The other day I happened upon Surrogates on TV. That came out a few years ago and I was always curious by the non-Bruce Willis centered ad campaign showing Angelina Jolie look-alikes and pretty boys with robotic skeletons showing under their skin. The movie came and went and it was directed by Jonathan Mostow, a director whose work I’ve never seen in the theater, so I forgot about it as soon as it opened to mediocre reviews.
Anyway, it was okay. Mainly forgettable. I only mention it because it had a premise that I was thinking about jotting down in story form in 1997 until The Matrix stole my thunder. Where we as humans just live a couch-potato like existence while our virtual selves, or in this case, perfect robotic altar egos live in the real world controlled by our thought impulses. The movie started fairly strong as a sci-fi concept with hot blonde robots turning out to be disgusting fat sloths in real life, but the film soon devolved into a routine cop thriller that raises more questions than it answers. And there is some inherent silliness and panic in the premise, which I didn’t realize before. While it’s conceivable that a good many people would enjoy such an existence the film also showed how the robots versions of the people get off, by zapping themselves and each other with some silly electric dildo looking thing. And there’s the problem with the idea. Why would anyone but hardcore nerds choose that over real intercourse? And as a nation of fat butts, why would we give up hamburgers for IV’s. It’s mentioned that Bruce Willis and his wife have lost a child. (following cop show cliche #74 — main cop character either has lost his wife or a child) So yeah… about those children…where are they? They showed college students going to school via surrogates, but either there are no children, like in Children of Men, or they’re being cared for by their surrogates, which is a movie in and of itself.
Now, I’ve just read the screenwriting book “Save The Cat” which every screenwriter these days swears by, and I found it nothing but a disheartening lesson in what a cookie cutter industry Hollywood has become. (Where a book that basically reworks and regurgitates “THE MASTER” Syd Field, who himself steered the industry in the direction of all film stories seeming the same– has become the guidebook that all studio execs swear by. Ugh.) So I’m sort of pissed off at Surrogates for not being a coming of age story about a kid whose real parents leave him alone with nothing but robot versions of themselves to take care of him.
But no! If I understand Save The Cat correctly. That movie would be too confusing because it would introduce too many elements for the audience to comprehend. Better take a far out sci-fi idea and turn it into a pedestrian whodunnit otherwise we can’t have any sci-fi at all.
Jeez! Did anyone ever see The Lathe of Heaven TV movie from 1980? There was a sci-fi movie about a guy whose dreams always came true. And my ten year old brain kept up with it fairly easily. Trust me, I was a C student all my life, even in grade school. What the heck is wrong with everyone? The author of Save The Cat would likely compare Lathe of Heaven to Miss Congeniality and deduce that Miss Congeniality was the superior film because it made 200 million dollars and followed all the story beats to the letter.
So, anyway, Surrogates is the perfect film to catch on a lazy Sunday evening while you’re folding laundry. It has enough of a concept to pique ones interest, then it’s forgettable enough to where you can concentrate on making crisp, even folds in your t-shirts and boxers. Show those surrogates that we humans can still do manual labor.