on February 15, 2010
A movie about a robot Bruce Willis fighting crime? Sounds like an action-adventure extraordinaire!
People who watch surrogates expecting "Die Hard" with a Sci-Fi twist are going to be disappointed. But if you watch the movie without any expectations at all, you'll find a very interesting character piece that explores a bifurcated existence for the entire human population that is an obvious metaphor for how the internet simultaneously unites and divides us. The movie explores how a safety-obsessed culture, aided by technology, becomes universally agoraphobic, and what effect that has on human interaction.
The year is unstated but from the look of the film it is in the not-too-distant future. A technological advance allows people to control a robotic body--a surrogate--from the safety of their own home. Originally intended to help handicapped people get around and carry on in the real world free from their physical impairments, surrogates are rapidly adopted by the populace at large. Having a surrogate means always being beautiful, or in fact, being whatever you want. The effects crew on this film do a wonderful job of taking live actors and digitally airbrushing their skin to give them a somewhat unrealistically perfect appearance.
Willis loses his robot body during pursuit of a criminal, and has to venture out into the real world himself. He finds it terrifying. His partner comes to pick him up at the hospital, and despite years working with him, she's never seen him before. He desperately wants to connect with his wife, wonderfully played by Rosamund Pike--but she is more interested in hiding behind her surrogate than most. While the ideas of surrogacy aren't new ideas, they aren't new because they affect us --today-- which, in my mind, is part of what makes this film interesting. Here in the real world there are people who fly drone missions in Afghanistan from the safety of an office in California--the most dangerous part of their involvement in the war is their commute to work. Surrogates explores this idea too--soldiers on a "peace-keeping operation" fight via surrogates from the safety of a command center thousands of miles away.
I don't want to give everything away, but I think this movie was wonderful. I watched it on pay-per-view without knowing ANYTHING about it--no expectations--and enjoyed it immensely. I went right out and bought a copy the next day. Watch it with an open mind--particularly if you like character pieces.
The essential premise behind SURROGATES is interesting, although perhaps not entirely original. It is the not-too-distant future, but 98% of the human population is living through a surrogate. These robots do everything for you, AS you. You can sit in the safety of your chair at home, getting fat and wearing pajamas all day, while your avatar, with a face (even gender) that you've chosen stands in for you. You see and feel and hear everything...but there's no danger to you if you want to try something crazy. You'll always look attractive and young.
Thus, in surrogates, no one is quite what they seem. The 2% of people who refuse to join the "fun" live in ramshackle, electronics-free zones scattered around the country. They live lives that resemble nothing more than hippie colonies...the fact that they not only rejected living through surrogates but apparently ALL forms of technology is never really explained.
They are led by "The Prophet" (original name!) who assures them the day of reckoning is coming. And indeed, when a new weapon arrives on the scene...the new world order appears to be threatened. This weapon allows its wielder to not only kill surrogates, but to also kill the human who is operating it.
There are many intriguing ideas and concepts (and questions) that this alternate world brings to mind...but SURROGATES is in the end more of a detective movie than a sci-fi movie. And not a detective movie in BLADE RUNNER tradition (where the detective and his work is a way of delving ever deeper into what it means to live in this alternate society), but more in the I, ROBOT tradition of Will Smith kicking butt and taking names. But with a lower budget.
SURROGATES has little in the way of truly new ideas, and apart from some randomly scattered amusing moments, doesn't milk much entertainment value from the pure idea of all of us sitting around, getting fat, lazy (and probably smelly) while our surrogates run around looking younger, fitter, sexier and smarter than we do...interacting with other surrogates who look hot but are in reality a stand-in for others who are fat, lazy and smelly.
To go along with lazy ideas are some lazy performances. Rhada Mitchell plays one of the cops investigating this new weaponry, and it's as if she's taken the robot idea a bit too far...she fails to muster up any emotion, and thus, even though she is a "co-star," she is utterly forgettable. James Cromwell (as the inventor of surrogates) and Ving Rhames (as The Prophet) phone in their performances, giving us absolutely nothing we've not seen before in previous films. Rosamund Pike has a small role as the wife of the lead investigator on the case, and she DOES at least show some sparks of emotion and generates a little empathy.
Thus, SURROGATES is at best a 2.5 star movie. The effects are minimal, but generally convincing. Action sequences (stage by Jonathan Mostow of TERMINATOR 3) are workmanlike but not actually bad. Script is uninspired and the acting is uninteresting.
