Surrogates Review

Published 6 years ago by

Short Version: While not as smart as it could be, Surrogates is thought provoking and mildly entertaining.

surrogates review Surrogates Review
Screen Rant reviews Surrogates

Bruce Willis’ latest (semi-)action movie is Surrogates, a thought provoking look at the idea of taking our virtual/avatar online selves to a whole other level. In the film, it has been 14 years since Lionel Canter (James Cromwell) developed the first generation of a technology that allowed robots to be controlled completely via thought. We are briefly shown the stages of the development and integration of the technology over ensuing years, leading to present day (some time in the near future in the film).

The “Surrogate” (or “Surrey”) technology became so advanced and its use so widespread that eventually almost everyone now has their own personal robotic duplicate. What’s the point, you ask? Well these duplicates (which of course are idealized versions of the real person, or perhaps a completely different “fantasy” personage) go out into the world and interact with other people via their surrogates. In the film, due to 98% of the worlds population using surrogates, crime has plummeted and people are able to lead more supposedly satisfying lives – able to engage in all sorts of dangerous and risky behavior with no fear of getting hurt.

Bruce Willis plays Tom Greer, an FBI agent brought in to investigate the destruction of two surrogates. With the ultra-low crime rate this is an unusual event – moreso due to the effects of the destruction: Burnt out “eyes” on the units. Things get more complicated when it’s discovered that the human operators of these surrogates died from as a result of the “death” of their robots. This is a very big deal as one of the main selling points of the robots is the fact that there is no chance of injury whatsoever to the operator.

The main plot of the film is Greer attempting to find out who is behind the weapon because it could bring mass chaos to a world that has become completely dependent on the technology.

Greer is married but has suffered a great loss not long ago – the result of this is that his wife Maggie (Rosamund Pike) will not leave her room, but will only eveer be “seen” in the guise of her perfect, surrogate self. Greer is weary of living life virtually, hooked up to the equipment in his room and never leaving his home. That is how everyone lives now – interacting with each other only via their perfect-looking surrogates, while in reality sequestering themselves alone at home.

There are groups of people in every major city living in self-restricted compounds called human reservations. They think that this “virtual life” via surrogates is an abomination and want humanity to return living as we were intended. These people are led by a “messiah” called The Prophet – played by Ving Rhames, who is not who he appears to be.

The movie is based on a comic book miniseries written by Robert Venditti which I haven’t read – so how faithful it is to the source material overall, I don’t know (other than the ending deviates from the comic in a typical movie “happy ending” sort of way). It’s an intriguing concept – extrapolating from people’s growing dependence today on sites like Facebook and Twitter as well as virtual communities where you only exist to others via your online avatar (I read recently that now every one out of five minutes online are spend on social networking sites).

Unfortunately it’s very difficult to connect with the film in any way since most of the time the characters on screen are the CGI-enhanced, overly perfect surrogate versions of the actors. I did like the slightly artificial look and sheen of the surrogates, but the flip side is that as these characters they were stiff and could not emote very well. As a counterpoint to this uber-perfection it seemed like the film over compensated in the “real person” department, making the people in the film (too not put too fine a point on it) really ugly. Then again I suppose if you never had any reason to EVER leave your home, you wouldn’t worry so much about such niceties as shaving, showering every day, putting on makeup if you’re a woman, etc.

So in the end, it was an interesting concept but the execution left me a bit cold – while it could have been a film that sticks with you for a while, instead it was kind of forgettable. I’d say it’s worth a rental when it comes out on DVD.

Our Rating:

2.5 out of 5
(Fairly Good)

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  1. 2.5 ouch
    I’ll still check it out since it’s sci-fi. I’m sure I’ll get some enjoyment out of it. I like futuristic techy type flicks.

  2. Well one really bad thing they did in the trailer was completely give away the ending.



  3. I’ve become tired of people scathing me for not watching each and every trailer – and Vic has just showcased WHY. I’ve got a feature story in the beginning stages for essentially that.

    So many trailers/previews/whatever give away not only the details and (in this case) the END of the movie, it would have behooved me to note bother to watch the trailers.

    When you consider that every single ounce of money-laden effects shots are given away in most of the gigantor trailers because the “powers that be require it” – oy – its such a sordid little-big market.

  4. Avatar wont give anything away in the trailer. And thats half the reason most didnt like it. It was only scenes from the first half of the movie. I think ill give surrogates a shot just cause my girlfriend wants to see it.

  5. Well you do take a chance watching previews. Been that way for along time now. I had to avoid the “Watch Man” trailers beyond the first one, because ones after it weren’t trailers they were spoilers. Of course in a way you could look at it as the companies doing you a favor…

  6. I just saw it, I’d say Vic’s rating is pretty fair. First of all, supposedly the technology is developed, then a few years later 90% of people are surrogates… WTF?? There’s no way it would move that fast.\

    And then this whole idea of an “anti-surrogates resistance” is stupid because it’s not like they forced people to use surrogates. And it’s not like the government didn’t allow humans who don’t use surrogates to live in the regular cities, there was no reason for them to form these so called surrogate free colonies… And the ending was just dumb, it almost seems like they were supporting the resistance’s message. What happened to free will? Shouldn’t it be the choice of the individual if they want to use surrogates or not???

    But I liked how the cops like Bruce Willis’ character had super human strength, that was pretty cool.
    ***END SPOILER***

    But hey, it’s better than Terminator 3, so good job Jonathan Mastow, lol. But I had to see it because Bruce Wilis was in it, haha.

