Posted by: Dr P | August 30, 2009


Before I kick off this review, let me offer a small insight into my public perception, and I’d like you to take the time to tell me if this is indeed the case. It is a movie-related comment, not just one thrown out there for the hell of it, so bear with me.

Taking a lunchtime stroll around campus, m’learned colleague Leigh and myself were discussing the Manchester student population, and how university is always a better place without them (:)), and I was wisecracking and punning away as per normal. Leigh turns to me and says “You know, Paul, your genius is just like Forrest Gump … you may be brilliant, but you give the appearance of having learning difficulties”. We both keeled over at that point, me laughing hysterically, and Leigh as I’d smacked him very hard indeed.

I suppose I do bear some resemblance to the Tom Hanks character, though, in that I’m not bad at table tennis and I am also responsible for a world famous T shirt (the Buffy lycra crop top for the various Bury fans on the group who will remember my old website diary circa 1997-2001).

Anyway, it was with this slight slur on my character in mind that I will take you back to last week and a trip with Big G to see “Surrogates”, the new Bruce Willis blockbuster. Now also bearing in mind my classical background (I did a Latin A level, I don’t mean I’m a lover of Bach), I thought it would be most amusing to tell Gareth that first there was Aristophanes, then there was Socrates, and now there’s Surrogates … (you have to imagine the pronunciation, the joke is definitely best when performed aurally. *AURALLY* you naughty people. In the ear! Oh dear*.)

* this also reminds me of a classic TV/radio guide moment where looking at the schedule revealed a programme about sex education being delightfully followed by one entitled “Stick It In Your Ear” (unlike most of this review to date, that’s actually true).

Anyway getting back to our classical theme, I later posted that as my facebook status, saying it’s all about Bruce Willis in a toga, and what do I get? Colin tells me he must have missed that scene, and at what point did he wear a toga? (oh dear) and my old chemistry colleague Mr Warry points out that the Greeks didn’t in fact wear togas … not only that, apparently they wore something from which the word “chlamydia” is derived. I can only assume these garments must have been quite provocative then – I’ll be suggesting a Greek theme for next year’s cricket club pub crawl 🙂

Assuming that anyone’s still reading this drivel, I’ll actually talk about the film now. If you made it this far, give me a hell yeah … er, ok.

OK, right. It’s the future, and the advances in robotics and technology have gradually seen humans replaced in their daily tasks by surrogate robots – eventually a law is passed in which humans are allowed to stay at home and control their entire lives through their surrogates – of course these can take on any form whatsoever, so most people pick beautiful creations to live out their lives for them, while they gradually waste away in the comfort of their own homes. Naturally crime has been virtually eradicated, as people just don’t go out any more. Small bands of humans do live their lives out in the open, and they also inhabit various refuges set up in the major cities.

When a shocking new weapon is developed allowing people to die when their surrogate is exposed to the device, the cops are naturally called in, led by Bruce Willis’ investigator – there’s no doubt that Bruce looks better all shaven headed and so on, so it’s hilarious that his surrogate has a floppy fringe and looks decidedly camp.

In addition to the new work stress, Bruce’s home life is under increasing stress. His young child was killed and his wife has become a recluse, living her entire life through her surrogate and the couple barely speak or interact. This additional trauma is proving highly difficult for Bruce to deal with.

As a sci-fi movie, this works. However it just hits every cliche going – bent cops, humans intent on overthrowing the robots, the inventor of the surrogates alienated when he sees how they are being used, that sort of thing. It’s quite “I, Robot”, and just like Will Smith in that movie, here Bruce is slightly pushed to one side by the CGI and technology on view. The world of the surrogates is very much like our own, with big corporations and the military driving forward every development.

Bruce eventually of course gets a handle on why the weapon has been created, who has it, and what the overall masterplan is … but there’s little point revealing any of that – suffice to say, there’s little in the way of surprises if you pay any attention to the first 20 minutes.

A very forumlaic thriller with little real substance … a bit like the surrogates themselves, the movie looks superb, but the soul and heart are found wanting.

Probably worth a look if you like Bruce or sci-fi in general, but not one to spend your money on if you only see movies on occasion. Disappointing!


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