Directed by: Jonathan Mostow
Starring: Bruce Willis Rhada Mitchell
The Surrogates is one of my all time favorite series of comics. It’s available now and best read as a graphic novel. This is like a really good science fiction novel and it is best read as such. It just so happens to feature some gorgeous artwork to boot! Naturally I was very excited to hear that the book was to be made into a film and said film was to star Bruce Willis. The book had those classic noir overtones in the art and a solid mystery to go along with the bigger questions the story attempts to ask. Sounds perfect for a classic sci-fi film….
In the future no one has to “appear” imperfect. I say that in quotes because it’s not really you that people see, it’s an avatar. In the future many people, most people apparently, stay at home locked in dark rooms controlling surrogates that represent them in the real world. These surrogates look like their controllers except they are in better shape, they have smooth perfect skin, more hair, and virtually anything else you could think of that would make them more youthful and appealing. There is an underground movement led by Ving Rhames that believes the surrogates represent a detriment to mankind.
The radical activists and the surrogate world’s cross when a man is killed at the same time as his surrogate is destroyed by a crazy laser weapon. Bruce Willis plays a detective assigned to investigate the murder. Eventually Willis is forced to step out into the real world as himself rather than his surrogate much to the chagrin of his image obsessed wife played by Rosemund Pike and his partner played by Rhada Mitchell.
Director Jonathan Mostow has played in the science fiction sandbox before having brought us Terminator 3, a film that I actually really enjoyed, so he seemed like a brilliant pick to tackle this material. Unfortunately what happens here is that the writers and producers of the film take the graphic novel and gut it. They then start fresh with their own story that just includes the setting and some of the ideas from the graphic novel. It’s funny that James Cromwell is in this film because he was also in another sci-fi film, I Robot, which was also gutted in a very similar way to this film. The film noir style of the book is replaced with a fairly vibrant lower budget representation of something like Minority Report. Another frustrating change is that in the book the mystery was more compelling because it was very difficult to determine who was a surrogate and who was a real person. In this film all of the surrogates have a very fake sort of made up look. The reasons for this change are obvious: the way the surrogates looked made them appear radically different looking than their controllers and the social commentary is probably the other reason.
The good news is that what remains, while not as strong story-wise as the graphic novel is still a, fast paced, entertaining action sci-fi film. At less than 90 minutes the film feels like a rollercoaster ride with Bruce Willis at the controls and that’s not such a bad thing. Rhada Mitchell and Rosemund Pike are both at home in sci-fi and they do fine jobs hear with Bruce Willis of course bringing the everyman sort of action that he does so well too. In the end this film doesn’t live up to the graphic novel upon which it is based but it’s still B grade sci-fi fun.
The film is presented on blu-ray at a 2.40.1 aspect ration in full 7282p. Overall this presentation looks great. The transitions between the tweaked surrogates faces and smoothed skin to the more natural looking real people can be jarring but it is meant to be. The vibrant colors look great and detail level is solid throughout the film. Black levels are appropriately inky and film grain is kept to a minimum. Overall this is a good representation of the image as it was meant to be seen in the theater.
The DTS_HD Master Audio here is well done too. The action scenes offer up some nice use of the full surround environment with plenty of directional effects and even some instances of solid sub woofer use. Dialogue, sound fx, and the score all clean, crisp, and well balanced. The quieter scenes don’t get a lot of surround sound attention but overall the audio presentation is solid.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The blu-ray and digital copy come packaged in a slim blu-ray case with really dry floating head artwork. The art is really disappointing as it just features Bruce Willis’ head rather than some cool play on the surrogate theme.
First up for bonus features is an audio commentary with director Jonathan Mostow. The commentary is fairly sedate but fans of the film will find some interesting information here. He covers the adapting of the graphic novel, the special fx, and the cast. Unfortunately to get to the good stuff you have to also listen to him describe what’s happening on screen for a lot of the film’s running time.
There are two featurettes, one standard 15 minute making of documentary and a second one that runs around 7 minutes featuring interviews with the creators of the graphic novel. The second featurette is the more interesting of the two. Cut between the interviews are scenes from the new motion comic version of the original comic. The making of is mostly just sound bites from the cast and crew. Why not work out a deal with Top Shelf Comix to put the motion comic on the blu-ray as a bonus feature? Now that would have been awesome.
There are a few deleted scenes and a music video rounding out the bonus features.
The Surrogates isn’t a classic in sci-fi films and it doesn’t live up to the source material. It is however a sleek and energetic B grade sci-fi film that’s fairly entertaining. No it’s not Blade Runner but it’s still worth a look.
Overall (Not an average) 6.5/10
The Movie 6/10
The Video 8/10
The Audio 8/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 6.5/10
Overall (Not an Average) 6.5/10