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September 27, 2009

Surrogates Review

— Posted by John Campea

Thanks for checking out our Surrogates review. It sort of snuck up on the general public a few weeks ago like a Hollywood secret. As films started their marketing pushes for movies earlier and earlier, one just expects that a Sci-Fi Bruce Willis film would have a massive ad campaign well in advance of its release. But that’s not how the studio decided to handle Surrogates, and as a result, most people only first heard about Surrogates a few short weeks ago. Personally, I like that it did that… it made sure I wasn’t sick of the movie before even seeing it.

So off I went to see it. Was it good? Was it bad? Does Bruce still kick ass?

Yes actually
He sure does.


The synopsis for Surrogates reads something like this: “People are living their lives remotely from the safety of their own homes via robotic surrogates — sexy, physically perfect mechanical representations of themselves. It’s an ideal world where crime, pain, fear and consequences don’t exist. When the first murder in years jolts this utopia, FBI agent Greer (Willis) discovers a vast conspiracy behind the surrogate phenomenon and must abandon his own surrogate, risking his life to unravel the mystery.”


As a Bruce Willis movie, the first thing an audience member will probably expect (rightly or wrongly) is some good action, and Surrogates delivers on that. No, this movie isn’t a wall to wall action film, nor does it want to be… nor SHOULD it be, but the action sequences that are in there are pulled off beautifully. Not only is it exciting stuff, but it all feels “real” and fits in with the context in which the film takes place… both in Bruce’s robotic form and in his human form.

The thing that surprised me the most about the movie was that it’s a good mystery. If you’ve seen the trailers, you know someone has figured out how to actually kill real people through their Surrogates (which was thought to be totally impossible). The story behind who is doing it all and why turns out to be quite compelling and has a terrific “reveal” moment in the film that I honestly never saw coming, yet made total and perfect sense within the context of the movie.

Although the film isn’t as cerebral as it could has tried to be, it ends up making some interesting observations about how things would be in an entirely artificial world. The disconnect we experience with the “real” world when we get too plugged in. There’s a scene where a woman stumbles onto the streets for the first time in a while and squints when she sees the sun… it reminded me of someone I know who spends too much time on World of Warcraft and Facebook (you know who you are).

The pace of the movie is wonderful. Always moving forward, moving from point A to point B and then on to point C once point B has ben adequately established. It never feels rushed, and never feels like it stalls or lingers on a point that’s already been made.


Although you know that the movie doesn’t aspire to be a 2001 or any deeper than it ends up being, one can’t help but get a sense that perhaps they should have delved a little bit deeper into the socio-consioucness of a society that becomes completely reliant on technology (which some could argue we already are). What questions does that raise? How does it effect our identity and how we interact and fit in with the world around us? Oh sure, a few passing comments are made here and there, but they only serve to make us wonder if they should have gone just a bit deeper.

Some of the visual effects were just dreadful. Granted, the budget for the movie was only about $80 million and thus one can only expect the effects to be so good… but if you can’t do the effect well, then work around it and don’t put something bad, or cheesy looking on the screen that pulls us out of the movie.

There is a side story to the film about Bruce Willis and his wife. I completely understand this side story was meant to serve as Bruce’s anchor to reality and real human contact… but it didn’t quite click for me and ultimately felt more like dead weight in the film. They either needed to better develop the side story, or let it go. They did neither and it hurt the film overall.


Overall, Surrogates ends up being a lighter sci-fi look into our future and our dependance on humanity that keeps its main identity as an 80’s style action film with more depth than you’d expect, but not quite as much as you’d hope for. No masterpiece, but by the time the end credits roll a movie that entertained. The biggest complaints ends up being that you know if could have been even better, but we’ll take what we can get. Overall I give Surrogates a 7 out of 10.

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  • Tarrence

    I agree with John that side story with Bruce Willis and his wife was very weak. I think they should have improved this aspect of the story because in a way it provides motivation for what Willis’s character does in the end.

    I also thought that the Canter character in the movie was just as despicable and evil as the people trying to kill him. Only Willis’s character comes off as good, but what do you expect.

  • ian sassoon

    Worth checking out, but way too similar to BladeRunners to be ground breaking.


    Isaac Asimov meets ‘The Sims’ meets the ultimate ‘MMORPG’ (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game), but instead it’s real life.

    The idea of living life out of your bedroom, being who ever you like, spawning again when you die.. Is this starting to sound familiar? What are your kids doing now?…more

  • Joel Gray

    I love science fiction: reading it, watching it, writing it.
    When I saw Surrogates in theater, I began to wonder what the message that the screenplay writers and producers were trying to get across. Surrogates seemed somewhat similar to the Will Smith’s I,Robot. In I,Robot, the villain is the corrupt computer called VIKI (virtual interactive kinetic intelligence). In Surrogates, the villian is Lionel Canter, the maker of the first surrogate robots. He, like Dr. Alfred Lanning (the designer of the robots in I, Robot) operate in secrecy. Canter has a surrogate (The Prophet) under his control who tells the people that having surrogates is an evil that humanity has created. Canter wants to kill every person in the world who is addicted to a surrogate. While Dr. Lanning is good, Lionel Canter is bad. By the way, both were played by the same actor (James Cromwell). Lionel Canter, the creater of the surrogates, seems to me to be a type of God. He wants to kill all the people in the world for their evil addictions to surrogates and their evil uses of the surrogates. People can do pretty much anything they want and enjoy many sensations such as touch, hearing, and sight. It is this sensual, immoral world that Lionel Canter wants destroyed. Dr. Lanning, likewise, wants to bring down the nerve-center of the world-VIKI. So many movies out there have this theme-end to the world.


    It never seemed interesting to me, until recently and with these good reviews, I might check it out.

  • http://AOL Rick

    Movie fell very short in depicting it’s world! It seemed rushed and thrown together! It was void of depth and continuity! Bruce did his best with what he was given! And I really hated Maggie’s (Rosamund Pikes) character, and didn’t see how Tom (Bruce) could still love her considering her extreme materialism and complete avoidance of him!

    Almost worth admission! Recommend waiting for DVD!

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