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What you get when you find deep-seated existential philosophy trapped in a latter-day 1950ís B-movie?  That would be Bruce Willisí latest action opus, Surrogates.

In a near future scenario, similar to the one depicted in 2004ís I, Robot, hardware is everywhere.  Robots have taken to the streets doing all the jobs and living the lives that we humans used to.  The big difference in the premise of Surrogates and I, Robot, is in the humanity beneath the mecha.  Growing from a combination of different sciences, robots now serve as avatars for their human owners, going out into the world fulfilling our existences as we - plugged into the machines via a high-tech remote control chair - guide them from inside the safety of our homes.  Not everyone is thrilled with the advent of such displacing technology.  The Surrogates are seen by flesh and blood protestors as an abomination on humanity that must be stopped.  Itís this tension that is at the center of a murder case involving the inventor of the Surrogates and will bring Federal Agent Greer into a web of deception and violence.

Arriving at the crime scene with a head full of floppy blonde hair and nonporous skin, our first sight of Bruce Willis is a startling and funny.  The first thought being, Ďis he kidding, heís trying to look 10 years younger,í and of course he is.  The beauty of the Surrogates is that they can head off to work or wherever, made into idealised versions of whatever you want to look like, while you sit at home resembling an unmade bed.  The convenience of these creatures makes for a lazy populace and one very easy to lead.  This also enables the possibility of identity theft of the highest order, which comes into big play throughout the film. If someone decides to take over your Surrogate, how would anyone know whether it was really you?

The disconnect between human beings is felt keenly by Greer and his wife, who coexist in the same house, yet never really see each other.  Maggie Greer locked herself in her room in a state of constant grief over the loss of the coupleís young son.  Living strictly through her Surrogate enables Maggie to keep her husband as far away as possible, but still within armís reach.  Greerís constant run-ins with the plastic people and the twists that present themselves in his case convince him that itís time to put away his own Surrogate.  In a world overrun by beings that are really hard to destroy, Greer finds himself an endangered species, fragile and unable to leap over tall buildings like his rubbery avatar.  For all the technology permeating the world, itís Greerís good old-fashioned detective work that gets to the bottom of some very human plotting.

Bruce Willis still hasnít lost his everyman charm after all these years.  Itís his very humanness that makes his war against the machines interesting; the Average Joe up against objects of perfection.  Itís his chops as an actor that puts over the filmís mercifully infrequent dramatic moments.  One canít help watch this and wonder what the next move for Willis might be as Surrogates, though pleasing, isnít difficult to have imagined going straight to DVD.

Cribbing as much from sci-fi films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers {1956} and The Stepford Wives {1975} as from the aforementioned I, Robot, there is a B-movie cheesiness about Surrogates that is hard to deny.  From the occasionally questionable special effects Ė not every robot is created equal in the future - to the hokey people first, even if theyíre living in filth and squalor homily, combined with the notion that technology is the new Red Scare, thereís something not quite first run about this one.  As it is a Bruce Willis film, there are plenty of requisite action scenes, mainly of our star getting pummeled in both human and android forms.  Somehow the inclusion of the robots led me to expect more from what we were given, yet outside of some superhuman freejumping and the light going out of a Surrogate's eyes when their owner decides to cut a conversation short, thereís not all that much to write home about with these robots.  I think Cyberdine would have done a better job.  Still, this very familiar feeling mash-up of many films is enjoyable as the slight popcorn chomper it was meant to be.  Indeed, director Jonathan Mostow is sagely judicious in his handling of the filmís philosophical questions and tips always toward another well-paced action sequence.  Surrogates wonít tax the brain overmuch, but is enjoyable as the modern day 1950ís B-movie that it is.



~ The Lady Miz Diva

Sept. 25th, 2009








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