Like my book reviews site, these are movie reviews I write for entertainment purposes only. These are just my reviews and my opinions. They are not endorsed by Blogger or any movie studios or anyone else. So there. I borrowed my scoring system from the Metacritic site, which does not imply an endorsement from them, although I think they do have a very nice website. I convert the 1-100 scores into 1-4 stars, essentially it works like this:

1 star = 25 points
2 stars = 50 points
3 stars = 75 points
4 stars = 100 points

And then if something falls about halfway between, then I'll give it an added half-star.

Sunday, January 31, 2010


Unless you're an A-list celebrity or supermodel you've probably had a bad hair day--or several of them--or some wrinkles that just won't go away no matter how much Botox you use.  Wouldn't it be great then if you could have a remote-controlled robot body that never gets old and always looks perfect?  That's the basic premise behind "Surrogates."  Or to put it another way:  it's like "Avatar" only instead of controlling a ten-foot-tall blue alien you're controlling a robot that looks human.

Like another 2009 sci-fi movie "District 9," "Surrogates" starts off with news footage showing how in fourteen years technology goes from a monkey being able to control a robotic limb with its mind to 98% of the world having better-than-perfect reproductions of themselves.  It's hard to swallow this the way it's presented.  The first part of the technology, the monkey controlling a robotic limb, is actually very real and could lead to the next generation of prosthetic limbs that can actually replace the missing one.  But I think this technology is still in the experimental phase.  To go from that to what's presented in "Surrogates" in less than 15 years is unbelievable.  But if you can suspend disbelief there, the rest of the movie is a serviceable sci-fi thriller in the league of "I, Robot" or "Paycheck" though not in the same league as "Blade Runner" or "Minority Report" in its execution.

OK, so suspending disbelief let's say that 98% of people, even all those goat herders in Afghanistan or Mongolia, are using surrogate robotic bodies.  We still have some humans who reject the use of surrogates, seeing them as an abomination.  One of these "meatbags" stalks a wealthy seemingly young man.  He pulls out what looks sort of like a modified Dustbuster, and fires a burst of blue energy that fries not only the young man, but the actual young man controlling the surrogate.  Such a thing has never happened before.

What's worse is that the young man turns out to be the son of Lionel Carver, the creator of surrogate technology who was forced out of his own company when he started making inconvenient statements opposing their widespread use.  FBI agent Tom Greer (Bruce Willis) is brought in to investigate the crime.  As you'd expect, this investigation leads him to uncover a conspiracy involving a variety of different parties who are all trying to kill each other.

I couldn't help wondering if this movie might have done better at the box office if it had featured Will Smith like "I, Robot" or "I Am Legend."  But then Smith isn't really old enough to have enough contrast between him and his surrogate.  Since he's pushing 60, Bruce Willis is a better choice for this as you can clearly see the difference between his wrinkle-free surrogate with its creepy blond hair and the bald, wrinkled actor with his graying goatee.  The script wisely doesn't have him perform too many "Die Hard"-type stunts in non-surrogate mode, though unlike those other movies he doesn't get set up for many good quips here either.  The script also doesn't probably have enough twists or turns, clocking in at less than 90 minutes.  What disappoints me is that we see the big factory/headquarters of VSI, the surrogate manufacturer early in the movie when surrogate Tom Greer is investigating the murder but we never go back there.  Clearly a chance was squandered to have some fun in there, where maybe Tom could have battled an army of out-of-control surrogates or something.  Oh well.

Also, unlike the aforementioned "District 9" or "Blade Runner" this script doesn't have too much on its mind concerning the background issues.  The issues about the surrogates and the questions that arise aren't really dealt with all that much.  (A couple of questions I have:  Wouldn't this put industries like restaurants out of business if everyone's robots who don't need to eat?  Though maybe oil changes would do booming business.  Also, wouldn't the population start dying out?  Presumably surrogates don't have sperm or ovaries.  I suppose you could make babies in labs.  But what happens if you're in a bar and you meet a nice girl/guy surrogate and fall in love?  Is that even possible anymore?  Do you move your controller beds in together or just stay separate?  Of course one issue that is sort of raised is:  what happens if you see that hot girl surrogate in the bar and find out it's a fat guy controlling her?)  See, there's a lot to think about here but the movie doesn't really try to build any depth to its world, preferring to just use the surrogates as a prop for chases and fights.

Anyway, I thought it was a perfectly serviceable movie, just not especially memorable.  It might be more memorable if that robot technology ever does start really taking off.  A definite rental.

That is all.

My score:  62/100 (2.5 stars)

Metacritic score:  45/100 (1.5 stars)

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