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Surrogates Movie Poster

A movie released September 25, 2009

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Surrogates: Not better than the real thing

  • Oct 6, 2009
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 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, if ever, unplug from their artificially beautiful alter egos. But somebody develops a weapon that can kill a surrogate’s user with a virus that defeats the safety protocols and liquefies the brain of the operator. The first surrogate we see killed is operated by the son of the man who invented surrogates, Dr. Canter (James Cromwell). The murder is investigated by FBI agents Greer (Willis) and Peters (Radha Mitchell), who uncover two key facts: Canter was forced out of the company that manufactures surrogates, and the military has been doing secret research into surrogates.

The “who” in the whodunit is dispensed with quickly, because killer’s identity does not matter; what matters is who sent him and why. But that question is also way too easy to guess – I had the baddie pegged in no time. (I was also laughing that the fearsome mega-weapon resembled a dustbuster.) And the “shocking twist” with the anti-surrogate crusader surely came as no surprise to a public weary of “family values” politicians busted for infidelity. I was annoyed waiting for the detectives to twig to the obvious – never a good sign. Even Willis himself looked a little bored, and invested Detective Greer with nothing beyond standard Willis world-weariness and a squint of concern/disgust. (At least this movie gave him a reason to wear a silly wig.) Yes, he’s getting too old for this s---. Mitchell seemed distracted, as if her mind was somewhere else while her body was in this film. Whatever happened to the appealing actress who breathed so much life into the scrappy pilot in the vastly superior Pitch Black?

But beyond the translucently thin plot, my biggest problem with Surrogates was its failure in world-building. The movie neglected to show us how a society dominated by robotic surrogates would function. With the vast majority of the population using mechanical avatars, who is doing the menial labor of keeping the world turning? Are we supposed to believe that people are using surrogates to mop floors and empty trash bins? The humans at home still have to eat, so have sit-down restaurants dwindled in favor of take-out? Now, it’s entirely possible (even probable) that the planet is populated by sexy janitors, but why not show this? And what about the Third World? Are the planet’s poor “condemned” to live life in person? The major cities are mentioned as having surrogates, but what about the subsistence farmers out there? We see soldiers – derisively called G.I. Joes – but are there still wars over natural resources like oil? With a presumed reduction in demand for consumer products, how does the economy function? All these questions bothered me as I watched, and took me out of the movie. These points could have been addressed quickly and easily, but instead, we are left with a film full of unrealized ideas and populated by characters that are, unironically, robots.

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December 16, 2009
That's the problem when you have a movie that isn't action packed and full of big explosions--it gives you too much time to think about things that the writers obviously didn't. Probably why we have so many movies with The Big Dumb Boom in them too, lazy writers.
October 09, 2009
Cool. I'll take your word for it.
October 07, 2009
Great review. You hit the nail on the head with your take on the lack of world building.
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 . September 29, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
review by . April 05, 2010
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 . 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 18, 2010
This film is like Avatar on Earth, but hey this came out before Avatar... lol
About the reviewer
Joe ()
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Member Since: Oct 6, 2009
Last Login: Oct 19, 2009 12:21 AM UTC
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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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