Sunday, June 27, 2010

"Surrogates" (2009)

Starring Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell and Rosamund Pike
Written by Michael Ferris and John Brancato
Directed by Jonathan Mostow

In the world of "Surrogates", people live their daily lives through the use of robotic bodies controlled via computers linked to the brain.  This technology allows the disabled to walk, or to let anyone have the body they've always dreamed of having.  It means soldiers never die in battle, and that murder has essentially become a thing of the past.

Bruce Willis stars as FBI agent Tom Greer.  It seems that someone has attacked a couple of surrogates with a weapon that destroys not only the robots, but kills their human operators, something that's supposed to be impossible.  Greer and his partner, Peters (Radha Mitchell) quickly uncover a conspiracy that could end the lives of millions of people across the planet.  Soon enough, Greer's surrogate is destroyed, and he must venture out into the real world for the first time in years. 

The original "Surrogates" graphic novel is an intriguing piece of science fiction, set in a future where human beings have almost no interaction with each other outside of the use of surrogates.  The world was incredibly detailed and well thought-out.  The movie version inexplicably ditches nearly everything that made the book interesting, including the futuristic setting.  The film posits that these advancements in robotics exist now, in our time... but nothing else. 

Beyond the fact that the world of "Surrogates" in the movie doesn't make much sense, neither does the ultimate plan of the story's villain - Dr. Canter (James Cromwell), the inventor of surrogates.  Canter has decided that his creation has become an abomination and mourns the loss of "real" human life.  In the book, the plan was to force everyone to disconnect and start living their lives again.  In the film, Canter is actually planning on killing everyone using a surrogate, in the name of allowing the human race to live again.  It's pure nonsense.  His entire character is predicated on the idea that he wants people to start living their lives for real, except he's perfectly willing to kill those people.

The acting is, either ironically or on purpose, I'm not sure, robotic at best.  I suspect this is just poor performances, since even when he steps out of his surrogate shell, Bruce Willis isn't putting much effort into anything.  Rosamund Pike has a couple of scenes where she gets to emote, but otherwise mostly seems there just to look pretty.

There also isn't much action in "Surrogates," which would fit perfectly fine since there wasn't really in the book, either, except that the movie seems to want to be an action movie.  But the action sequences it presents aren't even all that great.  A motorcycle chase partway through (which was filmed outside my office in Lynn) is fairly decent, but nothing is particularly impressive or special.  It's unusual from a director like Mostow, who even though he's yet to create a film with a great story or characters, has proven himself capable of constructing fine sequences of mayhem. 

"Surrogates" is pretty disappointing all around.  The graphic novel, on the other hand, is a fabulous read, and presents a lot of intriguing ideas about human interactions and how society would change if we were suddenly able live vicariously through strong, beautiful robot bodies.