It’s not that I wasn’t entertained by The Surrogates. As a matter of fact, it’s often very genuinely difficult to not be entertained by Bruce Willis, or by a future involving robots. These, however, are not innovations of the film, and any innovation that actually does happen is down to the source, not the movie.
The basic premise is certainly not without its merits. Surrogates, robots which people control remotely in order to leave their homes safely, as well as always looking their best, have become the norm. There are some colonies of “dreads”, lead by The Prophet; but these people, who refuse the use of surrogates, are widely marginalized and discredited. All seems well and good, till a weapon appears seemingly out of nowhere, which allows a person to kill an operator of a surrogate through interaction with the robot. No one knows how this is possible, and an FBI agent played by (who else?) Bruce Willis is sent out to figure out what, exactly, is at hand here. He turns out not to be too keen on the buffered human interaction provided by the surrogates, having realized that they allow people to pretend to be something they are not, or block out the world entirely by living in proxy. He therefore resolves to go out in person for the first time in years, and uncover the massive conspiracy. You know the kind – everyone is shocked, except for the audience members.
Granted, Jonathan Mostow, the director of the film, knew what he was doing. Also known for the third film in The Terminator franchise, he directed the mechanical beings with confidence. Even so, some of the acting was amazingly more wooden in The Surrogates than it was in T3. This may, however, be due to the fact that we don’t expect emotions from Arnold Schwarznegger, whereas this movie can’t seem to make up its mind on whether or not these robots are capable of showing feeling.
It is not the case that the acting is consistently weak, however. Rosamund Pike, who plays Agent Greer’s wife, believably portrays shutting herself off after a personal tragedy. Bruce Willis allows some emotions to come through in his non-robot mode. The majority of the characters, however, was painfully underdeveloped in the script stage. This, coupled with some gaping plot holes, makes for a film that is average, at best.
Finally, a word to the wise aimed at the writers/producers of the film. If you’ve cast Bruce Willis as a lead in your film, don’t have a different actor play his character in the climax. That just seems like a bad decision, right?