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FBI agents investigate the mysterious murder of a college student linked to the man who helped create a high-tech surrogate phenomenon that allows people to purchase unflawed robotic versions of themselves—fit, good looking remotely controlled machines that ultimately assume their life roles—enabling people to experience life vicariously from the comfort and safety of their own homes. The murder spawns a quest for answers: in a world of masks, who's real and who can you trust?
For more about Surrogates and the Surrogates Blu-ray release, see Surrogates Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on January 16, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Jonathan Mostow
Starring: Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, Rosamund Pike, Boris Kodjoe, James Francis Ginty, James Cromwell
» See full cast & crew
Surrogates Blu-ray Review
A somewhat hit-or-miss cautionary tale secures a solid Blu-ray release...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, January 16, 2010
I've always had a difficult time understanding why older generations readily reject the latest-n-greatest technologies; why my grandmother can't wrap her head around a VCR, why my father is terrified of a DVR, why my mother insists that hackers are, at this very moment, intent on cracking her home computer and swiping her recipes. But then, dear readers, I turned thirty. Texting teens frequently frustrate me. Watching their parents do the same, oftentimes while sitting across from their children at a restaurant, is equally maddening. MySpace strikes me as a network designed for people longing to construct houses of lies. The Blogosphere offers anyone and everyone with an opinion a seemingly viable platform to rant and rave as they see fit. 24-Hour News Networks have viciously ripped the still-beating heart out of legitimate journalism. Movie critics are callous, conceited... well, this is awkward. Why dwell on generation gaps? Because it's these inevitable divides that makes Surrogates, director Jonathan Mostow's adaptation of Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele's award-winning graphic novel, such an intriguing film. While his vision comes up short for a number of reasons, it clings to the comic's fascinating premise: a dark future in which society's 21st Century obsessions -- youth and beauty, online avatars and robotics, among others -- have sheltered and isolated its populous from the very things that make them human.
In the not-so-distant future (specifically 2017, a haphazard date guaranteed to render the film irrelevant in seven short years), amazing technological achievements and advanced robotics have made surrogates -- convincing humanoid machines designed to allow their users to live their lives through walking, talking avatars -- a part of everyday life. While the cost of these robots is never entirely clear, and the manner in which every man, woman and child have come to own one is wisely left to the imagination, society remains divided between those who embrace the alluring technology and those who despise the very notion of experiencing life through a machine. Enter Tom Greer (Bruce Willis) and Jennifer Peters (Radha Mitchell), a pair of sharp and savvy FBI agents assigned to investigate the bizarre murder of a young man who died when his surrogate was destroyed by a mysterious weapon. Complicating matters is the fact that the victim's father, Dr. Lionel Canter (James Cromwell), is the mastermind who designed the surrogates. Racing to uncover his killer, Greer and Peters have to contend with a reclusive anti-surrogacy faction called the Dreads, deal with their fanatical leader (Ving Rhames), and unravel a conspiracy involving one of their own.
Surrogates desperately wants to be I, Robot and other sci-fi actioners of its ilk. But unlike its superior brethren and original graphic novel (smartly set in 2154), Mostow's world is so familiar, so now, that it's almost impossible to believe surrogacy has become as commonplace as it has. I know suspension of disbelief is a prerequisite for the genre, but the film's timeline distracted me every time a new, more ludicrous invention would pop up on-screen. Moreover, the practicalities involved in the widespread adoption of such an advanced, costly technology jab more holes in the plot that I care to address. At a time when 3D home theaters threaten to become a niche fad, the notion that robots would be scooped up by the hundreds of thousands is downright laughable. But I digress. Divorced from its nonsensical setting, Surrogates examines the nature and dangers of isolationism, fabricated personas, and techno-addiction with a piercing gaze, dissecting society's embrace of some rather frightening trends. While it proudly wears Mostow's politics on its sleeve, it manages to ask a number of worthwhile questions and deliver a welcome warning about mankind's sudden urgency to buy every bell and whistle enhanced by a computer chip. Likewise, while a handful of explosive action scenes and chase sequences drag on a bit too long, the director spends the majority of his time focusing on the more cerebral aspects of the story, allowing its themes to sink in and leave their mark.
If anything, Mostow's design sense is his own worst enemy. Surrogates would be far more effective if Willis' robot didn't look exactly like him. At the very least, it would make his grizzled countenance that much more startling when he begins traipsing around the city sans surrogate. Worse still, the rubbery, stilted appearance of the bots screams "cheesy special effects!" more often than it whispers "inhuman." Willis gets the worst of it -- his aging face requires the most substantial digital makeover -- but his younger castmates look as if they fell victim to an overzealous makeup artist as well. It doesn't help that the steely world of the surrogates is contrasted by the earthy hues of the Dreads' compound. In the comicbook, these color changes make Weldele's artwork more dramatic and meaningful. Sadly, on film they register as abrupt and heavy-handed. Don't get me wrong, Mostow's visual flair doesn't necessarily hamper Surrogates, it just holds it back from its potential. Willis, Mitchell, Cromwell and Rhames are engaging and believable, several plot twists caught me by complete surprise (the unpredictable, matter-of-fact hijacking of a key surrogate was a shock to my system), and the director manages to thwart genre convention as often as he adheres to it. I doubt anyone will declare Mostow's flashy future brilliant or mind-blowing, but the film has something valuable to say about our future, and it delivers that message fairly well.
