Jonathan Mostow is a man who brings his affinity for sci-fi action to the hungry masses – too bad he can’t seem to get it right! You would think that after the Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines fiasco, studio heads would’ve learned to keep him working in more “practical” settings (though the events of his past works like Breakdown and U-571 are far from realistic). It’s ironic that the only thing that kind of works in Surrogates, his first film since the underwhelming Terminator threequel, are the practical effects, which is, of course, a must when you’re dealing with cyborgs.
Adapted by his T3 writers, John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris, from the graphic novel of the same name by Robert Vendetti and Brett Weldele, the movie is a 90 minute marathon of acting as artificial as the mechanical subjects that drive its story, which is as predictable as its one-dimensional characters. It is set in a semingly utopian future, where there is virtually no violent crime since 99% of the human population lives life almost entirely through the use of life-like (and swimsuit-model-like) robots, controlled remotely from the comfort of your own home. The plot centers on the murder of a two of these robots, known as Surrogates, and the rabbit-hole of a conspiracy that unravels when two Federal agents are assigned to the case.
Those agents are played stiffly by Bruce Willis and Radha Mitchell, who lead a cast that looks okay on paper, including James Cromwell (basically reprising his role from I, Robot), Rosamund Pike (a Bond girl is a believable look in a world populated by perfect robots) and Ving Rhames (if it’s a Pulp Fiction reunion you were hoping for, abandon hope all ye who venture here), but falls painfully short of its expectations. There are a few brief displays of emotion that the actors reveal at the most obvious points in the narrative, namely when we see their characters reflect upon their own perverted lifestyles.
As previously stated, what makes the film watchable in the slightest is its use of practical effects like genuine explosions & crashes and convincing make-up. The colorful photography snaps, crackles and pops, especially in this Blu-ray convert. Unfortunately, every set piece in every contemporary action film requires a mix of these more traditional techniques and computer generated imagery, which is noticeably sub par in Surrogates. The car-chase sequence at the climax of the movie is a perfect example of how terrible CG and bad film editing can ruin the experience.
The Blu-ray experience wasn’t enhanced at all by the discs Special Features, which include a peek at the cutting edge scientific research and development that is bringing society closer to Surrogacy, a music video (whatever), some meaningless deleted scenes, a look at how the graphic novel informed the filmmakers and a commentary from director Mostow that is regretfully about as interesting as the film itself.