Willis returns to sci-fi for the first time in more than a decade with Surrogates!
In the near future, humans live in isolation and
interact only through surrogate robots, which they operate by remote
control without leaving the comfort and security of their homes. They see,
hear and otherwise sense everything their mechanical doubles do, including
not only everyday life but also the most intimate relations. All their
fantasies can be indulged without the slightest risk . . .
This is the strikingly original concept behind
Surrogates, a new science fiction production
from Disney Studios directed by Jonathan Mostow (Terminator
3: Rise of the Machines) and based on a graphic novel of the same
name. It also marks Bruce Willis’ return to sci-fi following the likes of
The Fifth Element.
As for appearances, anything goes - even the most
extravagant choices. Whereas some of the surrogates are simply idealized
versions of the original “user” - younger, more beautiful, more athletic -
others are fantastical characters, with blue skin or spiky skulls. A man
may choose to be represented by a female surrogate, or vice versa. All the
strongest sensations can be experienced via a surrogate without subjecting
its proprietor to any loss of limb or life.
The first result of this surrogate service system was
the near disappearance of crime because it is easy to locate and identify
each robot and trace it to its owner within a matter of seconds. Behaviour
such as smoking cigarettes or taking drugs no longer poses any physical
risks. Sexual encounters with strangers also have no consequences.
Fire-fighters no longer risk their lives fighting fires. Police officers
also saw their professional risks eliminated overnight. Thanks to the
surrogates, nobody grows old or ill, at least in public. This way of life
by proxy seems to satisfy everyone . . .
"The quest for perfect physical appearance has become an almost
But everything suddenly changes one day: several people
die when a masked assassin “kills” their surrogates. Shortly thereafter,
the inventor of the surrogates, a brilliant young student, is also killed.
The case thus takes a startling turn . . . The preservation of the status
quo is in jeopardy. Political authorities panic at the idea of what might
happen if the surrogate system were destabilized. The public must never
learn that the use of surrogates may be dangerous or even fatal!
An FBI agent named Harvey Greer (Bruce Willis) decides
to lead an investigation through his surrogate. But his curiosity and his
deductions do not go unnoticed and his surrogate is quickly destroyed in
retaliation. Unwilling to admit defeat, Greer decides to do something he
hasn’t for years: he physically leaves his apartment despite his wife’s
protestations. With help from his colleague Agent Peters (Rhada Mitchell),
Greer continues his investigation in the outside world, despite the
physical risks involved.
He first investigates the actions of the “prophet” Zaire
Powell III (Ving Rhames), a religious radical who formerly led violent
riots against the existence of surrogates and the idea of exchanging one’s
humanity for an artificial life lived at a distance via machines. Since
the riots Powell and his community have however signed a treaty of
non-aggression with the authorities. They now live in a separate quarter
surrounded by high walls. But the “prophet” has begun agitating again
recently, promising hell to all who participate in the vice of surrogate
living. Indifferent to threats, braving all dangers, Greer and Peters will
unveil a vast conspiracy and discover the identity of the mysterious
killer in the process . . .
Shelf Comix published the graphic novel The Surrogates, written by
Robert Venditti and illustrated by Brett Weldele, one chapter at a time,
from 2005-2006. It quickly became known as one of the best science fiction
comics in recent years. The excellent concept developed by the authors is,
like all good futurist fables, a sharply pertinent critique of the
excesses of our present society.
The quest for perfect physical appearance has become an
almost pathological obsession in the U.S. To appear “successful”, millions
of people tan themselves in UV beds, bleach or cap their teeth, implant
hair or undergo facelifts. Weight problems are solved with liposuction or
risky “gastric bypass” surgeries that allow bodies to lose weight
artificially and almost effortlessly.
Paradoxically, on American television, the inescapable
ads for burgers, hotdogs and giant pizzas dripping with cheese are
interrupted only by ads selling exercise or weight-lifting machines!
Meanwhile, the fear of urban violence and the risks posed by the outside
world have prompted many American families and retired couples to relocate
to so-called “gated communities,” new housing developments encircled by
high security fences which people enter only if they have been let through
access gates that are guarded 24/7.
Finally, there is the growth of online videogames which
allows millions of players to meet up in a fantasy universe under the
guise of avatars they fabricate themselves. This too speaks to the
fascination surrogates already have on the public imagination. Some
players develop such an addiction to virtual adventures that they devour
their real lives turning them slowly into “no lifers,” people who cut
themselves off from real contact with others.
great classics of science fiction are always situated in alternative
worlds with elements that seem real to us."