    • **Spoiler Alert**

      Ken J nailed it. This film reminded me a lot of “Demolition Man”, where all the manly types who rejected the new “pussified” version of the world marginalized themselves into grim, dystopian ghettos. Is that really the only choice? Go along with the brainwashed masses or live like a refugee? Pretty cliche, if you ask me.

      I think they did a better job telling a story of uneasy coexistence with pervasive technology in “I Robot” and “AI”, where the human counterculture contingent was distrustful of, and even hostile toward the technology, but didn’t go all “Waco” or “Ruby Ridge” about their place in it.

      On the other hand, I DO like how these guys explored the idea of kicking out that crutch in one fell swoop, even if it did leave the ending wide open for a (completely unnecessary and unwanted) sequel.

  7. I’ll still watch it. I have this tendency to watch movies i look forward to, even if they get horrible reviews. But i’ll wait for DVD :)

  8. I took my best friend to see it ’cause we are both Bruce Willis fans. And don’t get me wrong it was an alright movie. I will probably watch it again in another ten years. What I thought they did right was the beginning documentary on the surrogate tech evolution. Also I liked the Barbie doll look of the surrogates.

    What they got wrong was the movie was too small, too few characters. I mean it was supposed to be a suspense thriller and with the limited amount of characters you already could guess who was the bad guy before the second half of the movie. I like it when a movie tries to give me a challenge and lets me work it out for myself. This movie did not do that even a little. Everything was cookie cutter plotted, and explained so my brain wasnt engaged at all.

    This movie, had it been produced and directed like Minority Report, could have been a good scifi/commentary on the human condition, but instead was just another vehicle for Bruce that didnt fire on all engines, and ended up being another stale effort for everyone involved.

    Btw my friend pointed out this movie would have been better if this had starred John McClane. Dont you agree?

  9. Saw the movie, it was pretty good for me. What I really enjoyed in the film was it’s subtle message about our obsession with vanity.
    Staying young and looking pretty as opposed to accepting age.

  10. Just my two cents: So far, everything I’ve seen in the theater starring Bruce Willis has been worth the ticket price for me. He seems to be one of few actors that still actually reads the scripts for the projects he is doing. I’ll probably catch this one this coming weekend.

  11. @huntthejest

    What, even Planet Terror!? :P

  12. Saw 2 movies this weekend: Surrogates and Pandorum (which I thought was crap). While I agree with Vic, I would probably give it an extra .5, making it 3 out of 5.

  13. @John

    I enjoyed the movie, but I know it’s just because of Bruce Willis kicking ass, but thinking about the actual movie now, I can see that it wasn’t really a great movie. But I think 2.5-3 is around what I would give it too. I think it would depend on my mood which one I would give, 2.5 seems fair, 3 to add on the fact that Bruce Willis is in it, lol

  14. I guess I’m in the minority and liked it much more than anyone else. In fact, I think it was the best movie (that I’ve seen) all summer. I’d give it at least 3 out of 5.

  15. Surely not better than Star Trek????? *raises eyebrow*

  16. I still might catch this, for the reason most everyone else stated: Bruce Willis is in it. Maybe a matinee on my day off in the middle of the week. My GF didn’t seem too interested in it, so midweek matinee it is!!

  17. So Joe, the only other movie you saw this summer was Transformers 2? (ZING!) :-P


  18. @Jordi: Gasp!! Don’t say those words around me! I’m at least 87% sure I didn’t know Bruce Willis was in that. I’ve avoided that film like the plague since my brother(an avid Tarantino fan) told me it stunk on ice. That being said, I am naming my first son Hudson Hawk. That’s right.

    Sidenote: I was sorely dissappointed when Butterfinger was snubbed the Oscar nom that year. “Hey Coach, looks bad.”

  19. JessSaying
    yeah I thought that was funny too. I liked him in those roles as well. He’s a good scientist I guess.


    bad joke.

  20. @M-Cat

    Oh, I don’t know – I thought it was quite funny. 8)


  21. I would’ve given it a 3.5. OK, but nothing to crap a brick about.

  22. Saw it last night. Wish I had paid matinee pricing, or better yet rented it. (Buddy of mine just HAD to see it)

    You hit the nail on the head Vic, 2.5 stars

    They just haven’t perfected the face cg thing yet. Didn’t work at the end of X-Men Origins: Wolverine with Patrick Stewart and it didn’t work in this one. All the faces looked like any of Britney Spears album art or posters. (Thank you, Adobe!) Someday though..

    And I didn’t like having everything explained to me at the start either, I HATE that. Bad lighting (too much, all the time) and poor editing didn’t help either.

  23. I just got around to watching this the other night, and coming here now to see what screenrant says about it. ;)

    I felt the same way – disconnected in such a way that I felt nothing for the operators. The director should have shot this from the persepctive of the operator 90% of the time, instead of the surrogates (in effect, making it a completely different movie, heh)

  24. I just got around to watching this the other night, and coming here now to see what screenrant says about it. ;)

    I felt the same way – disconnected in such a way that I felt nothing for the operators. The director should have shot this from the persepctive of the operator 90% of the time, instead of the surrogates (in effect, making it a completely different movie, heh)

  25. I thought it was very good. Obviously it was no Oscar-worthy masterpiece, but I found it entertaining. There were so many twists and turns and I was surprised that it all came together at the end, and I was happy with the ending. I gave it 4 1/2 out of 5.