The future is here, and I can now go back through the past and appear as I did as I was at twenty. Pert, slim, unlined, full of energy. I could run for hours, I looked great, I was afraid of nothing.
Who wouldn't want that?
That's the allure of the "future" proposed by Surrogates. Affordable robots are available to virtually everyone, mass produced, simple to access through wireless links -- mechanical people, beautiful, strong, tireless, and completely replaceable if lost to accident or crime. Complete beauty and strength, no more looking in the mirror to see how old or flabby or decrepit you're getting.
A breakthrough in modern science, surrogates allow those who are infirm or disabled to move about in the world. And oh, the safety! Should the handsome construction worker fall from his roofing job 50 stories and go crunch -- no matter, just patch up or replace the mechanical surrogate and it's back to work with a smile, the owner safe and sound in his reclining hook-up chair.
But then something odd happens ... a surrogate is destroyed, and the owner, miles away, dies most gruesomely at the same instant. A tough cop named Tom Greer (now who could have guessed he would be played by Bruce Willis?) begins to investigate the death, and finds far more is going on than a simple machine malfunction. The chase is on, with deception and idealism and greed tangling up into coils that Tom Greer -- minus his violently dismantled surrogate body -- must unravel, at the risk of hundreds of thousands of lives.
Robots taking over human responsibilities and making us all into slobs, bring about our eventual destruction? In science fiction, this is a constantly recurring theme, whose varied stories I first read when I was in grade school. Man makes machines, man becomes dependent upon machines, man only gets out of bed to go to the toilet or to grab another beer and a bag of nacho jalapeno chips. Then all hell breaks loose.
Critics say that this theme is unoriginal; but is it any more unoriginal than girl meets boy, girl misunderstands boy, boy loses girl, boy figures out how to convince girl to accept/overlook/realize the truth about his problem, girl and boy live happily ever after through the credits?
Surrogates, first and foremost, is a Bruce Willis movie. It doesn't matter what the name of the cop is, he's Bruce Willis, and we're there to see his snotty, bite-me attitude, the way his nose flattens when he smiles, the little hinty twitch of the corner of his mouth when he's about to do something unlawful, and the lurking twinkle in his eye that says, "Watch this, [word that includes the letters 'm' and 'f', but which I'm not going to put in this review because the rating will change radically] this is what Bruce Willis does in movies."
Thus, you know I went to see this movie because Bruce Willis was in it. Simple. However, I came away from the film very satisfied with a science fiction film as well. CGI was very good, as we all have come to expect of movies nowadays; the make-up was really, really good at making people look beautiful and flawless ... and artificial. Never was there a moment of mistaking a human body for a surrogate body.
The internal world of the surrogate society was perfect. From stupid risks to obsessive vanity, from fearless mockery of violence to detachment from real issues, the psychological "worldcraft" was excellent, even to the enclaves of people who refused to integrate with the surrogate culture, and the corporations who crave power and money and don't care at all what their actions will do to people's lives.
I liked the film very much, and intend to own it when it comes out on DVD. I might even go to see it again in the theater when it comes out on the $5 Club in a couple weeks.
The film reminded me of two incidents. In the first, a young woman was telling me that she needed a vehicle to carry her four kids hither and yon, but she was undecided as to what car to buy. I told her I'd test-drove a Toyota Sienna and found it very smooth, and it was reasonably economical as well. "Oh my god," she sneered, "I wouldn't be seen in a van. No, it's going to be a four-wheel-drive SUV, I just don't know which one yet." Vanity. Outward casings.
The second one was trying to make an appointment with a dermatologist to find out about the cause of a painful series of blistering lesions. I sat on hold while a recording told me about the doctor's remarkable success with botox treatments and collagen implants, and how young his patients looked, and how smooth and youthful their skin was. After about 25 minutes, the receptionist was able to take my call and make an appointment for me -- three months away. There was so much call for optional beauty and false skin tone, that the old lady with the burning sores was on a back burner.
In irritation, I dosed myself with baking soda and lotion, and never went to see the doctor -- but saw Surrogates as a far more possible future than most.