BUT WAIT. I forgot to mention that the film stars Bruce Willis. He is the master of elevating the quality of the film around him. He can turn a very good film into a classic (DIE HARD, SIXTH SENSE) and he can turn a mediocre film into something at least enjoyable for its running time (16 BLOCKS, HOSTAGE). And this is the service he performs for SURROGATES. While he's not exactly a GREAT actor in the way we think of folks like Daniel Day Lewis or Robert DeNiro...he is a nearly perfect EVERYMAN. No one does world-weary better. In fact, world-weariness is what Willis always starts with, and then he just adds the right amount of smart-ass to the mix. John McClane in DIE HARD...lots of smart-ass. His character in TWELVE MONKEYS...only a tiny, tiny drop. Yet he always knows exactly how much to add. (Sometime his best efforts can only elevate a 1 star film to 2 stars...see STRIKING DISTANCE...or don't! Also, this is a skill he's hones over time...some of his earlier work like MORTAL THOUGHTS or THE JACKAL pretty much just stinks.)
Willis is amusing in SURROGATES when he is seen as his surrogate. Youngish, with a full head of very funny hair. When the "real" Willis emerges, he's the Bruce we know. Shaved head, scars and that patented world-weariness. He also gets to show his other skill...the art of really looking like he's getting hurt, yet making us believe he can get up and keep fighting. Again, John McClane is the archetype...but Willis still owns that trait. Frankly, he's just a good guy to watch on film. We like him...easily. He's not the brightest tool in the shed sometimes, but he has good instincts, a quick wit and is usually a good person just trying to make the best of bad situations.
SURROGATES' script has saddled him with a sadness due to a son who has died years before...but Willis still makes his scenes with his wife (whom he so eagerly wants to wean off her surrogate so they can REALLY be together) touching.
Thus, thanks to Willis, the film is a solid 3.5 stars. But for the overall lack of originality, I'll be treating that like 3.49 stars and rounding down to 3.
"Surrogates" is a futuristic tale of divided identity, treachery, and murder. Based on the graphic novel by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele, "Surrogates" stars Bruce Willis as FBI agent Tom Greer, who lives in a world where robotic surrogates stand in for people, protecting them from violence, disease, and the appearance of aging. These picture- perfect replicants -- fit, good-looking, remotely controlled machines that assume their operator's life role -- enable the population to experience life vicariously from the comfort and safety of their own homes, giving a sci-fi spin to the notion of "couch potato."
Greer and partner Agent Peters (Radha Mitchell) are called in to investigate the mysterious death of a college student whose life ended when his surrogate was destroyed. When Greer's surrogate is damaged in the investigation, he ventures out of his apartment for the first time in decades. He must decide who is real and who can be trusted.
Now that James Cameron has provided movie the final word on human duplicates in "Avatar," the subject may not resonate as dramatically in "Surrogates," but it's a well-made action picture with Willis center stage in his familiar lone-warrior stance. The theme harks back to one that Stanley Kubrick used memorably in "2001: A Space Odyssey" -- depending too much on technology can have dire consequences. Despite the fact that "Surrogates" takes place in the future, the world depicted by director Jonathan Mostow resembles a contemporary city, but the combination of sci-fi, action flick, and mystery work well and provide an entertaining ride.
DVD bonus extras include director commentary and the music video "I Will Not Bow" by Breaking Benjamin. The Blu-ray edition contains these and the featurettes "A More Perfect You: The Science of Surrogates" and "Breaking the Frame: A Graphic Novel Comes to Life," and four deleted scenes.
on February 26, 2014
Real science-fiction films are rare items. What passes for science-fiction (flying sharks, warp drives, time machines) has no basis in reality. It can be fun, but it's just silly fantasy. Real science fiction holds a mirror up to our own lives and gives us worlds that feel familiar. One of the best science fiction movies ever--Gattacca--shows us a world that could actually come to be.
'Surrogates' certainly doesn't approach 'Gattacca', but it's pretty decent science fiction. As we move more of our own lives into computers, and represent ourselves with technology, we wrestle with what community actually means. While the robot avatars of this film are more likely to be half a century away, they still serve as good stand-ins for the way many of us would like to be. Bruce Willis's character is a detective who's become increasingly uneasy about this transformation. But even he--in one of the best scenes in the movie--suffers near-crippling anxiety when he's out in the world as himself.
