Saturday, January 29, 2011


Spoiler Level: Medium

Very, very cool.  I love stories that are willing to shake up the entire world.  In this film set 14 years in the future, android bodies are created that can be mentally controlled by an operator.  These "Surrogate" bodies were originally designed to help people with disabilities, but the technology soon spreads to the military, who loves the idea of sending soldiers into war without endangering the actual soldiers.  From there it spreads like wildfire to the general populace, to the point where 98% of the world's population are using them.  Why endanger yourself in the world?  Stay home, stay plugged in, stay safe, and still experience everything the world has to offer through your Surrogate.  The remaining 2% of the population who don't want to use Surrogates are now living on reservations.

It's a fascinating concept, and while the film is mostly an action film, it has the mystery that most good science fiction stories have and is peppered throughout with decent dashes of social commentary.  War has become nothing more than a VR game.  And while it's never stated outright, the implication is made that the government isn't hesitant to resort to military force anymore because lives are never in danger.  To take that to its logical extension, there's probably very little interest in ending any war that the country has gotten into.

Also, the humans-only reservation is very poor, which led me to wonder, are they poor because they've abandoned the outside world when it turned to Surrogates, or are Surrogates something the poor simply couldn't afford?  Again, this subject is never broached at all, but what we see gives me clues and makes me wonder.

The film does a good job of asking what makes us human, as Bruce Willis's character Tom Greer finds himself forced farther and farther outside life as he knew it in his Surrogate.  Humans are instantly recognized on the street, because they look imperfect.  The cities are full of nothing but young, perfect, attractive people.  And the more Greer finds himself having to experience the world in his own imperfect body, the more he comes to appreciate it, both good and bad, and the more he comes to resent not being able to connect with anyone else except through their Surrogates.  It's no wonder the remaining non-Surrogate users have banded together.

The ending is typically Hollywood, but the span of 14 years that the Surrogate program lasted leaves room for lots of these concepts to be explored in more depth.  This is a concept that would make for a great series, where the questions this movie raises could take the time to explore the possible answers in much greater detail.

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