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With Surrogates being a Touchstone film, it might be pretty interesting to see as a weekly series on ABC. For purposes of pacing, Director Jonathan Mostow glides over the development of man's cybernetic replacements and their impact on society so that he can pounce on a juicy murder mystery.

At least, that's obviously the intent. But that murder mystery has everything to do with the social impact of the majority of humanity staying safe in couches while robotic avatars live their lives. Thus at its heart, Surrogates seethes with very cool ideas, glimpses of interesting sidebars but a mystery that never gets near as interesting as the world it inhabits.

Yet on DVD, that's somewhat forgivable. The Blu-ray includes a look at the graphic novel source material (available from Top Shelf), part documentary and part motion comic. Without having read the book, my impression is that while it may have been plotted and paced a little differently, Mostow's film is fairly faithful - but on the page there's a lot more room to explore. It's also been announced that creators Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele will be doing a prequel series, allowing for that exploration. They know, and Mostow and his team know, they're onto something here.

What makes the film most watchable are the little details. Though aided by some CG, star Bruce Willis gives a performance full of subtle details. Without calling attention to himself, he makes it quite clear that even in the "perfection" of the surrogates, there's something still subtly unliving about their movement and reactions. Not all of the supporting actors match that, especially in crowd scenes, which makes Willis all the more notable.

While we might argue about the world of Surrogates being the world of tomorrow, the disc gathers together evidence that we're rapidly about to lose the "fiction" part of it being "science fiction." Seeing all that does make it a little disappointing that the movie script couldn't spend more time exploring the implications of this - Willis' character growing dissatisfaction with a virtual life is bluntly stated, but not given much time to grow.

The deleted scenes don't particularly add to this, either. For the most part, it's pretty obvious why they got cut, and none really go deep into the motivations and lives of the other characters. Instead, you can turn to another feature interviewing some of the actors, such as Radha Mitchell and Rosamund Pike, who obviously worked deeper than onscreen material required.

Ultimately, the film is an agreeable enough 87 minutes. The questions it could provoke might keep you up a bit longer than that. While not the best Bruce Willis action movie, it's better than its theatrical reputation.

The Surrogates (Surrogates (Graphic Novels))

Derek McCaw


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