by Brad Nelson
Bruce Willis stars in a sci-fi film where 98% of the human population is using a robotic surrogate through which they experience day-to-day life. In this movie you’ll see a mix of Brainstorm, Blade Runner, and The Matrix (in the form of a black prophet-like character). You can probably throw in a little Minority Report and I Robot as well. This movie isn’t highly rated at IMDB.com, and I had heard nothing all about it in terms of buzz, so I expected it to be a dog.
Surprisingly, this film was entertaining from start to finish. For me there were very few eyerolls. There were very few gaps in the plot. There were very few things, given the starting premises, that didn’t make sense. Suspension of disbelief was willingly granted. I found the characters and the plot, while perhaps made up of bits and pieces you’ve surely seen elsewhere, to work as a whole. Although this movie is perhaps not as memorable as some, it is deserving as a place in true sci-fi films.
The best of sci-fi are not mere cops-and-robbers movies or slasher films that dress themselves up with silver suits, rocket ships, and futuristic trappings and try to pass themselves off as something more. True sci-fi plays “what if” with the world. And Surrogates does just that. Granted, it could have taken a much deeper look at the theme of humans forgoing the world of the flesh-and-blood for the fantasy of perfect bodies. But it does at least look.
This is not a movie that is little more than a series of car crashes or modish bullet-time effects. It’s a thoughtful story, even a bit of a thinker’s piece. But Surrogates could have made this futuristic world a little more believable by connecting to the fact that we humans in our own daily world spend so much of our time painting over our bodies, applying makeup, modifying them, sometimes stuffing them with plastic, and just generally trying to beautify them and escape their limitations. If offered cheap, reliable, and sensually immersive “surrogate” robotic bodies that increased one’s pleasure while removing all risks of physical injury, who could say the world would not go for this en masse? If you look at online computer gaming, much of the world has already immersed itself in a type of virtual reality, and this reality is barely skin deep. In Surrogates, rather than any prior explanation of how we got here in increments, we simply start out in this world that has gone the full monty in terms of artificiality. But that still does work.
Although some of the more geeky or thematic aspects of this surrogate world are not explored quite as deeply as I would have liked, they are explored. This is not just a movie where things blow up. And perhaps I just have bad taste, but I suspect that opinions of this movie weren’t higher simply because it is less about explosions-per-minute and a little more about a true sci-fi “what if” scenario. Minority Report is a better movie, but this certainly is a worthy effort in terms of exploring possible what-ifs in the future. I give it 3 exploding brains out of 5.
And it just wouldn’t be a Bruce Willis movie if he didn’t get a little bloodied up. And he does. And, surprisingly, this isn’t your over-the-top Bruce Willis. He plays it pretty straight. And I think he plays it rather well. There’s a bit more grit and realism than just a series of his usual Tarzan-like screams of “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh……..” as he outraces the exploding fireball behind him. I think that’s where just a bit of Blade Runner creeps in. But this is a good movie in its own right exploring a subject in a way I had never seen before. And it’s a movie that also has an adequate ending. That’s especially important for sci-fi films because any sci-fi film will ultimately have to mean something deeper than just car-crashes-per-minute or it will fail. This one does not fail. • (1009 views)