DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


Jonathan Mostow
Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, Rosamund Pike, Boris Kodjoe, James Francis Ginty, James Cromwell, Ving Rhames
Writing Credits:
Michael Ferris, John D. Brancato, Robert Venditti (graphic novel), Brett Weldele (graphic novel)

How do you save humanity when the only thing that's real is you?

How do you save humanity when the only thing that's real is you? From the director of Terminator 3 comes a jaw-dropping psychological thriller starring the ultimate action hero, Bruce Willis. In the not-so-distant future, where people experience life through perfect surrogates controlled from the safety of their own homes, murder is a thing of the past. But when a college student linked to the creator of these replicants is killed, one FBI agent must re-enter reality and risk his life to unravel the mystery. In the battle of technology versus humanity, who can you trust? Experience every electrifying moment of this mind-blowing movie. Based on the acclaimed graphic novel and exploding with unforgettable action, Surrogates is nonstop entertainment from start to finish!

Box Office:
$80 million.
Opening Weekend
$14.902 million on 2951 screens.
Domestic Gross
$38.542 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 2.40:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 88 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 1/26/2010

• Audio Commentary with Director Jonathan Mostow
• Music Video
• Sneak Peeks


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Surrogates (2009)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 18, 2010)

When I first saw the trailer for 2009’s Surrogates, I immediately thought, “that smells like Dick!” Philip K. Dick, that is. The late sci-fi genius had nothing to do with the film’s story, but it definitely reflects his themes and aesthetic.

In the future, scientists invent robots that people use as their public selves. While the real folks stay at home, they operate their “surrogates” via remote linkups. This means they can do whatever they want without risk of harm; if something happens to the surrogate, they just get a replacement robot.

That trend takes a downward turn when two surrogates get fried – and their respective human users also die at the same time. FBI agents Tom Greer (Bruce Willis) and Jennifer Peters (Radha Mitchell) investigate and find themselves involved in a complicated world – such a complex picture that Greer eventually decides to emerge from his protective cocoon and send his human self into the fray.

Well, it sounded like a good idea. Unfortunately, Surrogates fails to explore its subject to anywhere close to its full potential. Indeed, the flick barely touches on the psychological and philosophical ramifications of a world populated so heavily by robots.

Surrogates wants us to view this development as a bad thing, but beyond a basic “it ain’t real, dagnabbit!” tone, the story never delves into the relevant issues. We see only a few negatives attached to the surrogates. Yeah, society seems somewhat superficial, but that’s about it. People still appear to live their lives as they otherwise would; they just don’t spend time in public in non-robotic form.

Reflexively, we react to this concept in a negative way, especially with the “perfect people” concept that smacks of Nazi Germany. However, since the film fails to present a clear reason why the robots are a bad thing, we’re left to wonder. Would the world be better if real soldiers died in combat? Is it terrible that people don’t have to worry about being killed in car crashes? Apparently - Surrogates doesn’t leave much gray area in terms of its semi-Luddite agenda.

Look, I’m not advocating for a world in which humans remain bottled up in their homes while their robot avatars live their lives. I will push for a movie that better explores the pros and cons, though. For the most part, Surrogates just shows us the positives and wants us to buy into the non-delineated negatives as some sort of humanitarian leap of faith.

Granted, since Surrogates makes so little sense in so many ways, I suppose I shouldn’t expect it to make consistent philosophical sense. From the very start, the viewer will likely encounter questions that the film doesn’t attempt to answer. The surrogates are depicted as expensive, and yet 99 percent of the world uses them – how do all those folks pay for the things?

In a similar vein, we hear that virtually no prejudice exists in this society. Why would the existence of surrogates change that? They’re still operated by humans – no racists/bigots get robots? Also, the film depicts various levels of surrogates, some more advanced than others. Wouldn’t there be bias against the more primitive models? The alleged death of prejudice makes no sense at all.

The movie tells us that surrogates have almost totally eliminated crime. Wouldn’t the opposite be true? I’d think people would be more fearless and daring since their robots can’t be hurt; this should mean an increase in criminal activities, as the human perpetrators don’t have to worry about physical concerns.

