SURROGATES is the newest addition to the “true” genre of science-fiction, which is something we see less often anymore. More likely we’re led to believe a film is sci=fi when it really turns out to be an action or horror flick marketed as science-fiction. The film is based on the 2005-06 comic book series (now a graphic novel) called THE SURROGATES, written by Robert Venditti and illustrated by Brett Weldele.
One of the very first things I noticed about SURROGATES is that it immediately pulled me into the story, creating the mystery and intrigue often necessary to tell a good sci-fi story of this nature. The film blends a sci-fi story with mystery, action and a bit of film noir (although its certainly not visually a film noir) as the main character is sort of an anti-hero law enforcer working outside the box, bending the rules to solve a crime.
The story follows Agent Greer, played by Bruce Willis, who takes what appears at first to be another case of reckless surrogate usage, but turns out to be the first human homicide in many years. The film takes place 14 years in the future, when the invention of high-tech humanoid robots have all but replaced us in society. Humans are still in control, but these surrogates enable humans to link their minds to them as to experience life however they choose through their robots without the risk of disease or injury.
As Greer and his partner Agent Peters (Radha Mitchell) gradually uncover the truth, they discover the existence of a powerful and dangerous weapon that somehow allows the destruction of a surrogate to cause the death of its human controller. The race is then on, as Greer is forced to leave his surrogate comfort zone and pursue this mystery killer in his own flesh and blood body. A small but extremist group of humans opposed to the use of surrogates is led by The Prophet (Ving Rhames) and Greer must figure out what he and the inventor of the surrogates (James Cromwell) have to do with this conspiracy that threatens the very state of human existence.
SURROGATES was directed by Jonathan Mostow (TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES) and is, for the most part, an entertaining and successful venture into the science-fiction genre. The film has its share of action and, while its not the best you’ll ever see, the special effects and choreography of the action works well. In particular, the scene with Greer’s surrogate chasing down a suspect through the unfriendly sovereign territory of the Human Coalition is exciting but its clear the budget for this level of special effects had its limits.
The beef of the science-fiction elements in the story take hold most fruitfully in the latter half of the film, but its the type of story where it has to build. For the die-hard comic book fans out there, I was informed by someone who has read the graphic novel that some liberties were taken from the film’s source material and that the ending, well… you’ll have to see for yourself. It wouldn’t be fair for me to ruin the ending even by stating its relevance to the original story.
Bruce Willis was as good as he usually is, love him or hate him, he always delivers a relatively acceptable and predictable caliber in all of his performances. There’s a 50/50 mix that usually emerges from Willis, part of him is always there in the same form, but he always adds an additional level that makes each of his characters unique. Regardless, Willis will never be Daniel Day-Lewis. Aside from this, none of the other characters really had a large enough role in the film for the supporting cast to shine.
The look and feel of SURROGATES was an interesting experience as well. While the story blends concepts similar to both STRANGE DAYS and I ROBOT, the visual style and the tone reminded me a little of TOTAL RECALL. One of the story elements that I really appreciated was that it didn’t bog itself down with getting all technical with the science behind the surrogates, but focused more on the human-to-human relationships, or lack thereof, that the whole moral of the story is built upon.
I was particularly pleased with the score by Richard Marvin (SIX FEET UNDER) and was surprised to see Elizabeth banks as an Executive Producer. While I found it somewhat surprising that she be attached in this way, I hand her kudos for supporting a movie outside of her native comedic genre. Overall, the film will definitely appeal more to the general viewing audience than the die-hard sci-fi buffs, but if the genre fanboys give the film a chance, I think there’s plenty that SURROGATES can offer them as well, but recommend the skeptics save a few bucks and take in a matinee showing.