Sci-fi is one of my favorite genres and this thriller has an intriguing premise. Sometime in the not-too-distant future, robot technology has enabled mankind to live ‘vitually’ through remote-controlled surrogates who go through the trials and tribulations of daily life (commuting, work, etc.) for them while they stay home, clad in bathrobes, cocooned in ‘stim chairs,’ hooked up to gizmos that allow them to control their ‘surreys.’ With 99% of the population using cyborgs, crime, racism and other societal ills have been eradicated. Wars still erupt but they’re fought in distant deserts by surrogate soldiers. Since you can design your own surrogate, it’s not surprising that the world seems to be populated by preternaturally young, attractive, athletic ‘people.’
Imagine walking down the street surrounded by dozens of perky Jennifer Anistons! No, she’s not in this movie. It’s just that many of the female avatars look just like her.
Problem is: two humans suddenly die when their surrogates are murdered. That means someone’s obviously out to destroy the surrogate/controller equipment invented by Dr. Lionel Canter (James Cromwell). Baffled FBI agents Thomas Greer (Bruce Willis) and Jennifer Peters (Radha Mitchell) are determined to track down the culprit, a chase that leads them to a ‘reservation’ of outcasts, led by the Prophet (Ving Rhames). Like Luddites, these people stubbornly refuse to adopt surrogate technology.
Based on a graphic novel by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele, it’s been adapted by John Brancato and Michael Ferris, who previously worked with director Jonathan Mostow on “Terminator 3.” What’s good is the concept: how humans have been seduced into a sedentary lifestyle. And Bruce Willis’ surrey looks like a youthful replicant of himself – with an awful blond hairpiece. What’s disappointing is the execution. Rather than making an emotional investment in Greer’s deteriorating relationship with his wife (Rosamund Pike) or any other social commentary, the lame, illogical plot churns into frenetic action sequences revolving around a cat-and-mouse conspiracy. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Surrogates” is a synthetic, superficial 6, reminiscent of “I, Robot,” “Blade Runner,” “Minority Report,” even “WALL-E.”