Of course it's a cop adventure too. In that regard it's fairly serviceable. But the real film is about a technological world that isn't quite working. Most of us will be long-gone before the possibility of that world. But 'Surrogates' gives us a moment to think about the direction we're steering.
on August 10, 2014
I enjoyed this movie. There was not really any gore, not too much violence, and I don't remember God or Jesus being used as a curse word like in most movies now. So these things are pluses. This movie shows the negative side if surrogates were ever possible. It also could even show the negative side to people spending too much time in virtual reality worlds. It also shows what a corrupt corporation might do to protect its profits. Here are some thoughts and reactions I had while watching this movie (SPOILERS):
-At the beginning of the movie, something to this effect was said when referring to humans, comparing them to surrogates "this is how God made you". I thought this was interesting that it was in the movie, and wondered why, especially in the beginning. Are the writers trying to tell us to be real and appreciate life?
-Surrogates were referred to by media or historians as an "evolutionary significance' to human activity. I find it odd that the word evolution was used for a technological advancement and not a biological change in actual human DNA.
-A media report or historian report at the beginning of the movie says that the surrogate movement pretty much eliminated crime. I find this to be unrealistic that surrogates like in this movie could nearly eliminate crime. It would probably increase crime because people would not fear being hurt. In the movie we also see those two surrogates getting ready to abuse a woman, and then the guy deactivates them to prevent the crime. So, in this world, maybe that's the only way it did reduce crime was by the total surveillance of all surrogate connections and deactivating possible connections. This puts a whole new spin to Big Brother concepts like in 1984. Also, Cantar, the inventor of surrogates does a lot of underhanded things while trying to destroy his invention. Also the lead guy in the FBI in the movie tried to get Cantar killed. So, in the end, surrogates didn't really reduce crime even in this movie it seems, despite the media claim.
-In this world, would insurance be required to operate a surrogate?
-This movie reminded me of the movie Wall-e where humans were hovering around on beds while staring at computer screens for most of their waking hours.
-VSI advertised surrogates by saying you can "do what you want" if you get one. As if laws don't apply any longer? you can do whatever you want? This illustrates the hypocrisy of advertisements.
-"relax, we're the good guys" says the guy who is able to monitor every surrogate connection on the planet (or at least in the city), but yet he didn't know about the attempt to kill cantar or the FBI guy who arrange it?
In 2009, the film "Surrogates" directed by Jonathan Mostow ("Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines", "U-571') and starring Bruce Willis ("Die Hard" film, "Sin City", "The Sixth Sense", "Unbreakable") was released in theaters.
An adaptation of the five issue comic book series of the same name by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele featured top notch special effects and the film budgeted at $80 million received mix reviews and made only $60 million worldwide.
Despite failing short of breaking even, the film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on Jan. 26th.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
"Surrogates" is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1). Picture quality is actually quite interesting because a lot of the special effects went into making the surrogates look not like actual humans. Director Jonathan Mostow explains how they purposely removed any blemishes, acne from the skin of the surrogates and with that being the case, you don't really see too many actual humans in this film (until the end). We see Bruce Willis in his young CG-enhanced surrogate look but then you see the current, older Bruce Willis with the hair stubble, blood on his face, grime on his face.
Some scenes have quite a bit of detail such as a scene when the military arrive at the Dread compound, the CG detail of the robot/surrogates. But overall, there is a lot of CG in the film but one of the best scenes is the destruction caused in downtown Boston. That is an actual shot and not CG'd. People and destroyed vehicles scattered around.
Overall, some people may wonder if the scenes were DNR'd (Digital Noise Reduction) but they weren't. This was intentionally done to separate what a surrogate looks like versus a human. Found no artifacts or combing. Blacks were nice and deep. But for the most part, "Surrogates" looks good but some may feel it had too much special effects and CG. But personally, the technology, special effect fit the film's theme quite nicely.
As for lossless audio, "Surrogates" is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA (48 kHz/24-bit) and French, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. "Surrogates" utilizes a lot of sound effects due to the action scenes. Crashing cars, helicopters, gun shots, booms, broken glass, motorcycle engine revving and more. The film's dialogue is understandable and clear through the center channel, music score is clear through the fronts and great use of LFE and the surround channels for the sound effects. Especially how audio pans from various directions.
Subtitles are presented in English SDH, French and Spanish.
"Surrogates" comes with the following special features presented in 1080p, English5.1 or 2.0 Dolby Digital and optional subtitles in English SDH, French and Spanish.
* Audio Commentary by Director Jonathan Mostow - Director Jonathan Mostow gives viewers insight on the scenes of the film, the challenges of making this film and using so many special effects, working with the talents and more. A pretty informative and enjoyable commentary.
* Deleted Scenes - (6:03) A total of four deleted scenes: Dread Encounter, Apologies & Theories, What You're Looking At and The Real Peters.