Give it a rent, give it a spin. Either way, give it a chance. It may not find a permanent home in your collection, but it's a decent way to spend two hours on a rainy night. If nothing else, it should inspire comic fans to pick up copies of Venditti and Weldele's excellent graphic novels, both of which come with my utmost recommendation.
Surrogates Blu-ray, Video Quality
Surrogates may not be the most attractive dystopian cautionary tale on the market, but its strong 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer is faithful to Mostow's vision, basking in director of photography Oliver Wood's neon-infused cerulean blues, jarring reds and golden delicious yellows. But even beyond raw primary power, the filmmakers' oft-times steely, at-times earthy palette also features searing skies and inky shadows, lending the image a fair amount of depth. While fleshtones are all over the place -- ranging from milky to ruddy and back again -- and facial textures have been scrubbed away, such inconsistencies only affect the surrogates. Disconnected humans are blessed with lifelike skin, well-rendered stubble and other less-than-subtle indicators designed to separate the machines from those viewing the world through their own eyes. Impressive detailing is apparent elsewhere as well. The presentation not only reveals every corner of VSI's bot factories and every stone that dots the Prophet's dilapidated camp, it rarely comes up short. A few soft shots haunt the proceedings, but viewers should look to Mostow, not Disney, for an explanation. Significant artifacting, aliasing and ringing are nowhere to be found, and noise reduction has not been employed. The pore-starved surrogates resemble victims of severe DNR, but the transfer itself hasn't been touched.
If I have any lingering complaint it's that noise spikes and lulls without warning, generally whenever Greer and Peters are bathed in harshly hued light (which is to say quite often). That being said, Surrogates' Blu-ray presentation is staunch and able-bodied, and should satisfy anyone who embraces Mostow's peculiar aesthetics.
Surrogates Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Disney's hefty DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is bold and bombastic, dishing out hearty explosions, disruptor pulses, crashing helicopters, and shotgun blasts with the best of them. Dialogue is crisp and well-prioritized, surging and relenting as naturally as the film's quieter scenes and action sequences require. Voices never disappear beneath the chaos, joining the fight with ease. Speaking of the battlefront, LFE output is both weighty and rewarding, rear speaker activity is aggressive and enveloping, and dynamics are impressive. Directionality is precise as well -- motorcycles roar from channel to channel and surrogates fling across the soundfield, while factory machinery whirs in the distance and fleeing crowds dart in every direction -- and pans are slick and smooth. A handful of scenes lack subtlety, as seems to be par for the sci-fi actioner course, but only the most stringent audiophiles will find fault in the film's occasional more-is-less brow-beating. All things considered, Surrogates sounds great. Even if you balk at Mostow's flashy utopian dystopia, you'll at least be able to enjoy its immersive sonics.
Surrogates Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
While it doesn't include a Bonus View video commentary or a much-needed comic-to-screen Picture-in-Picture track, the Blu-ray edition of Surrogates nevertheless serves up a solid selection of more traditional special features, all of which are presented in high definition.
Surrogates Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Surrogates is an entertaining, occasionally mindless exercise in fulfilled potential and missed opportunities; an action-oriented procedural that cashes in on a handful of intriguing questions, but sometimes fails to pair them with equally intriguing answers. That being said, Disney capitalizes on the film's flashy aesthetics and pulse-pounding sequences to produce a high-quality Blu-ray release. It features a faithful, technically proficient video transfer, a full-throttle DTS-HD Master Audio track, and a decent supplemental package that holds a number of exclusives. Though sci-fi fans will part ways when it comes to the film itself, Disney's Blu-ray efforts will prove to be far less divisive.
Surrogates: Other Editions
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Surrogates Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Today on Blu-ray - January 26th - January 26, 2010
To some, he was known as the “King of Pop”. To others, he was “Wacko Jacko”. But to most, Michael Jackson was one of the most gifted and influential singers of his time. His untimely passing while rehearsing for a comeback tour caused shock throughout the world, ...
• Disney Offers $10 Coupon for Surrogates Blu-ray - January 22, 2010
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has a printable $10 off coupon good for the purchase of the 'Surrogates' Blu-ray during its first week. This coupon is redeemable at participating retailers, and there are versions available for the US and the English-speaking ...
• Gamer and Surrogates in January - October 27, 2009
Two similarly-themed futuristic thrillers, based on the concept of people using physical 'avatars' in the real world, are coming up on Blu-ray from two different studios. On January 19, 2010, Lionsgate Home Entertainment is set to release 'Gamer', set in a future ...
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