Sunday, January 31, 2010

A movie about the middle man - Surrogates

Surrogates (2009)

Surrogates is one of those movies where you spend the whole time YELLING AT THE GODDAMN SCREEN because the ideas at play are so GODDAMN STUPID. Did NO ONE read this crap out loud just once before shooting it?

It’s the near future, 2017 to be exact and pretty much everyone has a surrogate, an android avatar version of you that looks like you won one of those Ultimate Make Over contests. It’s a younger, prettier (or handsomer) and better built, but somewhat plastic-y, version of the real you. Of course there is a faction of humanity that shuns surrogate technology. They are called Dreads, which is the dumbest name for such a group.

What do you do with such an amazing piece of technology such as this? Well, you – the real you – veges out at home lying on a special couch that “plugs” you into the avatar-bot, while the surrogate goes about the day as you used to do in flesh and blood form. If you worked in an office, your surrogate works in the office. If you delivered mail, your surrogate delivers the mail. If you are a cop, your surrogate walks your beat. If you are a housewife who likes to go shopping all day, your surrogate goes out shopping. This “better version of you” just does all the same shit you used to do.

So what’s the point?

That’s what I was yelling at the screen the whole fucking time. This idea, from writers John Brancato and Michael Ferris adapted from the graphic novel by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele, is really one of the stupidest ones ever floated for a science fiction film.

There are so many holes in the surrogate concept that it sinks the movie, which is just a standard who-dun-it, with Bruce Willis and Radha Mitchell as FBI agents – both surrogates of course – who investigate the death of the son of the inventor of surrogates, Lionel Cantor (James Cromwell). It’s Minority Report, A.I. and other similar fare, including and especially I, Robot, right down to having Cromwell as the inventor.

Cars are affordable, but everyone does not own one. Smart phones are nearly ubiquitous, but everyone does not own one. So I just can’t swallow the movie’s premise that ULTRA-SOPHISTICATED ROBOT TECHNOLOGY AND TELEPRESENSE would be so affordable in 10 years time that EVERYONE who wants a surrogate can afford one. I call bullshit on that.

I also call serious bullshit on the movie’s lazy depiction of the use of surrogates. Everyone’s life is EXACTLY the same as it was without the use of the tech. Sure there was the one fat guy whose surrogate was a hot chick, but that happens on the internet all the time. The surrogates for Willis and his wife (Rosamund Pike) are younger and prettier but as the flesh and blood husband and wife are estranged from one another after the death of their young son, their surrogates, which of course are controlled by them, walk that same walk. There's so much ice between them you could build and igloo skyscraper.

Surrogates are only a middle man, BUT YOU HAVE TO CONTROL THE SURROGATES, so what’s the point? WHY would you want this middle man getting in the way of things? It’s one thing if the surrogates were a true copy of you, so that you can send it to your crappy office job and that would free you up to do something else with your life. The movie doesn’t make a solid case – or any case, really - for that all important WHY, so the fact that it condemns the surrogate tech as evil rings hollow. (One character calls surrogate use an addiction, but that’s a lame reason.)

It's obvious the original story was influenced by people who play virtual games like The Sims, Second Life, or even old school Dungeons & Dragons, and become so immersed in the games that they prefer it to their real lives. But at least in those games they (usually) become someone else. An accountant (sorry, accountants) isn't going to play these games as an accountant character and live the exact same life he has in reality. The whole point about fantasizing is to be someone other than what you are: if you're weak, you want to be strong; if you're short, you want to be tall; if you fumble for words all the time, you want to be the one with the snappy comeback that everyone remembers.

In between the lame story we get mostly lame action scenes, including a very dull car chase. Note to directors doing car chases: WATCH SOME CLASSIC CAR CHASE MOVIES BEFOREHAND! Check out John Frankenheimer’s classic chases, William Friedkin’s work in The French Connection and Paul Greengrass’s gripping car chases in the last two Bourne movies. Director Jonathan Mostow, you have really disappointed me (I loved your Breakdown and U-571).

There is barely enough story here for a half-hour Twilight Zone episode. And that’s a half-hour that includes commercial breaks.

No comments:

Post a Comment