Written by Caballero Oscuro
American laziness reaches its peak in the futuristic thriller Surrogates. In the film’s look at the future, citizens have been completely replaced by their robotic avatars, idealized versions of themselves who carry out their daily duties while their human controllers stay home in their jammies jacked into their control chairs.
When an unregistered robot is destroyed under mysterious circumstances, ace investigator Tom Greer (Bruce Willis) is called in to find some answers. Greer is a damaged individual still grappling with the accidental death of his son that also left his wife disfigured and despondent. Their robots still interact, but his wife has completely sequestered herself from all human contact including Greer, leaving him lonely and longing for a real relationship. This longing leaves him decidedly less enamored of the impersonal robot life than his fellow citizens, so when his robot is destroyed in the course of his investigation he’s only too happy to get back into action as a real person.
Greer’s investigation leads him to the creator of the robot avatars, an unstable tycoon named Canter (James Cromwell) who is also mourning the death of a son. As an inventor and the head of the massive conglomerate responsible for the growth of the robot culture, he’s in a position to take some drastic and unorthodox measures that could impact both the robot and human population. While Greer and Canter clearly start out on opposing sides, there’s little surprise that the combination of a grieving inventor and a disillusioned cop will result in some global implications by the final frame.
The movie was based on a little-known graphic novel of the same name and translates fairly well to live action as a concept, but not so much as compelling entertainment. The need for highly idealized avatars means that all of the “actors” in the film look and act like they were recruited from modeling agencies, a plus for their perfect bone structure and physiques but a definite minus for acting talent. Willis is basically the only real actor with substantial screen time, and his interactions with the other no-name cast members expose the deep chasm in acting abilities between them. Also, the film’s wig department went crazy with their quest for mannequin-like hair, in particular giving Willis-as-robot a ridiculous floppy blonde ‘do and foisting a preposterous dreadlock mess on Ving Rhames. It’s difficult to take the film seriously when the hair is so distracting.
Finally, director Jonathan Mostow seems asleep at the wheel here, failing to create any real emotional resonance, drama, or even decent action set pieces. As a result, the film just exists as a curiosity for viewers interested in the concept but fails to deliver any truly memorable moments. Thankfully, it clocks in at less than 90 minutes long, so it’s a brief distraction at best.
The Blu-ray presentation exposes the source film as being oddly grainy, like it was shot on low-grade film stock. It’s strange that a futuristic study of perfection has such imperfect images. The 5.1 DTS-HD soundtrack has decent separation and is suitably bass-heavy during the rare action moments. The disc’s bonus features include a featurette on the reality of mind-controlled robots, an exploration of the evolution of the concept from graphic novel to film, four deleted scenes, and a music video. Surrogates is available on Blu-ray and DVD on January 26th.