Imagine a future like The Matrix where the majority of the human population lives out most of their lives in pods, but instead of being unaware, they voluntarily operate android avatars that are faster, stronger and better looking than their human counterparts. Crime rates drop to zero when the only violence that ever occurs happens to these surrogates and not actual humans. Through their “surries,” people can live out their wildest fantasies, like “jacking” (drugs), safe (robot) sex, and body alterations/enhancements, all while achieving the ultimate American goal of sitting on their asses all day at home. It’s like Second Life on steroids: boring to the max!
Bruce Willis plays a world-weary FBI agent on the case of what appears to be the first homicide since surrogacy became the de facto lifestyle. While tracking down the killer and his unique weapon, a gun that kills the human operator as well as his/her surrogate, we find out exactly why he is so weary of the world. Cue the clichés: he and his wife don’t hang out much anymore (she loves the surrogate life), and he’s becoming numb to unreality, all of which stems from them losing their son in a car accident, complete with the boy’s never-been-touched bedroom, which they both peek into from time to time for a good cry.
There’s also a by-the-books conspiracy involving Ving Rhames as the Prophet of an anti-robot fringe society and James Cromwell as the inventor of surrogates and father to the first surrogate murder victim. All of this plays out like a bad episode of “The X-Files,” with predictable plot twists and unoriginal characterization.
So basically, I loved the idea behind this comic-turned-filmed adaptation, but its execution left something to be desired. Did it have cool humanoid robots achieving super-human tasks? Yes, but not enough (and it’s rare that I want more action). Were there science fiction concepts analogous to present day living? Again, yes, but just because the Prophet’s banners copy the Obama Hope posters and the secret weapon is called an OD (Overload Device) doesn’t make it relevant, just dated. Maybe the film makes its point too well: living vicariously through a surrogate (or a movie about it) pales in comparison to real life.