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"Surrogates" {Blu-ray}
Wayne Klein
Studio: Touchstone
Science Fiction
Release Date:
Special Features:

Commentary by Jonathan Mostow, deleted scenes, music video


What if you could look perfect all the time, not age and not have to go out and deal with the real world but sent a robotic surrogate in your place? The premise of “Surrogates” based on a graphic novel is fascinating and while Jonathan Mostow’s (“Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines”, “U571”) fails to dig into the implications of the world he creates, he still manages to create an entertaining and diverting movie. "Surrogates" may have been adapted from a graphic novel but the themes and the characters remind me of the work of science fiction author Philip K. Dick who had a fascination with how we define our identity, how we define our humanity and how technology changes those definitions putting emotional and physical stress as it causes us to uncomfortably reevaluate who we are. ***

FBI agents Tom Greer (Bruce Willis) and Jennifer Peters (Radha Mitchell)are called on to solve the murder of a college student slumming in his father’s surrogate. It seems some device used by a “Meatbag” (as those using surrogates refer to people that go out in person) can destroy the surrogate robots and also fry the brains of their operators. Unfortunately, the victim is the son of the founder of VSI the company that builds and markets surrogates. Greer and Peters run into an obstacle in the form of the “prophet” (Ving Rhames) the head of the Human Coalition a group that is against the use of ANY surrogates. ***

Mostow’s film has a fascinating premise—if we inhabit these surrogates and live through them does it rob us of the actual experience of living? Unfortunately writers Michael Ferris and John D. Brancato working with Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele’s graphic novel fails to develop the premise to its fullest potential raising a lot of questions and dropping them fairly quickly to move the narrative along. While the mystery here (which is pretty transparent except for a few clever surprises)is important since it is the plot of the movie the film sacrifices character development at the expense of a breakneck pace. Still, there’s more good stuff here and then bad and “Surrogates” manages to be an entertaining science fiction mystery flick that has ambitions to be as good as “I, Robot” but doesn’t quite scale those heights. ---

Image & Sound:

That waxy completion and lack of definition on the faces of Bruce Willis and Rhada Mitchell you see early on isn’t the result of digital noise reduction and over processing but, instead, how they are supposed to look. You’ll see why once you get into the film. Detail is strong particularly for the human actors and skin tones are natural again for “meat sacks”. Blacks are rock solid throughout and I didn’t detect any compression artifacts. As is typical for a Disney disc (this is released by Touchstone), the BD authoring is impressive throughout. ***

The DTS 5.1 HD soundtrack matches the images in terms of quality, depth and detail. The 5.1 mix nicely puts you right in the center of the action but surrounds you with plenty of detail. ---

Special Features:

Director Jonathan Mostow always provides an excellent commentary track and he once again delivers here covering everything from the thematic concerns, how the story had to be altered to work with the budget they had and does his best when he focuses on details behind-the-scenes of the shooting of the film. He also provides observations about various scenes throughout and while these are sometimes less than thrilling he doesn’t leave a lot of dead air. ***

We also get a music video for the film “I Will Not Bow” that was done by the band Breaking Benjamin as well as deleted scenes which, if reintegrated into the film, would have provided a superior narrative filling in some of the background on various characters and plugging some plot holes. It’s a pity that Touchstone didn’t let him work on an expanded edit of the movie with finished CGI for those scenes (I must admit I find the message of the movie about technology to be ironic given the use of computer graphics and visual effects in the film. Still, I don’t take the film as being completely anti-technology more about experiencing your OWN life vs. living it through what amounts to a walking, talking vibrator that can do anything). ---

Final Words:

Although “Surrogates” doesn’t quite deliver on its fascinating themes, Mostow manages to make a very entertaining film that has enough character and “message” to make “Surrogates” worth purchasing. While the film does have similarities to “I, Robot” (it’s a pity that the writers and directors didn’t choose a slightly less obvious message), it’s a good movie worth taking the time to watch.


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