Speaking of which, how do the humans stay healthy? As depicted in the movie, they hardly ever get up and move. Shouldn’t they all weigh roughly 600 pounds and have all sorts of health issues? Perhaps there’s some technological method that keeps them fit, but the movie doesn’t tell us anything about the subject.

Over the last few paragraphs, I expect I’ve devoted more thought to these issues than anyone connected to Surrogates did. Confronted with a complex subject, Surrogates takes the easy way out and goes down the path of simple idiocy. The story barely makes a whit of sense; it sort of comes together at the end, but not in a satisfying or particularly logical way. Plot holes abound and leave us more and more confused as the movie progresses.

At least a few of the film’s action sequences entertain. I especially like a car chase in which the human Greer pursues a surrogate. The fact that he doesn’t have to worry about harming civilians gives the sequence a fun sense of reckless abandon, and the use of a super-powered robot as his prey adds zest to the piece.

Unfortunately, the scene ends too soon, and we’re back to the brain-dead stupidity that so wholly encompasses so much of Surrogates. At its heart, it’s an action flick with sci-fi overtones, and that’s fine. However, the utter lack of cleverness or intelligence found here sabotages any hope for entertainment; the movie’s just too darned dumb to involve us.

The DVD Grades: Picture C/ Audio B+/ Bonus C+

Surrogates appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The movie came with an average transfer.

For the most part, sharpness seemed fine. Wide shots demonstrated mild softness, a factor that became exacerbated by moderate edge haloes. Still, most of the film presented acceptable delineation. Shimmering and jagged edges cropped up throughout the film and created some distractions, but source flaws remained absent.

The palette of Surrogates favored two tones: warm golds and cold blue/greens. Neither looked great, but both seemed adequate. The only color-related problem connected to a scene bathed in red light; it looked heavy and runny. Blacks were somewhat mushy, and shadows showed acceptable clarity but not great depth. At no point did the movie look ugly, but it also rarely seemed better than average.

At least the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Surrogates worked nicely. The soundfield opened things up quite well. The movie included a variety of action sequences; these featured car chases, aircraft, gunfire, and other elements that used the various channels to good effect. At times, the components could seem a little speaker-specific, but usually the pieces fit together in a smooth manner.

Audio quality was positive. Music appeared lively and vivid, while speech came across as natural and concise. Effects boasted good heft and accuracy, as those elements fared well. The track consistently opened up the room and became effective.

Don’t expect too many extras here. The main attraction comes from an audio commentary with director Jonathan Mostow. He offers a running, screen-specific look at cast and performance, story and the adaptation of the graphic novel, sets and locations, effects and production design, cinematography and lighting, stunts, and a few other aspects of the shoot.

From start to finish, Mostow provides a solid little chat. He gets into a good mix of topics and examines the film in a pretty complete manner. Mostow’s commentary offers a nice overview of different areas and adds a lot to the package.

We also get a music video for Breaking Benjamin’s “I Will Not Bow”. It offers a pretty standard video for a song from a movie, as it mixes dull lip-synch shots with clips from the flick. Not only is the video forgettable, but the tune itself is a throwback to late 90s rock. That’s not a good thing, especially since the liberal use of Autotune brands it with one of this century’s less positive trends.

The disc opens with some ads. We find clips for Alice in Wonderland (2010), The Boys Are Back, and Everybody’s Fine. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks area along with ads for X Games: The Movie, Gary Unmarried S1, Lost S5 and Tron Legacy. No trailer for Surrogates appears here.

Though Surrogates comes with an intriguing sci-fi concept, it almost totally fails to explore its subject matter. Instead, it provides a sloppy story marred with massive leaps of logic and plot holes. The DVD boasts very good picture and audio along with a smattering of extras highlighted by an excellent commentary. This turns into an erratic release for a forgettable, flawed flick.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.3428 Stars Number of Votes: 35
16 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main