There is nothing subtle about Surrogates, a futuristic sci-fi movie based on the graphic novel by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele. The warning in this script is that living a virtual life devoid of any human contact, even with those who share your house, is not everything its made up to be.
Yet since the creation and refinement of robotic human surrogates in this ultramodern world, no one wants to be on the streets. Instead, from the safety of their homes, the operators, who come in a realistic array of body shapes, ages and physical appearances, lie around all day in their stem chairs. Plugged into their beautiful, young, personally designed robots, they live a vicarious existence as the avatars go out in the world and interact with everyone else’s substitute self.
The few humans who have refused to buy into the virtual life live in a fenced off compound where they eke out an existence with crude, primitive tools. Meanwhile the surrogates engage in every kind of human activity from office work to sexual encounters without the operator being subjected to pain, danger, discrimination or sexually transmitted diseases.
But the safety factor of this lifestyle changes when two police officers, Greer (Bruce Willis) and Peters (Radha Mitchell), trace the identification numbers of two destroyed surrogates back to their operators. The officers find the humans dead in their chairs and oozing blood from their mouth, eyes and nose. They’ve been murdered by a weapon capable of killing victims who are online. The agents continue to carry out their investigation in an undercover manner to avoid widespread panic among the public. Then Greer’s surrogate is ambushed, crushed by a car and hung on a makeshift cross by the humans as a symbol of everything that is wrong with the robotic beings.
The self-imposed isolation of these characters makes them not only afraid of real life dangers, but also fearful of human interactions and emotion. Having to experience the world for himself for the first time in years is terrifying, even for the hardened cop. Yet Greer is driven to locate the specialized weapon that is killing both surrogates and humans and disarm it before more operators die.
This Matrix-like plot uses elements of that blockbuster trilogy but fails to achieve the same intensity or unexpected twists. Rather it unfolds in a predictable, by the numbers formula. (I guess there is safety in that too.) Graphic depictions of blood-splattered operators, a suicide and people who are crushed or hit by speeding cars are combined with the depictions of inoperative surrogates.
With the proliferation of social networks and the increasing popularity of virtual video games like Second Life, living vicariously online is more of an option than ever. Unfortunately the comparison between the "perfect" surrogates and their less-than-perfect humans makes choosing the real world an unappealing alternative.