Surrogates is a sloppily put together, sappy tale about the inhumanity of robots and the problems of spending all your time on the internet. The central theme of the story is mildly interesting, which could have been handled well and nurtured into a truly entertaining tale. But in the suffocating confines of the script, the story became less of an allegory and more a literal reason why you should not hide behind a robot that impersonates you. Noted. We will try our darnedest not to do that.

Surrogates are humanoid robots, that look and sound like younger versions of everyone. All surrogates are controlled by their human counterparts, from the comfortable confines of a recliner. Surrogates and their controllers are connected so perfectly, that the controlling person can experience everything through the eyes and ears of the surrogate. This, over a 14 year period, has made a major part of humanity into a certain form of uncontrolled couch potatoes. Everyone has begun staying back at home, and having their surrogates replace them, at work, for pleasure and even to pick up chicks.

Naturally, there is a part of the populace that has taken umbrage to this proliferation of robotic personas. They have virtually broken away from the rest of the country, forming their own reservations, which are robot-free zones. And anyone that dares enter is hunted down, in typical neo-luddite fashion.

Tom Greer (Bruce Willis) is a surrogate cop. With a distant wife Peters (Radha Mitchell), and a tragic past, Tom unsurprisingly finds himself torn between the comfort and safety of the surrogate life and the fact that it is pushing him further away from his wife. When he begins investigating a murder, that seems as if it was committed through a surrogate, he has to begin peeling the layers of deception and dependency.

Everything in the movie seems fake. The only natural thing about the characters is that their surrogates are pleasingly unnatural. The backgrounds of the cop with a distant wife seems overdone. The prophet and the human-only reservations sound good in theory, but come across as a cross between rednecks and people that cannot work computers. The brilliant scientist forced out of the company he created - cliché. There are few original ideas - like jacking through surrogates - which too manage to sound hollow and made up; being surrounded by so much expected boilerplate.

Surrogates is based on a graphic novel. Just based on some of the lame attempts at authenticity by the script, I can almost guarantee that the novel will be great. At the end, the movie is yet another bad attempt to summarize good science fiction literature as a movie, because the concept sounded good. But what makes a movie tick are the characters. Even if, in this case, they are just robots.

March 24, 2011


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