Surrogates (2009)
(Release Date: September 25, 2009)


This Dollhouse Earth!

J.C. Maçek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

I've got a really good friend back in Louisiana that I haven't seen in... like 15 years or so. Aimee is one of my best friends in the world, in spite of the fact that we essentially keep up via Facebook, MySpace, smart phones and YouTube videos. Interesting, yes, especially because it's essentially a 2-D world and all handled remotely. Then again, it's not so much the distance... after all, my buddy Ricardo and I live an hour apart and we're emailing instead of hanging out... my best friend Lynelle and I thrive on text messaging each other and my daughter just IMed me from the other room. Has the world gotten smaller or just made philosophical existential theories like this three times as annoying as before?

The point is, many might say that it's just a bit impersonal. Hell, what's the next step? Not even leaving the house in your own body, but in an idealized android form you control every move of and share every sensation with? Yeah! Just imagine it... never getting hurt, replacing body parts like one might replace tires or flux capacitors and always looking good, never worrying about letting yourself go and still getting (virtually) laid all the time without even any real concern about getting VD or Crabs or... or... caught.

Well, that's the premise of Surrogates the 2009 adaptation of the graphic novel by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele! So a future of Robots walking around while people are subjugated and getting all fat and beaten down. Who the hell is qualified to adapt this thing? How about John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris, those two clowns behind the screenplay for Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Terminator: Salvation. Yeah, but who the hell could direct it? How about T3 director Jonathan Mostow?

Yeah, how about him? Sorry, I was just distracted by some kick-ass Facebook action. I'm thinking of changing my ID to "Lou Zerr"!

Moving On. Clearly the thing about having a Surrogate is that you can live and move and have your being in the real world with a certain amount of anonymity. A fat, nasty guy could become an incredibly hot blonde woman on the prowl. A lonely college student can borrow a relative's Surrogate and party down with or without proper ID! A shut-in could re-rout a surrogate and look just like the person whose identity he literally stole. All the while one never really worries about getting hurt or sick while milling about town, diving three storeys to the dance floor or facing off with an armed gunman. After all, nothing can harm you from your control center, which could be anywhere in the world, right?


Well, that is, we think so... until a partying couple of Surrogates is blown away by a special ray gun... which also manages to wipe out the human beings behind the robot bodies through some strange neural shock.

Enter FBI agents Mulder and Scully... I'm kidding, I'm kidding. Enter FBI Agent Greer (Bruce Willis and his partner Peters (Radha Mitchell). Both are shocked by this frightening news and what it means for the lifestyle all society has embraced and both look like MODELS, basically because they're hiding behind their surrogates.

Naturally, all fingers point to the pro-human (semi-terrorist) faction known as The Dreads, led by a radical known as "The Prophet" (Ving Rhames).

The frightening question is whether this weapon originated with the Dreads and their charismatic leader or if they are just finding out about this themselves and could potentially wreak even more havoc on the world if they had possession of it. Under the strict supervision of Chief Andrew Stone (Boris Kodjoe), Greer and Peters work their way through a list of familiars, from Colonel Brendon (Michael Cudlitz) to Miles Strickland (Jack Noseworthy) to an (at first) unidentified surrogate (played by James Francis Ginty) to the very inventor of the surrogates themselves, Doctor Lionel Canter (James Cromwell)!

It's not much of a spoiler to tell you that the going REALLY gets rough when Greer finds himself without his surrogate and walks around looking a lot like Bruce Willis, circa 2009! Hell, it's all over the previews and the poster art, if you didn't know, you must be new. Herein lies the problem... how can Greer finish his investigation when he's virtually the only person who is really himself (and really mortal) in all of Boston? Further, how can he now relate to his wife Maggie (Rosamund Pike) who has all but abandoned her real form in favor of an adventurous and fashionable surrogate. Most of all, since both are still hurting after the death of their young son, they're both all-too-familiar with the concept of mortality, especially when the alternative is a life of safe plastic coverings.

Surrogates has some fascinating moments and an interesting plot. It also leads up to some valid surprises and fast-paced action. The film, however, isn't quite perfect. So often this feels a lot like Die Hard with a MATRIX, right on down to its star. This same familiarity branches out to the creative team, who did base their film on the graphic novel The Surrogates, but infused a whole lot of their inherited Terminator mythos into their screenplay. Yes, a lot of this feels familiar and while there is a good deal of the cerebral and intelligent in the script, there is also quite a lot of explosions, crashes and fights to distract the audience and keep things going in that standard Sci-Fi Blockbuster kind of way.

However, many naysayers might latch on to the flaws in the film and ultimately not catch the social satire therein. No, this isn't the Mad social satire that keeps one rolling on the floor laughing one's ass off, but it is satire nonetheless with a decently handled message that is worth a thought, at least. Perhaps Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dumber out there will accidentally assimilate the message while either praising the action scenes or condemning the brighter points. You think they're ready for Jonathan Swift after that?

Probably not, but perhaps they have to get ready for Jonathan Mostow before they can even think about getting ready for Jonathan Swift. We'll start with the Lilliputian and move on to the Brobdignagian. (what, you thought I'd start talking like a normal person? Perish the thought!)

One way or the other, Surrogates is a good quality film with more than its share of fine acting, quality effects and thought provoking metaphors to boot. It also relies on "cool" action that, while admittedly fun, feels a bit more like a distraction than a necessary inclusion once in a while. That said, the film still manages to create the AVATAR of Three and one half Stars out of Five! Trust me, I'm not being phony when I say that. Now, if you'll excuse me, I think it's time to dust off and re-read my worn copy of Swift's A Modest Proposal... then maybe I'll report my opinions of it all over Facebook. Let me just... um... Photoshop up my current profile picture first here. Oh, uh, until then... I'll see you in the NEXT plasticine reel!

You might not feel MORE human
By reaching through this link through Cyberspace
to read more of my reviews...
But do it anyway. Or have your surrogate do so instead!

Surrogates (2009)
Reviewed by J.C. Maçek III
Who is solely responsible for this site,
(His own Cyberspace Surrogate)
And for the fact that he really doesn't Photoshop his profile pics.
He just works out instead...
And if the picture's bad, he can't help it.
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