the weapon that did the damage. When his surrogate is destroyed, Greer begins to re-examine life through non-virtual eyes.
Without question, however, the concept and the setting are far more clever than the script. Ironically like robots, when you boil down the exterior of "Surrogates," it's composed of overused clichés and recycled components of Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick stories. The simple premise and thoroughly conceived world of "Surrogates" manages to override some lousy story lines and character development, but I'm not sure that most viewers who come to "Surrogates" looking for more action and less high-concept science fiction will be able to say the same.
The subplots and back stories given to Greer and other characters are throw-away. At 89 minutes long, "Surrogates" offers just enough in terms of story development to be a glorified TV detective show set in the future. The twists are foreseeable and the character motivations barely scratched at, but it keeps your attention and stays focused enough on the central story that you never have to actually dwell on the more hollow elements of the film. The venerable James Cromwell, who plays the disgruntled inventor of surrogates, has never looked more shallow in a role, but it's hardly of any consequence.
Sci-fi epiphany? None here, but a well-calculated exploration of a possible new technology - - yes. "Surrogates" is not mindless fun, but it's not artistic science fiction perfected to a tee either. It does just enough to intrigue the future-curious mind with a different cut from the same robot mold.
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