Monday, October 26, 2009

Review - Surrogates

I'd seen the Surrogates graphic novel in the bookstore a few times and flipped through it. The storyline was intriguing, but I wasn't terribly keen on the art style, so I never picked up the books. When the movie came out, I was pretty excited. I've always been a fan of stories of dystopian societies and all the fun that goes with it. Add crazy futuristic technologies, and I'm aboard.

The movie was done pretty well. Being set in the not too distant future allowed me to easily relate to the situations presented. Indeed, the largest technological change between their world and ours is the development of the surrogates.

I was intrigued by the concept of strapping yourself remotely into a cyborg-like contraption so you can "experience" the world around you without leaving your own bedroom. I don't necessarily buy the idea that it would cause a drop in violent crime…it seems to me that technology like that is ripe for abuse and would quickly degrade into a wide range of new crimes being committed. Still, the story presented the safeguards and regulations well enough that the situation was believable.

I loved the juxtaposition of seeing people's "surrogate" self as compared with their "real" self when they unplugged. It's an interesting psychological look at how people view themselves and the use of technology to try and be something you're not.

The special effects and direction used in the movie was good. Most of the time, it felt well balanced such that the effects weren't being used in lieu of good presentation. The various high-tech elements presented were done so naturally without screaming "Look at me! Look at me!" The explosions and other huge action scenes were exciting and adrenalin provoking but again didn't feel distracting from the overall theme of the movie.

I also really enjoyed the acting. Bruce Willis did a great job both as a "real" person and as a surrogate. As a surrogate, he did great presenting a distanced, emotionless relation to the world. His surrogate was calm, collected and straight faced as he undertook a crazy chase after a crook. Even when his arm was ripped off and spewing mechanical fluids, the action was robotic and felt "real" based on the situation.

When Bruce WIllis' character went out without his surrogate, I really appreciated the way the movie presented the disorientation and heightened sensory stimulus of the real world. It felt very real and appropriate considering the situation. While his character did a good job here, I felt like this sort of thing was an area that needed a little more directorial coverage.

Considering the fact that people are spending most of their lives strapped into a surrogate, I think we should have seen much more physical effects on these sedentary bodies. As people did come out of their machines, they should have been much more out of shape, likely cramped and aching, and possibly having trouble walking. At the same time, that sort of reality may have been distracting from the plot and felt a little heavy handed.

I really enjoyed the storyline. I mentioned that I hadn't read the graphic novels…but I did have a basic synopsis of them in mind. While some/many elements felt fairly predictable, there were still some surprises and thought provoking moments. There was at least one key plot point that was inconsistent…sadly it made the climactic ending fall apart for me a little bit.

Overall, this was a fun, thought provoking action movie that's worth seeing. You can probably wait for rental rather than big screen…I might eventually add it to my dystopia collection (alongside Minority Report and others).


3.5 stars out of 5




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