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Movies Eddie McMullen Jr. Review by
E.C.McMullen Jr.
Surrogates
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SURROGATES - 2009
Mandeville Films, Top Shelf Productions, Wintergreen Productions, Touchstone Pictures
Rated: Argentina: 16 / Australia: M / Canada: 14A / Finland: K-13 / Germany, Netherlands: 12 / Hong Kong: IIA / Ireland, UK: 12A / Japan: G / Malaysia, Philippines, USA: PG-13 / Mexico: B / Norway, Sweden: 11 / Portugal: M/12 / Singapore: PG / South Africa: 13V / South Korea: 15 / Taiwan: PG-12

Did you see the trailer to SURROGATES? Within about 30 seconds, everything you needed to know about the future world where SURROGATES takes place, was revealed to you. Period.

In case you forgot...

So there you are.

The rest of the trailer is snippets from the movie and the way those snippets play out, you look at that trailer and think, 'I've pretty much seen the movie now.'

And you are right.

Still, if you watch SURROGATES, you get a long narration that over explains in over three minutes everything you understood in 30 seconds. But wait! Then you get to watch an entire 88 minute movie that rehashes everything you learned in the first 30 seconds that brought you to the theater, and everything you learned in the first 3 plus minutes of this movie. Why the padding you may ask? Because without it, this would be an 85 minute movie. So running off of a brief, thin screenplay by Michael Ferris and long time partner, John D. Brancato (TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES, PRIMEVAL, TERMINATOR 4: SALVATION), we get what you'd expect us to get, based on the work of these two. What you think of their past work will color what you think of SURROGATES.

Surrogates
TOM GREER IS A FUTURE COP STILL MOURNING THE DEATH OF A CHILD. HE IS EMOTIONALLY DISTANT FROM HIS WIFE, AND FINDS THAT THE PERFECT TECHNOLOGY WHICH VIRTUALLY ELIMINATED CRIME IS DANGEROUSLY FLAWED.
And starring James Cromwell as the inventor of this future.
SURROGATES is also directed by Jonathan Mostow (THEM [2007], TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES). Again, your opinion of his past work will influence your opinion of SURROGATES.

Where these three men excel is action sequences. Where they continuously flop their entire careers is character development and motivation. If you are a movie producer looking for a low budget alternative (under $100 mil. for a picture) to Michael Bay, Brett Ratner, and McG, why not try Michael, John, and Jon?

Anyway, after the narrative sequence, we meet a wealthy young man who, while wearing a robot suit he borrowed from his lovable old dad, decides to forgo the opera for a night of slumming. It goes badly for him when merry mishaps occur.

FBI agents Tom Greer (Bruce Willis: THE SIXTH SENSE, UNBREAKABLE, SIN CITY, PLANET TERROR, THE EXPENDABLES) and Peters (Radha Mitchell: PITCH BLACK, PHONE BOOTH, SILENT HILL, ROGUE, THE CRAZIES) are called on the scene because of the two damaged surrogate robots, one of them isn't registered, which is a federal offense.

The investigation begins and we learn about Tom Greer. Seems his son died in a car accident. This is played out too awkward to bring the emotion the scene needed.

I, Robot
SURROGATES IS NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH:
DETECTIVE DEL SPOONER, A FUTURE COP STILL MOURNING THE DEATH OF A CHILD, IS EMOTIONALLY DISTANT FROM WOMEN, AND FINDS THAT THE PERFECT TECHNOLOGY WHICH VIRTUALLY ELIMINATED CRIME IS DANGEROUSLY FLAWED.
And starring James Cromwell as the inventor of this future.
For you see...

