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It's funny but Surrogates deserves the title I, Robot more than the Will Smith movie that came out in 2004. First and foremost, was Will ever a robot in his movie? Hell no but in Surrogates Bruce Willis can claim full metal jacket status. Secondly, James Cromwell, the actor that played the guy that made the robots in I, Robot, well, he’s the maker of the robots in Surrogates. It's like the people that made Surrogates saw I, Robot and said to themselves, "Hey, that’s a neat idea. Why don’t we do something like that too?"
At the heart of its story Surrogates has a better hook than I, Robot: what if you could live your life in a robot body? You could jump off a building and be guaranteed to survive, you could speed date all weekend long and never have to worry about getting a social disease, you get the idea. It’s a cool notion and while there are moments in Surrogates that start to get into it, the film holds back and instead spends its momentum on the same stereotypical who-dunnit-cop-chase movie that you’ve seen a hundred times before.
Willis plays an FBI agent named Greer who gets called to investigate an attack on two surrogates. Together with his partner Peters (Radha Mitchell from Pitch Black and Silent Hill, looking good in a hot Bond femme fatale way here) they uncover that someone has a weapon that not only takes out surrogates, it liquefies the brains of the surrogates' operators. That means if you're an overweight guy with bad skin living your surrogate life vicariously as a hot blonde, when your family find your body and what you've been doing it's going to be an awkward funeral.
Greer and Peters go off to investigate and find the trail leads to a guy called The Prophet (Ving Rhames, doing the dreadlock thing) who leads a movement of humans that don’t want surrogates around, period. There’s some cool chase scenes and we learn that Greer has the scars of a personal tragedy that still weighs heavily on his soul (just like Will Smith in I, Robot!). Rosamund Pike, who once did play a hot Bond girl, plays Greer's hot surrogate wife (in a Stepford kind of way.)
Director Jonathan Mostow did an alright job with Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines but we all felt that the third movie didn’t fill the same big shoes that T2 wore. Here Mostow has his chance to make his mark and make a film that not only has some good action but could rise to tell a larger story about how technology is cocooning us from each other, but just like with T3, the result is an acceptable popcorn movie but one that doesn’t leave much of an impression after immediate viewing.
Mostow has his actors do some interesting work when they're moving around in their surrogates, having them walk and move slightly non-human. As well the makeup and CG touch-ups on the surrogates of Willis, Mitchell and Pike add to the uncanny valley effect that what you're looking at isn't supposed to be a human actor but a recreation of one. Moments where we get to see the impact that using surrogates has had on society are too brief; I wanted the story to follow those ideas instead of going back to the cop drama story. If your main character is going to be a cop on a case you need to either have a different way to tell the cop’s investigation (Blade Runner) or you make your film have a load of other interesting things to show (Blade Runner x2).
Surrogates doesn’t have as big a scope as I, Robot so you're left with the feeling that this is a smaller and slightly cheaper retelling of the same story. Does that mean that movie studios aren't willing to spend $150 million dollars on a Bruce Willis film anymore? Yeah, it does, but even so Surrogates didn’t need the extra money to become some really interesting sci-fi, just the right approach.
Review Score: 55 / 100