Saturday, September 26, 2009

Movie Review:Surrogates

Lately there has been a plethora of movies dealing with ethical issues raised by what many anticipate will be the next generation of Sims-style games.

Sometimes, such as in I, Robot (2004) those concerns revolve around the rights "created life-forms" have. More recently, Gamer seemed from the trailers to revolve around the legitimacy of getting people from death row killed in pursuit of a game, though that is pure conjecture...friends warned me it had so many pornographic overtones they walked out and I took their advice and elected not to see it.

Be that as it may, Surrogates takes the concept to another level.

In this world, virtually every person stays at home, wirelessly controlling surrogate androids that go forth and take part in the world. This will free them from the dangers of disease, accidents, and even warfare as shown in one interesting scene where a soldier who has his surrogate "killed" simply receives another unit from a replacement supply along with a stern warning to be careful, because "these things aren't free".

Certainly, there are advantages to living real life entirely by remote control. You can choose how you look, don't have to suffer unpleasant side effects of deviant behavior...after all, if you murder a surrogate, it is just property damage, not actually taking a life...and so forth.

But there are consequences as well. Director Jonathan Mostow certainly allows plenty of time and returns repeatedly to scenes showing the emotional disconnect that comes from having no actual personal contact or interaction...a charge frequently leveled against serious players of Sims or Massively Multi-player Online games such as World of Warcraft and Everquest.

The movie starts with an episodic look at how Surrogates went from conception to something employed by the vast majority of people, though some people rebel at the concept and form Surrogate-free zones.

Soon it jumps into a look at a young man who goes to a club instead of an opera...only to be killed by real human Miles Strickland (Jack Noseworthy).

Greer (Bruce Willis) and his partner Peters (Radha Mitchell) must solve the murder which leads to a tangled web of deception as they discover someone has invented a weapon which makes it possible to kill the user by killing the surrogate.

More and more powerful forces try to keep Greer from accomplishing his mission until at the end he is faced with a choice; save the surrogates and allow dis-figured and disabled people to live "normal" lives or allow their destruction to force people to act on their own.

The movie is pretty entertaining, has a couple nice action set-pieces and may surprise you at a turn or two...though the clues are there to let you know what is coming.

It is pretty weird seeing the Surrogate version of Willis with the goofy hair and no fact, at some point the distinct lack of wrinkles on the surrogates almost becomes a character itself.

Is the immersion in virtual and alternate reality worlds a negative thing? How far is too far? These are questions the movie will raise and have no doubt; the writers and director have an answer.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Movie Review:9

If someone told you they wanted you to see a movie with cool animation, some nice special effects, tremendous voice over talent, and an idiotic story, would you go see it?

9 (2009) follows 9 (Elijah Wood) from his "creation" through his coming to life through his first adventure. Let me sum up the plot:

From a plot sense, 9 is brought to life to bring to life The Monster which he keeps the other animated burlap bags from destroying because if they destroy it then the burlap bags the Monster has eaten will not be able to be brought back, so instead he uses a device to destroy the machine which then frees the burlap fly away and be gone forever.


Don't destroy it so you can destroy it...

This plot had no point.

Okay, if you want a stretch a point, since each numbered burlap bag represented "some part of the human soul" I suppose you could argue Shane Acker (story) and Pamela Pettler (screenplay) are making some morality tale about which elements of the human soul they find worthwhile while simultaneously complaining about advancing technology...highly ironic since the movie is a technological masterpiece...but that is pushing it.

It also misses a key point; to push a morality tale, you have to intrigue the audience enough to care. When you make a vaguely entertaining movie that has a contradictory plot and a lousy denouement, you end up with 9:an unsatisfying, disappointing cinematic effort.

Stay away from this one.