‘Surrogates’ travels through familiar territory

Radha Mitchell and Bruce Willis in Surrogates

If you find yourself walking out of the theater auditorium after having seen Surrogates, the latest film from director Jonathan Mostow (U-571 and Breakdown), and feel like this is ‘stuff’ you have seen before, don’t worry.

It is.

Mostow also directed Terminator 3 – Rise of the Machines, and Surrogates is another moralistic message about how the more humans rely on machines, the less human we become. In Surrogates (taken from the graphic novel by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele, adapted by Michael Ferris and John D. Brancato), Bruce Willis is an FBI agent, Radha Mitchell plays his partner, and Rosamund Pike portrays his wife. The film opens with a hefty explanation of the creation and advancement of the robotic surrogates who have changed society into a near utopia.

People never leave their homes, preferring to lie down and live their lives through their surrogate selves. It seems attractive on the surface. Surrogates don’t get ill, don’t gain weight, don’t lose their hair and can look like magazine models (something clearly illustrated when the audience is shown the “operator” of a gorgeous female surrogate and that operator turns out to have a quite unexpected appearance).

In this new society, crime barely exists and the corporation that builds the surrogates is one of the world’s largest corporations.

Not everyone is a fan of the surrogates. These humans live on reservations throughout the country, and are led by The Prophet, portrayed by Ving Rhames.

This get complicated, however, when two surrogates are killed—along with their operators. This has never happened before, and leads Willis on a race to obtain a weapon that could destroy everything—and everyone.

Ving Rhames in Surrogates

But when Willis loses his surrogate, he must venture out into the world for the first time in years, and one where he’s a mere human against powerful machines.

If ever there was an actor born to play “the hero alone”, it is Willis. The real Willis, who is balding, fit although a bit stocky and unkempt, unlike his almost perfect surrogate appearance. Mitchell is effective as his partner, as is Pike as his wife. In particular, the scenes where Willis is trying to re-connect with his real-life wife as opposed to her surrogate resonate with the audience.

Solid actors, a director with a proven track record and yet Surrogates doesn’t quite make the mark it could and should have.

Predictable plot devices and a weak story line burden this film, as does the similarity of Cromwell’s character to Dr. Alfred Lanning, his role in I, Robot. In the earlier film, he was the creator of the robots and the only one to see the problem with the path of their evolution. Here he creates the surrogates and may be the only one who understands what will come of living through devices rather than living life directly.

The effects are not bad and there are some effective scenes, but if you have a choice, send your surrogate to see Surrogates and tune out during the 89 minutes they will be watching for you.

In the end, you won’t have missed much.

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