Published Sep 24, 2009In the world of this film, nearly everyone on earth uses a "Surrogate": a robot version of him/herself that one can control while lying down at home and wearing an electronic headset apparatus. The Surrogates, beautiful and idealized versions of their operators, essentially live the humans' lives for them, with no fear of death, at least until a deadly weapon that can kill the operators through their surrogates is developed, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. You'd think that for his idealized Surrogate, Detective Bruce Willis might have chosen a better haircut than a strange Donald Trump 'do but never mind.
At the risk of sounding like a fuddy-duddy, I'd like to ask a few gentle questions about this film's logic. The chief appeal of the Surrogates seems to be that they feel no pain or, at most, feel a very muted form of pain. If pain is muted wouldn't all the other senses also be muted? Would sex be as good, or good at all? If not, why would everyone be so concerned with his/her looks? We see Surrogates receiving spa treatment in this film ― what's the point of an idealized surrogate if it spends as much time applying make-up and getting haircuts as you do?
When flesh-and-blood Willis walks down the street for the first time in years, he's overwhelmed by sensory overload ― peripheral vision and loud sirens terrify him. What good is a Surrogate that offers no peripheral vision and a dulled sense of hearing? That sounds pretty dangerous. Incidentally, you'll recall that humans control the surrogates by wearing a headset-like thing, which they wear while lying stationary. Since there's no motion involved (à la the Ninento Wii), how do they control the Surrogates? Do they simply think, "I will walk now" and the Surrogate walks? If so, why doesn't the Surrogate do anything the operator thinks?
This is a boring and by-the-numbers bit of speculative science fiction, shamelessly pilfering from The Matrix, Minority Report and any number of better movies without even the courtesy to follow its internal logic. Though based on a graphic novel, Surrogates' plot bears a striking resemblance to Gamer, the future-set virtual reality film from August.
Like Gamer, Surrogates attempts social commentary by sideswiping online social networking systems. This parable will become valuable the day someone invents a special weapon that can kill me through my Facebook page.
Few things are more depressing than a very unintelligent movie with intellectual aspirations. (Touchstone/Buena Vista)