There are a couple different flavors of science fiction. Films like “Star Trek”, “Moon”, “District 9”, and “9” have helped make this year in particular, quite good in terms of providing sci-fi for a wide range of tastes. However, everything that goes up must come back down and so we have “Surrogates”.
“Surrogates” is a sci-fi thriller set in a world where most life is experienced through the body of a remote controlled android or as the title suggests, surrogate. Why the majority of mankind has chosen to experience life in this fashion is explained away during a brief timeline shown at the outset of the film and then the film jumps immediately into the action with a brutal murder of two surrogates outside of a club. The murder of these two surrogates attracts the attention of the FBI and Special Agents Grier (Bruce Willis) and Peters (Radha Mitchell) who quickly discover that the operators of the two surrogates have died as well and that one of the surrogates was operated by the son of the creator of surrogate technology. To avoid a panic the details of the murder are kept under wraps and what plays out is your standard murder-mystery thriller and that is the main problem with the film.
“Surrogates” has an interesting and somewhat unique premise but it is all delivered in an utterly generic package. Screenwriters, Michael Ferris and John D. Brancato (the duo who also wrote the dud “Terminator: Salvation”) deliver a color by numbers script to color by numbers director Jonathan Mostow. That is not to say that Mostow cannot deliver an entertaining film because despite the problems with “U-571” and “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” both films were, for the most part, entertaining and so is “Surrogates”, for the most part.
The action in the film is fairly well paced and it does deliver a strong chase sequence which will satisfy action junkies but if you are looking for a coherent plot or believable performances, “Surrogates” is not the film for you. The plot is rushed to fit into the 90 minute run time and does a poor job of explaining the motives of any character outside of Willis’s Agent Grier. The problems with the plot may explain why Mostow has a hard time getting anything more than a wooden performance out of anyone other than Willis, including the actors who play human characters.
The film lightly touches on a variety of social issues both real and theoretical but it never delves any further into them than a light brush stroke and as such “Surrogates” wants to be more than it is and based on the source material, the limited series comic book of the same name, the film should have been more than it is. “Surrogates” had the potential to deliver something Isaac Asimov would be proud of unfortunately what we are left with is a 90 minute murder-mystery thriller with robots. If anything, “Surrogates” proves that not everything is better with robots. Zombies on the other hand….
3 out of 5