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Surrogates

dir: Jonathan Mostow
[img_assist|nid=1184|title=Some women will do anything to be models|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=375|height=509]
Huh? Is Bruce Willis so desperate for beer money that he’ll take practically any role in any piece de resistance of shit? He can’t possibly still owe Demi Moore alimony, can he?

The thing that’s weirdest about this flick is that I’m not entirely sure why it’s so weird. It’s weird in that it’s so brief, harmless and plastic. The plasticity of it all is part of the point, but it really does feel like half the film is missing somewhere, perhaps on either the editing suite’s floor or Bruce Willis’s bathroom, whichever.

It’s disturbing as well to see this strangely hilarious fantasy version of Bruce Willis, though I guess there’s some real reason for it.

This flick is a pointless and thinly-veiled allegory for the abdication of reality by pale, sweaty people who’ve ceased living real lives and who now live almost exclusively through the tubes of the internets. It’s utterly simplistic and, dare I say it, stupid, but even worse than that, there’s no real validity to the premise. It’s nonsense.

Set at some arbitrary time in the future, a new application of technology has resulted in the good people of America receding to the darkness of their own bedrooms, in order to send their consciousnesses forth into the world through robotic surrogates. All these surrogates are, of course, mostly young and hot looking. Except for the fact that there are no children, old people or ugly people around except for Bruce Willis, life mostly goes along like it always did.

The fact that people now almost exclusively run around in these mannequin bodies means there’s no murder or violent crime like there used to be, because they’re all robots. The only people who don’t partake of these bodies are, apparently, all white trash luddites called Dreads who live on surrogate-free zones called reservations, and are led by The Prophet (Ving Rhames), who’s really anti these surrogates, boy howdy.

Someone finds a way to kill people by aiming a maguffin weapon at their surrogates, which pops out their robot eyes but also kills the person who was in them, which is supposed to be impossible, impossible they tell us! Why impossible? Well, because the ‘logic’ of this world and the way people are now living doesn’t make any kind of sense, and is made up as the story goes along in order to create some bullshit excuses that masquerade as a plot.

Bruce Willis plays an FBI agent that’s trying to find out who’s behind the superweapon, and who initially gets to run around in a ‘handsome’ cyborg body with a full head of blonde hair. His robot body gets trashed, though, and he ends up having to go through the rest of the flick in his old, tired, unshaven body, surrounded as he is by pink mannequins.

His only depth as a character comes from the laziest Hollywood hackwriter’s conceit, being the old stand-by of a dead child. I was very surprised that he wasn’t an alcoholic as well. Cue the sad music whenever he wanders into his son’s room, or tries to connect with his scarred wife (Rosamund Pike), who spends all her time looking like slightly more of a mannequin than the people around her.

The story is trying to imply, independently of the plot, that people becoming fixated on these shiny avatars is a bad thing. I never really understood why. People stare fixedly into space, looking vacant even when they’re occupied, but they’re just vehicles. Some of the people in the story assert that humanity has lost its, uh, humanity because of these surrogates, but it’s never really shown as to why. We take it as a given that it’s bad when someone starts killing people through their surrogates, but we’re never given a reason as to why it’s bad for these surrogate bodies to operate as they do.

It’s not like these bodies has a separate consciousness when they’re not being operated. The cheaper ones lack sensations and strength, but the more pricey ones operate just like actual bodies. The operator’s consciousness is right there, whether they’re still working in offices or beauty salons, which I would have thought were completely redundant, or driving buses or whatever. People don’t actually inhabit these bodies any more than a person driving a car ‘becomes’ the car: they’re remotely operated. People still need to eat and sleep and such, and they park their surrogate bodies as required.

I’m still thinking about it, and I’m still unable to figure out what the point is. Luckily from the perspective of someone who liked the film, and there are probably about five people somewhere that did (I’m guessing Utah), the villains who are killing people believe in what they’re doing. What I can’t figure out is what the main character, the FBI agent played by Bruce Willis, thinks will be achieved by something he does or doesn’t do at the flick’s ending.

I can’t say I was sad when the flick abruptly ended, because it all seemed like a cheap and nasty production which ran out of money a month into shooting, and I didn’t really think it did anything particularly well or sold us on the idea of this being an actual world radically changed by new technology in unforeseeable and ghastly ways. There’s nothing that’s that convincing about it being in any way a different world. The technology doesn’t really make that much sense, whether you think about it or not, and its application seems ludicrously simplistic.

The concept of building bodies of sufficient complexity that it would be possible for them to pass as people is nothing new, but they make that minor leap without being able to change the other framework in any way that isn’t, and I hesitate to use this term, retarded. For arbitrary reasons some seemingly extraneous guy has the power to not only observe every surrogate simultaneously, but to be able to shut them off at will. That’s all well and good (no it’s not, I’m just pretending to be rational about this), but how the fuck do you monitor millions of people and surrogates simultaneously in any sensible way that isn’t just for the convenience of this plot?

I’m overthinking it, which is what you do when you don’t like a flick, I guess. It’s not that I didn’t like the flick, despite being comically bad. Each step forward in the plot elicited groans instead of expressions of awe and wonderment. Each development, whether forward or sideways, kept convincing me that this flick thought it was Blade Runner crossed with 12 Monkeys, when in reality it wasn’t even the Jean Claude Van Damme flick Cyborg. Now that was a pearler.

If I don’t accept the premise, and I don’t accept the allegory between living through surrogates (which is bad, apparently), and people who create idealised versions of themselves as avatars in games or online (which is bad, apparently), wasting their lives away despite still actually living in their bodies, then nothing that happens from the beginning of this flick to its end is really going to be in any way remotely meaningful to me. The action and the premise hardly justify the price of admission, so it’s not even enjoyable on the level that something like I, Robot is, in which James Cromwell plays an almost identical role to here, despite its myriad flaws.

The only amusement I derived was from seeing what Bruce Willis might wish he still looked like today, which is like a cross between a gay pornstar and a member of Spandau Ballet circa 1985. Other than that, there’s nothing here for any of you. Avoid at some cost.

4 times I couldn’t figure out if we were supposed to be gratified or irritated by the ending out of 10

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“Honey, I don't know what you are. I mean, for all I know, you could be some big, fat dude sitting in his stim chair with his dick hanging out.” – Now that’s an unpleasantly accurate image – Surrogates.

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