* A More Perfect You: The Science of Surrogates - (14:34) A look at the advancement of technology and robots in society. From helping those who are utilizing the technology for medical reasons to helping those with disabilities, utilization in the military and how far we are technology-wise at this current time. But also asking ourselves if this science does become available, do we accept it or change it before it becomes something like what is featured in the film "Surrogates".
* Breaking the Frame: A Graphic Novel Comes to Life - (6:33) A look at how "Surrogates" became a comic book by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele, bringing the film adaptation to life and getting Bruce Willis to play the main character role.
* "I Will Not Bow" Music Video by Breaking Benjamin - (3:49)
A film with an intriguing concept that focuses less on the characters and moreso on the overall action.
When it comes to the overall theme of "Surrogates", personally its a subject that I'm quite fascinated with. I've read about robotics in Japanese culture from its earlier years to its present stage and how various societies use the technology. But at the same time, being intrigued about how tied we are to the Internet, especially those who are addicted to MMORPG's to social media.
You know that there is that next step with technology and we've seen several interpretations of it in shows such as "Star Trek" to animated series such as ".Hack/Sign". But "Surrogates" definitely gives us an idea of a distant future, especially as technology and the military come together in finding ways to limit the loss of life. So, the concept of "Surrogates" is quite intriguing to me.
As for the film, I enjoyed the action and the concept but the film has its problems in terms of storyline especially when it comes to the character of older Canter (played by James Cromwell) and his motivations. Also, the weapon that was being utilized and how Stone (played by Boris Kodjoe) is connected. At 89 minutes, there could have been 5-10 minutes fleshing out character development for certain characters. But Because of this, certain parts of the plot seem to farfetched. It would have been great to see more of this hostility between humans and the surrogates (as shown in the deleted scenes).
But the film's saving grace is Bruce Willis along with Radha Mitchell and Rosamund Pike. Rosamund Pike definitely brings the emotional aspect while both Bruce Willis and Radha are part of the action. Bruce Willis was effective for the role of Greer and this is an action-based popcorn flick.
As for the Blu-ray release, "Surrogates" looks very good and sounds fantastic in HD. But I wished there were additional features with an interview with the cast but also a more in-depth special feature on the creation of the special effects. For a film that was special effects heavy, it would have been nice to see something incorporated to show how certain scenes and the look of the film were done.
Overall, "Surrogates" is an entertaining film that has a message which works. It's just that its execution was a bit off and possibly not going all action but showing some of the character depth via scenes explaining or showing motivation, that would have been nice to see. But in the end, "Surrogates" was an enjoyable, action film with an interesting concept and also showing us that as an action star, Bruce Willis still has it!
on July 11, 2015
This is a sci-fi suspense thriller well worth watching, and more than once. The somewhat surprising aspect of the movie is that it is very much a human drama, with realistically motivated characters.
The plot is a bit tricky, but comprehensible. You have to keep a close watch on what is going on, and why.
There are enough reviews giving away the theme and plot of this film. The film boils down to revenge, but that is cloaked through most of the film.
If you liked Blade Runner, and enjoy action movies, you're likely to enjoy this high-octane tale of semi-replicants.
This movie got slammed pretty bad by critics and fans alike.
I don't know.
Now that I've seen the movie....
Great story, great acting, great FX.
The story itself is a little unbelievable but it's sci-fi so let's give the movie a break.
The direction is done well.
I would much rather Willis move in this direction than the last Die Hard.
He's a little too old to still be the "action star".
What was bad?
Hmmmm....not much really.
Everything is done well it's just that the story itself is so unbelievable that it's a little hard to get past it.
I recommend Surrogates for a rental, it's a good action movie but nothing life changing.
I found this sci-fi thriller a decent enough rental. It's got a touch of Blade Runner (just a touch), some good action sequences and CGI, a reasonably good mystery-thriller plot, and routine but decent-enough acting performances. So, if you're bored and looking for one of those "pretty good" rentals for a Sunday afternoon, this one is one I can recommend.
on November 8, 2015
What a great film. Very eye-opening storyline, if a bit unbelievable. The concept is that in the future, humans will be so lazy as to send in, basically, android clones of themselves, to do their daily routine, while the real people hide out at home. The biggest selling point is that the clones can look any way you want. Disfigured or self-loathing people can give themselves great bodies and looks. It says a lot about the future of image and what it means to be a "real" person. And, just as many do live in faked lives today, the question comes with what happens if a wrench gets thrown into the machine, after everyone is comfortable and set in their hiding ways. What if the system stops working, and real people must venture outdoors once again to face each other as they really are. Interesting topic and conversation starter film. And Bruce Willis does a very good job in his character.