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Surrogates Movie Poster

A movie released September 25, 2009

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Nifty Concept, Poorly Executed

  • Sep 29, 2009
Does anyone remember when AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, MMORPGs first came around and all that jazz?  And people loved jumping on Internet Forums and creating a persona for themselves or a profile?  People do these things for many reasons, but the biggest of them all seems to be to partake in escapist enjoyment.  Some people do it for the soul purpose that their life just sucks.  Happens all the time.  Surrogates isn't the first film to tackle this sort of "Man vs Machine," concept.  It won't be the last either.  Yet at times watching the film feels like they're beating a dead horse.  Other times it feels like they jumped into a discussion about our over reliance on technology a little late.  Surrogates isn't technophobic... it just feels very late to the party.  We've been having discussions on the dangers of internet addiction for a long time.  And we've been beating into the ground that the person you're talking to on IM may not be who he says he is for so very long that we're beating a dead horse.  And Surrogates might be forgivable for beating a dead horse... if it was presented well, or if it added something to the conversation.  But it doesn't.  

The premise seems unique from the get go, though.  About fifteen years in the future or so, everyone now has a "Surrogate."  Surrogates are basically robotic people that you send out in the world who you'll control with your mind.  To draw a simile, picture the guy who in real life is a salesclerk who gets picked on by everyone, is unattractive and just isn't that well liked.  Well sure, during the day he's that.  But at night?  He hopes n World of Warcraft and becomes someone big and strong... who is capable of doing what he can't.  This is part of the idea behind surrogates.  Only taken to a disturbing degree.  People use their surrogates for everything.  Even when it comes to performing simple everyday jobs. 

But the Surrogates have had great effects on society.  Crime dropped a ton.  So much so that there hasn't been a murder since everyone obtained a surrogate.  Next, racism has dropped considerably.  These are the two biggest effects the film points out.  On the other hand, though, these things seem like HUGE stretches.  The film itself says these things happen almost overnight.  It's a good thing, sure, but the movie just doesn't pass these things off as believable or even plausible.  But it's a Dystopia, there's a point it's trying to make.  Is it going to be a social statement about racism?  Nope.  It's all about the violence.  The surrogates die, but the people controlling them do not.  And what happens when your surrogate simply dies?  You just get another one.  Just like that.  No one seems to really care that a surrogate might get killed, and thus violence is still an issue... What they mean to say is that no one actually dies.

This means Mr. Canter (James Cromwell) has seemingly created the greatest thing in the world.  On the other hand, there are some who don't agree with what Mr. Canter gave the world.  They'r lead by a man who calls himself "The Prophet."  And he believes, like so many, that the surrogates are dangerous because they essentially strip people of their humanity.  You don't have to feel anything or even face reality.  As a result, there are some people who refuse surrogates and they've colonized.

The world has become so dependent on the surrogates that just about everyon stays in them 24/7.  All the time, because they've become addicted.  Is the film supposed to be a metaphor for internet addiction?  Actually it seems like it.  Many of the "problems" associated with surrogates are the same old things that your mom probably told you when the internet first went mainstream and you started talking to people online. 

So the world seems perfect until someone develops a weapon that when fired at a surrogate... doesn't just kill the surrogate, but kills the host as well.  Tom Greer (Bruce Willis) gets wrapped up in this when he realizes there is a real danger.  Because this is the first real homocide in years.  As a result, the only way to solve this mystery is for him to do so without his surrogate.  As he digs into the mystery he discovers there's a huge conspiracy at hand that is designed to punish those who are using surrogates. 

Seems like an okay concept, but in the end it's a pretty muddled plot.  There are a couple of plot twists thrown in there, as well as a few crappy conversations about what it means to be human.  If there's one thing that gets me upset it's when a bad movie tries to be smart and deep.  These conversations between Tom and his wife are pretty artificial.  And the whole plot behind the conspiracy is, you guessed it, by someone who believes the only way to start over and teach people how to be human is to kill a bunch of humans. 

There are a couple of good action sequences, but the the "twists" are not really that amusing in the slightest.  Let's put it this way if I can guess how the movie is going to end from the first fifteen minutes, and who's behind it all and how he's going to do it (again, within the first fifteen minutes) then the movie isn't doing enough to make the ride interesting.  So it's a very predictable movie.  Because the major moments and important plot points the movie spends so much time drawing a lot of attention to.  In most Mystery/Thriller, there is often a red herring thrown in there.  A red herring is something that directors and writers throw in there for the sake of leading you down a different path so that the film can fool you and surprise you in the end.  Surrogates doesn't even try.  You might find yourself wondering... "Why does so-and-so do that?" the answer is usually within the same scene.  It's supposed to be a mystery, but it makes sure there's nothing mysterious.  And it tries so hard to be complex.

Yet the worst aspect of the film is the writing.  Not just the plot which isn't very fun, but also much of the dialog.  There are a couple of moments where it gets melodramatic.  Not so bad in some cases, but listening to characters talk about humanity, or seeing Bruce Willis stroll around as a human because he hasn't had to use his real human emotions outside of his surrogate are painfully overdone points.  The message the movie is getting at is pretty standard.  The first is that not everyone is who they seem.  This is shown by a hot girl really being controlled by a fat guy.  And we get that over and over again by characters doing things like stealing other surrogates and the like... with this little handy tidbit in mind, and the absurdly small cast of characters we're introduced to, the movie makes the main culprit all too obvious.

