From the makers of Terminator 3 comes a film portraying a somewhat believable future where the average human being interacts with the rest of the world behind the veil of robot clones. A concept resembling that of today’s internet identities, the chilling similarity to the growing trend of spending hours on end behind the computer at work or at home, from social networking to video game addiction, people just can’t seem to pull themselves away from their computers.

In the movie, however, it takes the psychology to the next level where people are not interested anymore in being who they are but a more perfected version of themselves: younger, in-shape, adorned with super-human strength and abilities. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t explore this facet of the plot to any extent. Instead, the whole thing seems like an X-Files episode starring Bruce Willis as agent Mulder.

Watch Surrogates (2009) movie trailer:

What’s worse is there’s a fundamental flaw in the storytelling. The two FBI agents are trying to figure out how the users of the robot surrogates are dying when their surrogates “die” and who is behind the murders. Now, they build up the question of user-death to a point where you’re waiting for the answer and when it finally comes, it’s vague and unsatisfying. Instead, the focus remains on the why but never gives us a how. Coupled with a lack of character development on the part played by Ving Rhames, The Prophet (a terrible, terrible alias if I’ve ever heard one), the movie starts to fall apart half-way through. The Prophet is supposed to be this leader of the Humanist revolution movement who lives among the real humans who deny the existence of surrogates in special colonies throughout the world, surrogates disallowed.

When he turns out to be a surrogate himself run by the creator of the surrogate robots, it’s not surprising at all because his character never had a chance on screen. In fact, if I were Ving Rhames I’d be pissed. He could have had a whole scene where he discussed his philosophy against “surrogacy” when Bruce Willis entered the human colony to speak with him. Instead, Bruce gets his ass kicked by The Prophet’s toadies and that ends the whole opportunity. Maybe this is the way it happened in the graphic novel? If it is, then I wouldn’t be impressed with it either.

Another poor use of the plot outlined in the beginning is that the surrogate creator, Dr. Cantor, loses his son and Tom Greer (Bruce Willis) empathizes with him that he lost his son as well. This creates a bond between them that moves the story along. In the end, however, Dr. Cantor plans to destroy not only all the surrogates in the world to teach humanity a lesson, but all the users as well. This makes NO sense whatsoever. Why would a man who lost his son and who found solace in his bond with Greer want to kill billions of people suddenly? Maybe it’s not so sudden — Cantor kills quite a few people throughout the movie, but this makes for superficial rationalization since Cantor’s real qualm is with VSI, the corporation which manufacturers, markets and distributes surrogates. If Cantor was a man who snapped, we didn’t see a before photo, only an after.

Watch Surrogates (2009) behind the scenes:

All of this might have been forgivable if it weren’t for all the cliches throughout the movie (the dialogue was particularly bad at parts). Obviously, the moral lesson is clear: humans first. Hmmm, didn’t we get that in the Matrix? Or I, Robot? Or Terminator? Shall I go on? Not that it’s wrong to pitch the ethical dilemma, but the hard sell is inappropriate at this point. I would have much rather they focused on the characters than on the crime sleuthing (especially since there were a couple of seasoned actors in it who, despite the circumstances, did a pretty decent job). The plot in a noir flick is already a given; adding to it is where a movie becomes a work of art.