Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Movie Review: The Surrogates

Another day, another movie review. This time, it's The Surrogates, last weekend's only major new release (sorry, Fame, you don't count and never did...call me when you don't look like an MTV reality show). Ben "B-Nasty" Coffman, he asked me to call him that, is here with a look at some semi-inspired, semi-blah sci-fi.

Robo Cop-out
Willis dons a toupee, acts like a robot, in Surrogates
Ben Coffman

The idea of future human beings jacking into a matrix to live virtual lives is a sci-fi theme that predates even The Matrix. In the film Surrogates, based on the graphic novel by Robert Vendetti and Brett Weldele, this theme takes a Blader Runner twist when future human beings are allowed to lounge at home while living vicariously through robotic versions of themselves. Right now, somewhere, the most naturally robotic man in the world, Keanu Reeves, is firing his agent for not getting him into this movie.

Instead of Mr. Reeves, our lead is Bruce Willis, who plays both crusty FBI agent Tom Greer and the super-handsome, blond-toupee-wearing robotic version of FBI agent Tom Greer. Surrogates starts with what is becoming a well-worn formula for modern sci-fi movies: that is, a montage of realistic news clips narrates for the viewer what horrible/great things the human race has accomplished lately.

In this case, a giant corporation (are there any small businesses in the future?) has been producing lifelike robots that can be controlled remotely by users—surrogates that can perform all of the tasks of their human users, without the humans having to leave their couches. And you thought buying a Rumba made you lazy.

With the advent of the surrogate, everything is gumdrops and rainbows in Utopia. Violent crime has sharply dropped off, and the population is happy—until a bad guy starts blasting surrogates with a weapon vaguely reminiscent of a Ghostbusters proton pack that also kills the surrogates’ users, a disturbing development to be sure.

Greer is assigned to the case, which takes him and his partner Peters (Radha Mitchell) through the usual machinations of a cop drama—interviewing suspects and rounding up evidence—with a few passable Terminator-like action scenes thrown in for good measure.

Surrogates, perhaps due to its lack of originality, never quite lives up to its potential—instead it’s a safe murder mystery with a shot of corporate intrigue that masquerades as a sci-fi flick. A half-baked subplot featuring Greer’s wife Maggie (Rosamund Pike), a human touch that could have saved the movie (or at least lent it a shade of pathos), falls well short of the mark, perhaps owing to the fact that the writers responsible for the unholy stench of both Catwoman and Terminator Salvation rendered the screenplay.

That’s not to say that Surrogates is all bad. The makeup department’s ability to apply bucket loads of Maybelline smooth and clear concealer to its sometimes gnarled-looking cast (I’m talking to you, Bruce Willis) is unrivaled. And, in all seriousness, the film does a good job of quickly establishing its derivative sci-fi world and playing within its own rules.

Although some of the more practical problems of the widespread use of surrogates, such as someone taking over another person’s surrogate, are explored, Surrogates mostly glosses over the moral and ethical questions it seems to pose. It’s these deeper existential themes that separate the wheat from the chaff in the world of sci-fi, leaving Surrogates firmly in “meh” territory.

Grade: C-

I'm still going to see it, if only because I have a Bruce Willis toupee fetish. Not a regular toupee fetish, JUST a Bruce Willis toupee fetish. I'm very particular. Seriously, check it out:http://screencrave.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/Radha-Mitchell-and-Bruce-Willis-in-SURROGATES_JPG.jpg
Tell me that's not awesome.

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