VISIT: Surrogates

A few weeks ago, I got to hit the SURROGATES edit bay, and chat with director Jonathan Mostow.

Sure, there have been a lot of “technology is going to fuck us up if we don't do something” movies lately, but I have to say, this one looks like something different. For once, the toasters haven't rebelled and your car isn't trying to kill you. Technology is not sentient in SURROGATES. We've simply taken it to the point where we no longer have to get our fat asses out of our chairs. Here's the deal. Have you heard about the technology that allows paralyzed people to move things with their thoughts? Well, in the not too distant future, this has been taken to the ultimate extreme. People sit in “stim chairs” and allow a robot of themselves (minus all the physical flaws) to interact with the rest of the world. You feel what they feel, see what they see. In fact, 98% of the population are using these surrogates. And since a piece of metal isn't actually alive, murdering them isn't any more destructive than dropping your Blackberry in the toilet Crime and disease have been all but eliminated. Sure, there are camps here and there with anti-surrogate activists who love their fat, bloated bodies and their giant noses that give them character, but for the most part, it's a perfect world. Until people in their stim chairs start dying along with their avatars...sorry, different flick...surrogates.

We got to see a few selected scenes in preparation for the press junket, since the film was still being worked on. In fact, Mostow joked that the hour we spent with him would take one hour's worth of quality away from the film. (He quickly added that this was actually his lunch hour.) We began with the intro, which got us up to date on how we got to this “Oh, look. I'm Barbie.” kind of place. It also established that the film is set in the very near future. Mostow said that, though the graphic novel the film is based on takes place in 2054, he decided not to try to construct the world of the future. He said he'd rather concentrate on the story and the surrogates, and not worry about how stupid the flying cars look.

Next we saw a scene where officer of the law Agent Peters (Radha Mitchell) is heading home for the day. Her surrogate walks into a booth, and shuts off, while the real Agent Peters, slightly more blousy and squishy, gets out of her stim chair back at home. That got us all to talking about how this all works. How much do surrogates cost if almost everyone has one? Are there child surrogates? How much time do people actually spend in the chair? Mostow told us that the film will answer all our questions. We'll see a commercial for child surrogates (ooh, does that mean you can turn them off when they start to cry? I know. I'm going straight to hell.) and we'll see someone actually purchasing one. He said that there are many different models; generic-looking ones for the financially challenged, ones that look like you...if you were a 10 instead of a 4, and fantasy ones, like you see in Second Life. He said we'll see a character who's surrogate is a hot chick, while in reality, he's a fat old man.

In the film, Bruce Willis plays Greer, an FBI agent with a a surrogate who's blond mop looks like The Little Dutch Boy. He realizes that people are actually dying when their surrogates are killed. We got to see the scene where Greer's surrogate is destroyed while chasing down a suspect. Unfortunately, the powers that be don't like his findings and they fire him, making him walk around looking like...well, Bruce Willis after a bender. They did dirty him up, in case the commercials made you wonder what he's been doing to himself lately. There is so much touch up work in SURROGATES that Mostow told us that he was sick of looking at people. He said most of post-production was erasing moles, cellulite and stray hairs. He also told us that casting the pretty people was surprisingly difficult. Everyone had to look like a supermodel and be able to act. Not everyone can be Charlize Theron, I guess.

Finally we saw the party scene where Greer comes home (sans-surrogate) to find his wife Maggie (Rosamond Pike) having a party. Here we get a glimpse of what might happen in a culture with no consequences. Give Barbie a hair cut (I got in sooo much trouble for that.) and you can just go out and get a new one. It can't help but make you jaded, and focused on nothing but the next thrill. For the surrogates at the party, it's the robot equivalent of drugs. It's called “jacking” and it involves zapping yourself with some sort of electricity. (I'm not sure what the consequences of that are, but Greer doesn't like it one bit.) Maggie is horrified to see her husband out of his fancy dolly, having some serious issues with the idea of a real person. Greer tells her that he's tired of talking to a robot. All he wants is his real wife back. Mostow told us that test screenings of some of the footage started major discussions in the audience, about how technology has destroyed real communication. Sure, I can tell my high school buddies, all my ex-boyfriends and hundreds of people I've never met that, at this very moment, I am eating a piece of cheese, but god forbid the phone rings. Talk to people? Ick! Who does that?

Like GAMER and the TERMINATOR films, (Mostow directed TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES. No way I could end this without mentioning that.) SURROGATES is a glimpse into what could happen to us if we're not careful with technology. Not a bad message. Now pardon me, but it's been 4 minutes since I've updated Twitter. All the people I've never met need to know that, now that I'm done with the edit bay report, I'm going to get an ice tea, and maybe get out of my pajamas.

SURROGATES will hit theaters on September 25th, 2009.

Source: JoBlo.com



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