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Sep 30, 2009

Fletch's Film Review: Surrogates

You probably never saw Last Action Hero, and if you did, you've probably flushed it from your memory. It serves as a guilty pleasure for me, though then again, I never thought it was as bad as everyone made it out to be. Anyway, there's a series of scenes I enjoy quite a bit; our protagonist, Danny Madigan (Austin O'Brien) has been transported into the land of movies. Long story short, he's paired as the partner to cop/last action hero Jack Slater (Arnold Schwarzenneger). Right off the bat, he's trying to convince Slater that his life is all just a part of a movie. Madigan takes him to a video store to look for Schwarzenneger films, but they don't exist. He asks someone for their phone number, gets the standard "555-..." response, and reasons that that severely limits the capabilities of the phone system, especially in L.A. The girl behind the counter overhears this conversation, and the following exchange occurs:

Blockbuster girl: Is this your kid?
Slater: Oh no. He is a mental patient that I am taking downtown.
Madigan: What about this girl? She is too attractive to work here.
Slater: I agree. I think she should work with us. Undercover of course.
Madigan: The point is there are no unattractive women here. Where are the ordinary women?

It's not a terrible film, but this will be my lasting memory of Surrogates: serving as the one film where the neverending supply of gorgeous extras is 100% justified.

Aside from that nugget, Surrogates probably serves as one of the least necessary and least memorable films of all time. It's premise (in the future, most people don't leave the safety of their own home, preferring to send out robotic versions of themselves) is a mashup of several familiar films, from Blade Runner to I, Robot to The Island to Strange Days, and it doesn't seem to offer any new ideas. It's a passable form of entertainment, one that doesn't insult your intelligence with over-explanations or "No way!" action sequences; for the most part, it plays it straight, and even attempts to ratchet up the dramatic factor by bringing a Minority Report-ish dead child narrative into the fold so that Bruce Willis and Rosamund Pike (who plays his now-distant wife, in more ways than one) can act sad and/or angry on occasion. It's just that, aside from a few fun bon mots dealing with the realities of what might happen should people get to choose a real-life avatar (hey, isn't there a movie coming out by that name? Hmmm...), such as being introduced to a large, athletic, young black man (surrogate) that turns out to be a 50s-ish Murray Steinberg type, there isn't a whole lot to take away from it.

Fletch's Film Rating:

Shaky Cam Rating (details):LAMBScore:
Large Association of Movie BlogsLarge Association of Movie Blogs
P.S. - Ok, though I said it neither offers much intelligent nor insults said intelligence, there certainly were some head-scratchers. Here are some, along with any other random thoughts I had:

* There's not an easier way for a film set in the future to bother me than to not pay attention to the cars on the road. Surrogates is set in 2017 (according to Wikipedia, which is odd, because I swear that title cards said "14 years from now"). and yet everyone's driving 2009 Toyota Priuses and 2009 Chevy Cobalts and sh*t. WTF? So, super-advanced robotic technology will have worked its way to photo realism in 8 years (and crime will vanish), but we'll all still be driving our cars from today (which look brand new eight years from now, too)? Really?

* It's nice to see that James Cromwell is interested in recycling, it's just too bad that the producers of Surrogates couldn't have figured out a way to electronically cut and paste his scenes from I, Robot into this flick. Might've saved everyone some time and money.

* So, a certain character switches the surrogate they're using in an attempt to fly under the radar and remain inconspicuous...yet driving around in a Maybach (or whatever) doesn't contradict that? (Thanks to Mrs. Fletch for this one.)

* All they had to do was show a real-life human being exercising once - just once - to eradicate the oh-so-obvious "If people are plugged-in vegetables a la Wall*E, why aren't they all fat asses?" But no such dice.

* You know what? I need to stop talking/reading/thinking about this movie. If you're ever in limbo about a film and are doing some research to get an answer to a question you might have (like, "What kind of car is it that that character was driving around in while trying to be inconspicuous?"), just stop. All I found were more questions regarding the logic of the film, plot holes, inconsistencies, etc., and if I keep reading them, I'll hate this flick in no time time.

