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One of the greatest things about a well crafted science fiction story is how it can bring to light social issues under the guise of innocuous entertainment. Topics that are serious or controversial can be examined with the use of fantastic technology or futuristic settings or circumstances. This method has been successful for many years and in some ways is a worthy successor to the mythology of ancient times. This is a fashionable way to delve into the foibles and short comings of society without facing too many of the repercussions typically associated with descent. One of the more recent films to fit these criteria is ‘Surrogates’ starring Bruce Willis. Is an amazingly versatile actor with a range that encompasses everything for drama to comedy and, of course action. He has even helped to blaze the trail into the sub genre of action sci-fi with his roles in ‘The Fifth Element’ and ‘Armageddon’. In ‘Surrogates’ he basically reprises a role he has made a living performing, the anti-establishment cop whose only rule is uncover the truth no matter what. He has played so many variations on this archetype that little exposition is necessary; the audience instantly accepts Willis as this kind of character. Some film goers may complain stating the old bromide of typecasting but in this case there is a reason Willis plays this type so frequently; he is exceptionally good at it. In the case of this film the use of Willis in the lead just helps to establish the pervading scene that the incredible aspects of the underlying technology are just a few short years from realization. For this kind of story suspension of disbelief is vital and a familiar actor in a comfortable role goes a long way to provide such a foundation. This film certainly exhibits a number of faults but provides enough entertainment to make for a better than average Saturday evening popcorn flick when friends drop by.

The basic story line comes from the latest go-to source foe fresh movie ideas, especially in this genre; Graphic novels. Some of us older members of the audience may wonder about their differences between the comic books of our youth and graphic novels. Our comics used to cost a dime while a graphic novel can run you twenty or thirty bucks a pop. The most important factor though id the graphic novel tends to be extremely intense with a much greater degree of realism focusing on more mature themes. The founding graphic novel used here was created by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele offering one of the more interesting dystopias that I have encountered in many years. The primary authors of the screenplay were John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris. Both have worked together on other Sci-Fi action flicks such as ‘Catwoman’ and ‘’ Terminator '3: Rise of the Machines’ and ‘Terminator Salvation’. Okay, the general consensus that can be heard in a Sci-Fi convention is that these scripts were not the best examples of the genre around. Truth is a lot of this may just be internet bashing since each of the stories sited have several elements that are tightly woven and sparks moiré than a little interest. The same holds here. The script could be more cohesive and there are some plot holes but in general holds together. This story is geared towards action and does sacrifice some aspects of the story to slant it in that direction. As one of the growing number of people who use the computer to work from home there is a degree of isolation that is imposed by this means to hold down a job. There are people who work for me I have never met and I have no idea what my boss looks like. For me and many other disabled people with limited mobility the ability to telecommute allows us to remain an active member of society. This same technology is also used in some online role playing games where the participants rarely if ever actually meet. Much of their interaction is through digital representative of the person commonly called ‘Avatars’. These surrogates allow people to reinvent themselves and also can insulate people from the real world. in the near future of 2017 this isolating means of communication is taken to the extreme when Dr. Lionel Canter (James Cromwell) devises a new technology that allows people to interact in the real world by controlling android like surrogates. Now people can remain neatly and safely in their own homes while their alter egos ventures out. These surrogates are the perfect replacement for their human operators; any damage done to the surrogate is not passed on to the human so violent crime has all but disappeared. FBI Agent Tom Greer (Bruce Willis) uses his own surrogate to investigate what crime still exist and winds up assigned to the first murder in years. The victim is Jarod Canter (Shane Dzicek) son of the illustrious Dr. Canter. The most terrible aspect of the crime is he seems to have died after one of his surrogates is destroyed. Making matters worse is several police officers die when their surrogates are destroyed. If this proves true it will rock the foundation of the new society to its very core. He also encounters a group of reactionary people called ‘The Dreads’ who adamantly oppose surrogates. They are lead by a darkly charismatic man, The Prophet (Ving Rhames) who may hold the key to the mystery.

Willis is so good at playing this type of character that he puts on their persona of Tom with the ease and familiarity of slipping into a favorite pair of jeans and old ragged college sweatshirt. He also has proven appeal with both genders. For the men he comes off as a regular sort of a guy that you could take in a game and hoist a few beers with. For the ladies his easy going, wisecracking manner makes for an action hero they can get into.

Posted 01/17/2010

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