Tuesday 29 September 2009

Surrogates (and a mini-rant about U-571)...

We saw the trailer on one of our weekly cinema excursions, and it looked pretty decent. Then we found out it was "from the director of T3" - which really put a dampener on things, it has to be said. Not only that, but Mostow directed the hugely insulting U-571, which you figure plays pretty loose with the truth ... then you have a quick gander online and the full image of just how inexorably abusive U-571 is to true history (not to mention offensive to the British and the Germans).

Fortunately, Surrogates is a damn sight better than both the history-raper, and the T-raper - so that's good news.

What's more, is Surrogates - despite being a PG-13 - plays it's central plot more skillfully than last week's Gamer. The two movies have something in common - that of people being enabled to become who they want to be. In Surrogates it's everyday people spending their entire lives living through a robot (a "surrogate"), and in Gamer it's a bunch of everyday gamers and web freaks living out their fantasies online through real-live, brain-controlled people.

Not only that, but a grubby fat guy pretending to be an attractive woman.

Unfortunately, at a rather slim 88 minutes, there's only time for the central plot and that alone. This means action, and pretty much just action - therefore, it never stood a chance of being properly good sci-fi. The definition of which, oft-said by Mark Kermode (and I'd have to agree wholeheartedly), is that really good sci-fi is never about what it appears to be ... for example, District 9 appears to be about aliens and people exploding, when in fact it's all about immigration, race relations and apartheid. However, if you just want to have fun watching humans explode, then you're fully within your rights to do so.

With Surrogates, however, there's the plot and that alone. You never get to really explore the world of surrogacy - what it means for society; the wide effects of such technology - this is skimmed over superficially at best, and avoided at worst.

The depth of any discussion is pretty much "people don't like themselves, they live in a surrogate to be who they want" - and it basically involves the real life person wearing no make-up and wearing a "sad face", in direct opposition to their made-up, happy-fun-time-smiley robotic surrogate.

We get elements of the wider impact - a rather blunt 99% drop in crime (what about all those not using surrogates - couldn't they just rob the users blind while they're in their machines?) - and what happens when your surrogate is in the shop and you're supplied with a courtesy model, to name two things ... but otherwise, it's very light on thoughtful storytelling. Oh, and there's something about controlling surrogates via "grey area" technology too.

Action wise it has its fair share, but it never truly pops for the most part, and the two on-foot chase sequences feel oddly out-of-place. The surrogates are capable of super-human feats, yet we barely see this on screen, so that the two times it does it feels out-of-place.

The surrogates themselves however, are convincing and make for good screentime. There's not enough running time to bore you, and it's proficiently put together.

I've seen it, so that's probably enough for me. Solid fodder, but nothing to get buzzed about ... it does have Bruce Willis in it though, so that's always a plus.

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