Tom is a cop of the near future, who plays by his own rules, in a world where robots are everywhere. The Surrogates, about 99% of the citizens who move about in public, are wirelessly propelled by their humans who stay at home on a special bed. Because Surrogates are so dominant, users in their robot suits find the rare, actual humans among them rather tasteless, even offensive, and are not above calling them epithets like "Meatbag." Yes, that's what Robots call humans in this Futurama. Tom doesn't like robots, he feels they put a wall between humans and their positive emotions, bringing out the negative ones instead, like callow selfishness and self-indulgence. Tom spends as much time as possible - safe within his house - unplugged.
We learn that the death of the surrogate robot also killed its user, which is unheard of to all. What's worse, the user of the surrogate was none other than Jerry Canter (James Francis Ginty) the son of the inventor of our robot future, Dr. Lionel Canter (James Cromwell: SPECIES, THE GREEN MILE, THE SUM OF ALL FEARS, I, ROBOT, SPIDER-MAN 3). Not to be confused of course, with Dr. Alfred Lanning, who invented the robots in I, ROBOT. And Tom should not be confused with Det. Del Spooner in I, ROBOT who also didn't like the artificial varmints.

Dr. Canter is shocked to learn of his son's death. When Tom points out that his son was borrowing the Surrogate from Pop, the realization that he may have been the real target, and so is responsible for his son's death, is too much for Dr. Canter to bear, and he drops out of his Surrogate. When that happens, the cops find themselves with an inanimate surrogate and the User finds himself back in his room, possibly thousands of miles away.

The whole point of Surrogates, we learn, is to keep humans safe. Existing through a Surrogate robot means you can look as good as you like, are free from death, and even free from pain unless you choose to feel it. A Surrogate robot can be smashed to bits and burned in a horrible accident, none of which can affect the user, who is only temporarily out of a Surrogate.

Minority Report
SURROGATES AND I, ROBOT ARE NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH:
CHIEF JOHN ANDERTON, A FUTURE COP STILL MOURNING THE DEATH OF A CHILD, IS EMOTIONALLY DISTANT FROM HIS WIFE, AND FINDS THAT THE PERFECT TECHNOLOGY WHICH VIRTUALLY ELIMINATED CRIME IS DANGEROUSLY FLAWED.
And starring Max von Sydow as the inventor of this future.
Yet now there is a weapon on the streets that can destroy a Surrogate and the feedback to the User, kills the real person as well. So of course, Greer and Peter's boss, Stone (Boris Kodjoe: STARSHIP TROOPERS 3), the head of their department, puts a lockdown on this news until they know what's going on themselves.

Throw into this mix pockets of humanity who call themselves "Dreads", led by a charismatic human known as The Prophet (Ving Rhames: JACOB'S LADDER, BRINGING OUT THE DEAD, FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN, DAWN OF THE DEAD [2004]). He leads the less than 1% of the human population, who rebel against living through surrogates. So you have what should be a pretty damn good story. Somebody must have thought so after seeing the popularity of the graphic novel SURROGATES by Writer Robert Venditti and artist Brett Weldele.

There is also, of course, the...

!!!UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHE ALERT!!!:
What is the UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHE ALERT aka URCA? Well you would think it's nobody's idea of a good time. But considering that Hollywood uses this crutch now more than ever before, somebody must be getting a real thrill out of it. Go to the URCA to find out, and then go to URCA/Surrogates to see why this movie got one.

BEWARE though, the UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHE ALERT is loaded with SPOILERS!


The action sequences are all well done and thrilling, as Mostow is in his domain there. Everything else is kinda blah, and the constant, repetitive soundtrack by Richard Marvin (THEM [2007]) doesn't help.

Anywho, I can deal with derivative if it's done well, but I saw SURROGATES. In SURROGATES, every emotion from Tom's sense of loss of his son, to Dr. Canter's sense of loss for his son, to Tom's wife, Maggie (Rosamund Pike: DOOM, FRACTURE) fear of living in the real, due to a sense of loss for her son, is discarded for SPECIAL EFFECTS AND CHASES! You know, like the kind you see for free in car commercials and ads for fruit roll-ups.

Willis, Pike, and Cromwell bring their character's emotions to the front because they are just that good as actors. Mostow can only sit there and point a camera at it.

Still, what's there is good for an action eye-candy film.

Three barely-earned Shriek Girls

Shriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek Girls
This review copyright 2009 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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