Not even a CGI-treated Bruce Willis sporting a toupee can redeem Surrogates, the dystopian robot movie that forsakes a promising plot in favor of blowing shit up at random.
“But I love blowing shit up/blowing robots,” you’re probably thinking. “And I love watching Die Hard on USA. Oh, heh, I just remembered that time he yelled, ‘YIPPIE-KAY-YAY, MOTHERFUCKER’.”
I submitted my fragile, Bruce-obsessed psyche to Surrogates despite (well-founded) reservations after a friend told me, “Dude, it’s only like 45 minutes long.”
And after the closing credits finished, sans perfunctory gag reel, my first thought was: That loving, sweet, melodious sack of shit lied and now 88 minutes of my life is gone.
My second thought was: I think I taste blood. I should not have eaten that entire box of sour skittles.
I did not think again after that until today.
After the jump is my case for Surrogates’ potential and the reasons it failed. So long as you don’t do anything weird, this post will not make your mouth bleed.
Spoiler alert: I am about to tell you that the movie lacks a resolution and fails to explain important plot points.
Daaaaaa plot: Humans of the future use robots as surrogates in their day to day lives. They send the robots to work. They send the robots to school. They send the robots to the dance clubs, where the robots can do the moon-walk and jump off the balconies and faceplant into the floors without harm. The robots can fuck each other and jump really far and survive getting their arms ripped off.
There is no need for the humans to brush their teeth or keep up with fashion because robots can’t get plaque and don’t eat and no one said it actually had to look like you anyway, so the robots are hot and well-dressed and never get swamp ass, and the humans are fat, ugly, and pale from spending all day in tanning-bed-thingies controlling robots with their minds. (Hello, future of the information economy!)
Initially, the characters aren’t choosing one absolute reality over another—their bodies still exist, they still have to be fed, mildly exercised, taken to the bathroom; they still have to sleep. They just log on each morning instead of walking out the door. Tom Greer (Bruce Willis), his wife Maggie (Rosamund Pike) and the rest of the human race, however, do more living in their proxy lives than in their actual lives. Maggie and Tom, for instance, use their surrogates to avoid aging and to forget about the death of their son. (That’s right: In this movie, robots can have robot sex and use robot drugs but they CANNOT CRY.)
This leads us to a great trope that Surrogates touches on tangentially. VR has many obvious problems, like the inevitable disintegration of an unused human body and the stagnation of physical relationships, so really, it’s not all that great.
In Surrogates, however, this is simply a subplot, and the conspiracy to destroy all surrogates (YOU WILL NEVER ACTUALLY KNOW WHY) is given more attention than the actual emotional, psychological problems with using surrogates. As a result, what could have been a fantastic neo-noir film is instead turned into a vapid blockbuster.
I would say more, but there’s no point.