12 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: Surrogates"

Univarn said...

The movie was definitively mediocre. Yet throughout the whole thing I kept having flashbacks to the Christian Bale film Equilibrium. If you remove the robot edge for emotion, substitute dead kid for wife, you get basically the same movie... with action scenes no where near as fun.

Bruce Willis needs to drop the tough action genre and go back to the comedy action... he was good there.

Eric said...

I had a real problem with the technology in the film. I wrote a Surrogates review myself, though I couldn't get past the lack of attention to the cultural impact/world. I realize I'm a fool for getting stuck on that one note, but it's my head, so I'm sticking to it. ;)

Also, I think the movie did overexplain itself a lot. There's even that one sequence with the robot telling Bruce Willis what to do next!! heh..

Nick said...

I still wanna see the movie, and as logic flaws don't always bug me, I might enjoy it a bit more.

Oh, and I've seen Last Action Hero AND I didn't erase it from my memory. It's an entertaining guilty pleasure, and I agree that the series of "this is why you're in a movie!" scenes are the best.

Brian said...

Thanks for helping me make up my mind in avoiding this movie. I was curious but now, not so much. I was a fan of the "last action hero" when it came out, but maybe more for the soundtrack then anything else.

Unknown said...

Jonathan Mostow had got some one strong person who can play main role very powerfully instead of Bruce Willis. He is my favorite actor. But I really like if he act in comedy movies. it is best suit for him. When he does action movies many fans critic him. So better he avoids from action and does some great funny comedy movies.


Fletch said...

Univarn - I still have not seen Equilibrium, though I've heard nothing but good things about it.

I don't think the problem is Bruce and his genres. This one didn't seem "too young" for him, as the action done was done by a robot and therefore believable, and there wasn't a ton of action to begin with. I think he just needs to pick better projects overall.

Eric - love your site name. Gotten into any trouble over it?

You make some very valid points. It's the kind of story that probably worked a hell of a lot better in graphic novel format, since there's so much to cover, and 90 minutes sure ain't gonna cut it. Funny as it is, I don't recall seeing food places; I'm assuming they were just in the background, which, judging by the amount of detail paid to the cars, it wouldn't surprise me at all if it was just another one of those things that slipped/was ignored by the filmmakers.

Nick and Brian - nice to hear that there are some other Last Action Hero appreciaters out there. The soundtrack is indeed good (I own it), though that gawdawful Def Leppard song is brutal.

I think it also introduced the world to Pete Sampras' wife, so it's got that going for it, which is nice.

Fletch said...

kameron - Willis is indeed good in comedies. He's always been versatile, even if it seems like we've been overrun by mediocre actioners for much of his career.

Daniel said...

"one of the least necessary and least memorable films of all time."

Have, love that ringing endorsement.

And I also hate poor depictions of the future. If you have to set it in the future and don't have the cars or creativity to show it would be, just forget it.

Alex said...

um i LOVE Last Action Hero and I really dig the parallel you drew to it, since any time that movie can be brought up is a good time.

and I was thinking of the Wall-e thing too, and rationalized that maybe people aren't eating very often?

Fletch said...

Daniel - yep. It's like they tried to make a big-budget movie on a small budget. Set it in an alternate version of the present or something if you must in order to explain the cheaper look and feel.

Alex - Or eating at all? How is it that Pike's character hasn't left her room in months? She has a grocery store and kitchen in her room?

Reel Whore said...

yet everyone's driving 2009 Toyota Priuses and 2009 Chevy Cobalts and sh*t

People actually drive Chevy Cobalts now?

I liked Surrogates, but yeah it's not for the thinking man. The book is better. I quickly put it out of my mind so I could avoid agonizing over it as you have.

Just to dig that frustration back up, I inducted you into the Movie Menage:


Franco Macabro said...

Ive read so many bad reviews on this one and so many have compared it the I-Robot that I will have to simply skip it and watch it later on DVD, thanks for the informative review!