Most of the characters are pretty standard and cardboard cutouts.  The movie itself is pretty short.  About 88 minutes long.  It's nice that it jumps right into the plot and hits the ground running but with the themes it's trying to tackle and the messages it's trying to get out there, that's pretty short.  Especially because it tries to be deep in spots where it really can't.  The movie moves at such a fast pace that it doesn't bother to get you to really care about the characters.  If you're a Bruce Willis fan it's nice, but it's hard to go along with his struggle.  And when the plot boils down to, "The only way to save humans is to kill a bunch of them," it just seems weird.  Not just that, but it's overdone, and it doesn't even try very hard to be anything more than what it is. 

Surrogates is based on a graphic novel.  I've not read it yet, but I'm sure now it'll be a lot easier to find in my local book store.  I may pick it up because the concept in and of itself isn't so bad.  The movie just has poor execution because it mostly reiterates what we've heard time and time again.  It goes for this, "Technology is enslaving us all," but the themes don't actually ever challenge the viewer.  It might be fun for some, but repetitive for others considering how much this theme has been beaten over the head by hollywood.  They could at least try to make it exciting.  Surrogates isn't.

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October 02, 2009
ok, I am back. I know you already commented under my review but it's always better to read an in-depth review. Nice catch on the 'red herring' thing...I wouldn't be surprised if the script had been re-written numerous times before committing to filming this movie. It's just too bad that the movie didn't get the essence of the graphic novel.
October 03, 2009
You can bet that it was rewritten several times by people who weren't even credited. and that it was probably tested in front of audiences and then changed again based on their responses. Film making is such a mess that it's a wonder anything coherent ever comes out of Hollywood. What's that old joke about a giraffe being a horse designed by a committee?
October 03, 2009
I know. The test audience can really break or make a movie. Filmmaking should be between the producer and director. I can't say I heard that joke...
More Surrogates reviews
review by . October 01, 2009
 Last night, I saw "Surrogates," starring Bruce Willis.  If you haven't heard of the movie, it's about a world where everyone uses perfect-looking robots to live the life that they can't live.  It's something that touches on the current advancement of this type of technology that keeps evolving. The movie idea was great, but trying to tie all the loose ends, made you wish that they had more time to do this.       One of the things that they really …
review by . December 29, 2009
Jonathan Mostow has the ability to emotionally and structural sabotage any script, no matter how good the concept. JM chopped the Terminator franchise off at the knees with T3 to the point where even the Terminator 90210 TV show ignored the film completely. Now he's been presented with yet another high-concept premise and has a Michael Bay-like drive to totally f--- it up in a way so vicious that a sequel is as unlikely as someone not mistaking Bruce Willis' toupe for a Zhu Zhu hamster. Mostow should …
review by . September 26, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Teaser poster
      Remember many years ago when people didn’t have the use of cell phones and now it seems like we can’t get by without having one? Well, the comic book adapted sci-fi action thriller “SURROGATES” does take a little stab at that idea; but in this case, it is the use of artificial beings engineered to make our lives easier. Directed by Jonathan Mostow (U-571), the film based on a screenplay by Michael Ferris and John Broncato, the film feels a little …
review by . August 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
The film "Surrogates" when first released in the cinema escaped my attention, and I only really watched it by both coincidence and my own laziness. Picture the scene, you have the movie channel on, it's late, you're tired and you can't find the remote. Rather than getting up to look for it I thought to myself "f*** it, I'll just watch what's on next"; what was on next was Surrogates. Suddenly very vague memories of the times seeing the trailer and thinking …
review by . April 05, 2010
posted in MovieSucktastic
Surrogates falls into that category of films that end up being much better than anticipated. Films that do not screen themselves for critics ahead of the release date are usually predestined clunkers, as not wanting a write-up in the Friday papers is a red flag that the distributors are almost certain that the weekend box-office is the only shot they have of recouping costs before word of mouth kills the film. Expecting the worst, Surrogates manages to surprise with a decent story and great …
review by . October 06, 2009
 Surrogates plays like a substitute for a crime thriller. To all outward appearances it is a science-fiction whodunit, but upon closer examination, the characters and plot are underwritten and obvious, and the entire production hinges solely on the not-inconsiderable charisma of Bruce Willis. In the future, people will be able to plug in and experience life through robotic surrogates that venture out into the real world and interact with other mechanical doppelgangers. Some people rarely, …
review by . December 30, 2009
A good idea and ingenious plot gone to waste by poor production values...
I've seen movies like this before. Many times before The Matrix, I Robot, Minority Report, The Terminator. The list goes on, while this film lacks originality in the main focal point of the plot it does give a very nice and enjoyable spin on an old tale.               Surrogates is a highly entertaining but ultimately flawed movie due to it's reliance on formula. But it's idea is solid and it's execution is very thought out. So why is it that this …
review by . October 13, 2009
Surrogates, Ving Rhames
If nothing else, Surrogates has proven that, toupe or sans-toupe, I'm still a Bruce Willis fan. While the premise of Surrogates certainly intrigued me, in the end it was knowing that Bruce and Ving were being reunited for the first time since Pulp Fiction that brought me into the theaters for this one. The good news is that Surrogates is good. Not great, but that's okay.      It's the first half hour of the movie that was the biggest hurdle for me. The son of the inventor …
Quick Tip by . August 16, 2010
Idea was good, kind of Phillip K. Dick-esque story, but the execution, especially the ending made it feel pretty lame. Also a waste of great talent, really awesome cast.
Quick Tip by . July 12, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
I liked this movie i heard a lot of negative about this i thought it was good
About the reviewer
Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #6
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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About this movie


Surrogates revolves around the mysterious murder of a college student linked to the man who helped create a high-tech surrogate phenomenon that allows people to purchase unflawed robotic versions of themselves, being fit and good looking remotely controlled machines that ultimately assume their life roles, enabling people to experience life vicariously from the comfort and safety of their own homes.
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Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Adventure, Fantasy
Release Date: September 25, 2009
MPAA Rating: Unrated

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