2009 / DVD

SF elements: remote controlled robots


In the future no-one goes out; they all live their lives vicariously through mind-controlled robot doubles, "surrogates". But then a surrogate is shot, and the backlash kills the operator, who is the son of the surrogate's inventor Dr Lionel Canter [James Cromwell]. Such backlash should be impossible, because there are safety protocols to prevent it. FBI Agent Tom Greer [Bruce Willis] investigates, and when his surrogate is destroyed by the same weapon, has to emerge from his home and investigate in person.

[surrogate Greer] This has good parts and bad parts. The good parts are the special effects. Everyone's surrogate looks like them, only "perfect": younger, fitter, prettier -- everyone looks like a cross between a supermodel and a shop mannequin. This is achieved by giving all the surrogates an airbrushed look. The contrast between the spiffy surrogate Greer and the dishevelled meat Greer is very well done.

[meat Greer] The bad parts are the plot. Don't think too closely while enjoying the mayhem, else the plot holes will engulf you. The backstory is plonked down with a lazy opening narration, which describes the rise in use of surrogates from medical devices for injured people, to everyday use: "98% of the world now uses surrogates" (it seems like only a few enclaves of Luddites exist; but how did all the poor people afford one?). Apparently this means that "crime has dropped to almost nothing" (why?; just because surrogate-on-surrogate violence doesn't physically hurt the operator doesn't mean there are no other opportunities for crime, or does "crime" only equal "murder"?; and if there is so little crime, why is there still a significant police force and FBI?). Once Greer has to emerge from his home into the outside world, he is amazingly able to do his action man stunts, despite having spent the last several years immobile controlling his surrogate, or slobbing around his apartment. It is impossible to use someone else's surrogate because the control interface doesn't match (which is convenient, otherwise no-one would ever know who anyone was; it's also stated to be illegal, but why, if it's impossible?; and given it is impossible, why did Greer merely tell Canter it was illegal, and not suspect something at that point?), but it is necessary in the end-game, so there's a technobabble device that allows it to happen then. The thing just doesn't hold together.

A good concept, not thought through.

Rating: 4

[ unmissable | great stuff | worth watching | mind candy | waste of time | unfinishable ]

reviewed 20 October 2012