Saturday, September 26, 2009

Surrogates (Review)

     Online, you can hide behind an avatar and a lie of a profile and have complete anonymity.  Expand that to real life, with a realistic looking robotic body, made in your own image, or not, and you have the world of "Surrogates."  Most crime being a thing of the past, no more spreading diseases, racism and sexism gone (if you don't know, how can you hate?), and few, if any , consequences for your actions, (destroying a surrogate seems to be considered vandalism) all seem to take our own self centered, hedonistic, world of instant gratification to a whole new level.  Throw in those who don't choose to keep them selves 'safe' by using robotic bodies living on reservations, seemingly shunning technology and being the subject of new racism, and you might think that you have a great vehicle for a truly meaningful and poignant tale about where our ever increasingly virtual world is going.  Sadly, "Surrogates" just doesn't go there.  Perhaps the graphic novel origins of this story needed a bit more fleshing out (no pun intended, well, maybe a little) before it was ready for the big screen.  That's not to say that "Surrogates" wasn't a good movie, just not that good of a movie and a disappointment considering the subject matter.

     Bruce Willis brings his usual performance, that is to say, excellent.  If some of the acting seems a little plastic in the first act, that's because it is supposed to be.  Surrogates, the robotic bodies, are very advanced, but really don't quite pull off the full range of human emotions, especially the negative ones.  This vehicle is used for some of the movie's most poignant scenes, showing surrogates fail to register anything when emotions should be tragic, and having the operator, the person behind the machine, actually disconnect and feel those very painful emotions in real life, like they were meant to be felt.  It also shows the ability of people to lose themselves in lives devoid of any negative emotions and, in the process, they fail to feel anything.  Sadly, again, this is shown and explored very minimally.

     Thankfully, "Surrogates" also fails to explore the potential for CGI enhanced, adrenaline pumping, completely incoherent action sequences that would actually be possible with robotic bodies driven by humans who can't feel the pain or need to fear consequences like death or dismemberment.  There is one chase scene where this comes into play, but it is done realistically and is not unnecessarily fast or over the top.  Michael Bay would be disappointed.

     In the end, what you get is a mildly entertaining action film that doesn't assault your senses, but also doesn't really challenge your brain either. 

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