starring Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, Rosamund Pike, Jack Noseworthy, Ving Rhames and James Cromwell
screenplay by Michael Ferris and John D. Brancato
directed by Jonathan Mostow
At first I thought this was going to be a science-based movie about alternative means of motherhood and some terrible laboratory-created monster. Or, maybe a conspiracy about modern sex slavery and reproductive trafficking. Instead, it was a story of humanoid robots taking over the world - a sub-genre of the non-human creatures taking over the world story line. The Body Snatchers is the classic example, although it is not robots in that case, but aliens who grow in pods to replicate a human subject. Blade Runner is a good example. Then it was domination by machines, as in Terminator. In recent years the Isaac Asimov fictitious technological device, the positronic brain, was made into two films - i, Robot (2004) starring Will Smith, and Bicentennial Man (1999) starring Robin Williams. The former presented us with a malevolent robots-taking-over-the-world plot, while the latter was a much gentler family story.
What’s going on in Surrogates is that in a near-future world humans have largely retreated from daily living and isolated themselves indoors while their surrogate robots - neurologically controlled by them from “sim chairs” at home, kind of like how the Avatars are controlled in the James Cameron movie Avatar - go out and about in the world. Crime rates, infectious disease and death by misadventure have virtually disappeared from people’s experience. The existential problem is, of course, that it is not authentic life at all. People are not freeing themselves from risk and thereby enabling themselves to livehappier lives so much as imprisoning themselves and compromising their humanity. It’s an extreme and mass example of what some people currently do by isolating themselves from society to stay at home surfing the internet and playing computer games as addictions.
I have come to admire Bruce Willis as an actor, and he is certainly the strongest thing going in Surrogates. But it could have been so much better. I greatly admire James Cromwell, too, although I have never liked the sound of his voice.