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Wednesday
Sep232009

Surrogates

Being a movie lover and having a fervent passion for writing about them means that I have to sit through a lot of crap, but rarely is one so utterly terrible that I feel like I've just been slapped in the face by the metaphorical hand of fate, mocking my affection for a medium as uneven as the movies. Few this year have built up a hatred so strong that I give them one of my two lowest scores, but here we are in late September and I'm being forced to dole out another one to the truly awful Surrogates. Having seen it, I can now safely say that I wish I could have sent a surrogate to watch it for me.

Over a decade ago, a powerful company created a line of robots called surrogates that could be controlled through thoughts. It was a breakthrough in technology and as the years went by, people saw the benefits of owning a surrogate. Racism was practically stopped overnight and crime went down to less than 1%. The world seemed a better place with the arrival of these machines and the public quickly latched onto them. Now, the world is overrun by surrogates. Outside of one group of rebellious humans who refuse to own one, everybody lives their lives through these machines. They go to work, do their errands and have their fun all by lying in a chair in their rooms and controlling them with their minds. Part of the appeal of using a surrogate is that the person is always safe. If their surrogate is hurt, they remain unharmed. But a mysterious weapon has emerged that fries the surrogate while also, somehow, killing the host who is back home. FBI agent Greer (Bruce Willis) is put on the case to stop this weapon from taking more innocent lives.

From what I could tell based on the information in the movie, people have become so accustomed to using surrogates that they barely leave their rooms anymore, much less their homes. Even spouses only spend time with each other through the use of their surrogates, which begs the question, how do they reproduce? Are they not worried about extinction? Naturally, not a single child is seen throughout the movie other than in an area with humans who do not use surrogates. And what about obesity? Does the exercise the surrogate gets translate back to the human sitting idly in his or her chair? If not, why is everybody so thin?

The film never answers these questions, or even cares to. It barely even plays by its own set of rules. Though the movie clearly states that the surrogate has all the senses a normal human would have, including touch, how it works is unclear. If the surrogate is walking, it feels to the host like they actually are. If they are in physical contact with something, it's as if the host was physically there touching it. They are supposed to feel what their surrogates feel. But if they get punched in the face, they just laugh. If they get hit by a car, they merely look confused. They don't feel the pain despite feeling everything else, which makes no sense because believe me, if you got hit by a car, you would feel it.

Then there's the case of the surrogates randomly and inexplicably gaining superhuman abilites, jumping absurd distances and effortlessly hurdling over cars, which again is contradictory to the film's own mythology. The surrogates act at the will of the human controlling it and are supposed to act normally, but those moves are certainly not normal. When did everyone become an Olympic athlete? Don't even get me started on the use of surrogates as objects of war, which makes about as much sense as a Kamikaze pilot wearing a helmet.

Keep in mind that there are more problems with the movie than just its ridiculous story and failure to make any sense of its own rules. The characters, at least in surrogate mode, are emotionless and boring; a decision assumedly made on purpose by the filmmakers to show that there is no life in the machines. What I want to know is how this company has the technology to build robots that walk the world controlled by the thoughts of their owners, but doesn't have the technology to support a smile. I would say that watching the surrogate characters "act" is about as fun as watching paint dry, but that would be doing a disservice to drywall.

Surrogates is a terrible movie that ranks among Bruce Willis' worst. Does it make a statement about humanity and how we are increasingly letting technology control our lives? It sure tries. Although admittedly a good message to hear, the movie surrounding it is a complete mess, causing the message to get lost in the shuffle of its endless stupidity.

Surrogates receives 0.5/5

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