I was kinda looking forward to this one – it seems a while since our screens have been graced with a straight we-haven’t-learnt-a-thing-from-Prometheus science fiction flick amongst all the comic book and fantasy adaptations. Unfortunately, Surrogates is a film that fails to take true advantage of an interesting premise.

As the awkward prelude explains, the human race now spends the majority of their time in their bedroom, experiencing the outside world only through their robotic avatars.Surrogates For reasons which are never clearly explained, this has led to a huge reduction in crime, and murder is practically unheard of (one can only assume that murder of one’s surrogate isn’t classified as such). There are sections of society who aren’t happy with our new reticence at experiencing life first hand. They have clustered in ‘dread zones’, human-only districts scattered throughout the major cities of the US. When the first murder in years occurs, Detectives Greer (Bruce Willis) and Peters are drawn into the mystery.

It’s a great idea and it’s easy to see how attractive it must have looked on paper. The surrogates are eerie, doll-like representations of humans with perfect skin, hair and teeth. It’s fun to watch Willis et al perform fake versions of themselves, curbing their expressiveness. In fact they look a bit like the CGI forms that annoyed us all in Beowulf. There’s a kind of guilty anticipation associated with the lead up to seeing the surrogates’ owners, much the same as when we go to read those ‘Stars Without Their Makeup’ articles in trashy magazines. The filmmakers have had fun depicting the differences between the highly polished, antiseptic surrogate world and the real world inhabited by their owners. Tom Greer’s surrogate is wrinkle (and expression) free with a full head of hair whilst he himself is… well, a 54 year old Bruce Willis.

There are a handful of action scenes that make this otherwise disappointing film a satisfying distraction. Though most (if not all) of the moments were ruined by the trailer, at best they resemble a gleeful cross between the Terminator films and The Stepford Wives. The special effects are so-so – it’s easy for them to get away with less than realistic visuals since the surrogates’ world is so artificial – whilst the editing could have been better. The acting is satisfactory in the face of such poor scripting.

Surrogates fails to plunder its premise for all its worth. The concepts explored merely skim the surface of an idea that could have delved in so many directions. There are simple questions that aren’t addressed, also – has the birth rate dropped with everyone stuck in their simulator chairs and how on Earth can the majority of the world’s population afford such advanced technology when it’s only been around 14 years or so?

As a distraction Surrogates is likeable enough, though there’s no need to rush out to see this in the cinema.

Rating: 2.5 stars
Review by Stuart Wilson, 29th September 2009
Hoopla Factor: 3.0 stars

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