Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, Rosamund Pike, Boris Kodjoe, James Francis Ginty, James Cromwell, Ving Rhames
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!
$14.902 million on 2951 screens.
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Runtime: 88 min.
Release Date: 1/26/2010
• Audio Commentary with Director Jonathan Mostow
• “A More Perfect You: The Science of Surrogates” Featurette
• “Breaking the Frame: A Graphic Novel Comes to Life” Featurette
• Four Deleted Scenes
• Music Video
• Sneak Peeks
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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.
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Surrogates [Blu-Ray] (2009)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 20, 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 story’s society, 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 very 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 Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-
Surrogates appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. While not stellar, this was a consistently positive presentation.
No real issues with sharpness occurred. Some shots looked a little soft, but those seemed to reflect photographic techniques utilized to make the surrogates look more flawless. Otherwise, the flick was concise and crisp. No signs of jagged edges or shimmering appeared, and I witnessed no edge enhancement. Source flaws were also absent.
The palette of Surrogates favored two tones: warm golds and cold blue/greens. Both showed appropriate clarity here, as the movie displayed the hues in the expected manner. Blacks were dark and dense, while shadows were adequate; a few slightly hazy shots occurred, but most of the flick offered nice delineation of low-light images. Overall, this was a very nice transfer.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Surrogates also 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.
How did the picture and sound of this Blu-ray compare to the film’s DVD version? I thought audio was similar, but the visuals demonstrated improvement. The Blu-ray tightened up the DVD and lost jaggies and shimmering. It also featured more concise colors and darker blacks. The Blu-ray was a good step up in quality over the DVD.
The Blu-ray includes the same extras as the DVD plus a few new ones. I’ll note Blu-ray exclusives with special blue print.
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.
Two featurettes follow. A More Perfect You: The Science of Surrogates runs 14 minutes, 34 seconds and includes notes from Mostow, Institute for Global Futures CEO Dr. James Canton, special makeup effects supervisor Howard Berger, Aesthetic Prosthetics co-owner Stefan Knauss, Biodesigns CEO Randall Alley, production designer Jeff Mann, producer Todd Lieberman, visual effects supervisor Mark Stetson, screenwriters John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris, Anybots CEO Trevor Blackwell, UC Berkeley Professor of Mechanical Engineering Dr. Homayoon Kazerooni, and actors Jack Noseworthy, Rosamund Pike, Radha Mitchell, James Francis Ginty and Bruce Willis. “Perfect” looks at current robotic science and potential future developments as well as the movie’s surrogates and the effects used to bring them to life.
“Perfect” touches on interesting subjects but it does so in such a superficial way that it frustrates. In truth, it seems to exist mostly to promote the movie, so it doesn’t really attempt to fully explore any of its subjects. We do find some good notes, but they’re submerged in a fairly fluffy package.
During the six-minute, 33-second Breaking the Frame: A Graphic Novel Comes to Life, we hear from Willis, Mostow, Pike, producer Max Handleman, graphic novel writer Robert Venditti and graphic novel illustrator Brett Weldele.
“Frame” looks at the creation of the original Surrogates graphic novel and its adaptation for the big screen. We get good glimpses of the comic itself and learn a reasonable amount about it in this enjoyable piece.
Four Deleted Scenes fill a total of six minutes, three seconds. These include “Dread Encounter” (1:25), “Apologies & Theories” (1:28), “What You’re Looking At” (1:44) and “The Real Peters” (1:26). “Dread” adds a little to the film’s subway scene, while “Theories” expands on the FBI investigation. “Looking” shows a little anti-human bias, and “Peters” shows that character’s fate. All of them seem unnecessary.
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) and Everybody’s Fine. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks area along with ads for Lost University 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 Blu-ray boasts very good picture and audio along with a smattering of extras highlighted by an excellent commentary. I have no complaints about this release, but the movie itself is a flawed disappointment.
To rate this film visit the original review of SURROGATES