Take your expectations down a notch

Posted: Thursday, October 01, 2009

From the team that brought you "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines"!

Oops, did I just ruin "Surrogates"? Actually, the truth is I'm lowering the bar of expectations on purpose. Having touted its opening for several weeks, I fear I built up the Bruce Willis flick too much for anyone's good, including mine. As a Bruce Willis guy, I feel like any one of us might if we told friends how beautiful Juneau is during the summer time, only to talk them into a visit and have them arrive in the middle of the only week in July when it's pouring. It's a bit of a letdown, thanks in large part to you having built it up.

Take those expectations down a notch, if you please! It rains in Juneau in the middle of summer sometimes, and every now and then the new Bruce Willis movie isn't everything you had hoped for. Okay?

And hey, if you actually enjoyed the third "Terminator" movie, the fact that Jonathan Mostow directs from a script by Michael Ferris and John D. Brancato should be good news. For the rest of us... it rains sometimes in Juneau in the middle of the summer!

Now that you're thinking about how awful "Terminator 3" was and how much you hate Juneau when it's randomly soaking wet and cold in July, let me attempt to build "Surrogates" back up a bit. It is, after all, much better than both "Terminator 3" and a rainy Juneau summer day. The premise of "Surrogates" is actually quite interesting and if you embrace it there is even a critique on modern society somewhere in there.

Mostow does an efficient job of setting up the not-so-distant future for us. At first there is an innocent enough advance in science that enables people that are paralyzed to control complex robotic arms and for all intensive purposes, regain the use of their limbs. Very quickly after that advance, however, we arrive at a breakthrough far enough along that allows us to control human-like robots with our minds. Why go outdoors and risk getting the swine flu when you can have a surrogate robot go for you? After all, if you are talking on you cell phone and run a red light, the consequences could be disastrous. If it's your surrogate blabbing on the cell, though, no harm no foul! Tom Greer's (Bruce Willis) surrogate gets his arm chopped off by a helicopter blade; all he loses is some green fluid. Greer himself is just fine.

Naturally, surrogates are soon pretty much all there is walking around outdoors. Real humans stay inside, only living outside the comfort of their own homes vicariously through better looking, stronger versions of themselves. Just like the internet, in fact, sometimes things aren't what they appear. The lovely young lady-surrogate that gets murdered in the beginning of "Surrogates," for example, is actually being controlled by an overweight slovenly dude; he dies when his hot lil' surrogate does, which constitutes murder. It's the first murder in years (another happy byproduct of surrogates), and that is of course is why Special Agent Greer must hit the streets.

The concept of "Surrogates" is not the problem. Bruce Willis - it should go without saying - ain't the problem. The "Terminator 3" team together again isn't the problem.

Wait, actually, no... they might be the problem. "Surrogates" is painfully predictable. That's the problem. A movie with a great premise and a fantastic lead winds up leaving you feeling like it's July in Juneau, but rainy and cold.

Blame the team that brought us "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines."

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