is becoming increasingly evident that these social trends - the obsession
with looks, the fear of violence and the immersion in virtual universes -
are also gaining ground outside the States. It is not hard to imagine the
huge profits that would be made if a surrogate system like that described
in the graphic novel by Venditti and Weldele become real.
Of course, the weak point in the concept is that the
creation of a custom surrogate would cost a fortune. It is hard to imagine
a society in which every citizen - from the pizza delivery dude to the
office worker and the President! - can afford a surrogate, an apartment
and a car. As the percentage of the poor has not dropped recently, those
without enough income to “duplicate” themselves should have gotten a
bigger role in the story.
But this is only a minor flaw because the basic idea is
brilliant and its execution as a graphic novel is a complete success. The
illustrations by Brett Weldele, simple and stark, manage to efficiently
express the thoughts and feelings of the characters. The use of coloring
is also judicious. Through the choice of colors, shadows and lights,
Weldele creates a particularly striking atmosphere. To complete the
reader’s immersion in the universe of the surrogates, Robert Venditti
inserts supplementary elements between each of the five chapters of the
story, copying a technique used by Alan Moore in
Watchmen. Thus, we find news
articles, ads and even a brochure about the latest technological advances
in surrogate materials.
"My character’s clone acts like a superhero!"
- Bruce Willis
The authors imagined such an abundance of complementary
details that the comics merit a second reading to fully appreciate them.
The plot structure benefits from the representation of viewpoints from all
protagonists. There is no “good” or “evil” in the graphic novel, but
simply opinions and interests that diverge, leading certain characters to
employ methods at hand to solve their problems.
Of course, such a “high concept” could not leave
Hollywood unmoved. Disney Studios, through Touchstone Pictures, purchased
the rights to the graphic novel, and entrusted its adaptation to the
creative trio from Terminator 3 - director
Jonathan Mostow and screenwriters Michael Ferris and John Brancato.
“People immediately identify with the characters in this story,” says
Mostow, “because they understand the parallels that exist between the
concept and their own lives. The great classics of science fiction are
always situated in alternative worlds with elements that seem real to us.
I believe that is exactly what lends this movie its power: it makes us
think about the dangers of living bodiless lives, the pseudo-existences
that intensive consumption of virtual entertainment can lead us to. In the
world of Surrogates people don’t live their real lives simply
because they prefer not to take any risks. It’s a danger that threatens us
all to differing degrees, and it’s also a fascinating topic to address.”
Jonathan Mostow has not lost his taste for creating
striking images, which he demonstrated in the excellent war movie U-571
and to a lesser degree in Terminator 3: spectacular chases, fights,
and astonishing visuals - streets clogged with immobile surrogates –
abound. Surrogates promises to be quite a spectacle.
populate his universe of humans and surrogates, Mostow has assembled the
perfect cast. Graphic novel author Robert Venditti was particularly
thrilled by the casting of Bruce Willis. When The Surrogates was
first published he thought that Willis would be an excellent Harvey Greer
. . . His wish certainly came true!
Alongside Bruce Willis and Rhada Mitchell, we find
Rosamund Pike (Bond’s evil blonde from Die Another Day and the
heroine of Doom) in the role of the
hero’s wife as well as Ving Rhames (Mission Impossible 1, 2
& 3, Day of the Dead) playing the
Bruce Willis seems to have had a good time making the
movie: “It’s a role that is doubly interesting because I play a surrogate
robot that has superhuman strength and endurance, and also the flesh and
blood detective who risks his life to resolve the mystery. My character’s
clone acts like a superhero, which allowed the creation of some very
spectacular action scenes, whereas Harvey Greer has to be much more
careful. While his double can make incredible leaps, or keep fighting with
a broken arm, Harvey knows that a single bullet could kill him. The
contrast between these two facets of the character is very unique, and
allows us to create a good deal of suspense and tension - with flashes of
humor as well.”
If the work of the team creating
Surrogates allows the movie to triumph at
the box office, the second volume of the graphic novel Flesh and Bone
will be adapted next. Disney has already purchased an option for Flesh
and Bone in addition to any further possible sequels stemming from the
movie. Bruce Willis may just wind up playing Harvey Greer several times .
(Written by Pascal Pinteau, translated by Renae Keep)
- This is an abbreviated version of an article originally appeared in the
issue of Fantastique magazine. It is kindly reprinted here
with the publishers’ permission.