Surrogates. Dir. Jonathan Mostow. Perf. Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell, and Ving Rhames. Touchstone Pictures, 2009. DVD. (Click here for trailer.)
Based off of the 2005-6 comic book series The Surrogates (see comic book exerpts), the 2009 American film Surrogates allows the viewer a glimpse into 2054 where human-controlled surrogates complete daily tasks. VSI, the company responsible for creating surrogates, advertises that a world with surrogates allows lives free of risks and danger and the opportunity to wipe out racism and sexism. They allow for virtually no limitations and the opportunity for individuals to be whomever they want.
Despite the utopic nature of surrogates, there is a large human force led by The Prophet (Ving Rhames) who despise the new directions that surrogacy has taken. The movie opens with a scene where a young couple is brutally killed with a weapon that overloads the surrogate’s systems and kills the operator.
The protagonist, Tom Greer (Bruce Willis), an FBI agent, and his partner, Peters (Radha Mitchell), investigate the murders and track down the culprit of the murder.
[WARNING CONTAINS SPOILERS]
After an accident that destroys his surrogates, Greer is on a mandatory leave from the FBI and decides to continue to peruse the case without a surrogate.
Lionel Canter, inventor of surrogates and CEO of VSI ends up being a major player in this movie. It turns out that Canter dislikes the way surrogacy has changed the world, “I’ve changed the course of human history when I invented surrogacy. Now I’m going to change it back.”
Canter, owner of the weapon that is able to kill surrogates’ owners, has hooked the machine into the central network for all surrogates and has entered the necessary code to destroy all surrogates and kill any users who are plugged in. As in typical Bruce Willis movies, Greer makes it to Canter’s residence just in time to seize control of the surrogate and reverse the actions that have been made.
After dismantling the gun that will kill users Greer is faced with a choice. Will he press YES, allowing for the surrogate network to continue as if it were never in jeopardy, or will he press NO, leading to an entire shutdown of the network? Greer choses NO. The movie ends with Greer embracing his wife, the reason that he disabled the network, he wanted a real relationship with the person he loves.
Relation to Cybercultures
Although not set in a futuristic world we can not completely understand, Surrogates raises questions that are relevant to where we are today, also.
- VSI promises that a word with surrogates nearly eliminates racism and sexism. Crime is virtually unheard of and individuals are allowed to live in a world without risk, danger, or limitations. It appears that with surrogates we would be living in a utopic world. Does the Internet look anything like this utopic world we see is possible in Surrogates? Additionally, even in this world there is a constant battle between the humans and surrogates. And, in the end there is a definite answer to the question of if it is ever possible for there to be a utopic world.
- We can infer that Greer disables the whole surrogate network because he is heartsick for his real wife. A life filled with cyborgs is not optimal, without real human connections and interactions his life is not complete. Is it possible to live a rewarding and pleasurable life as a cyborg? Today we are plugged in for hours a day. What are the consequences of this? Does this lead to a life that is more rewarding? Do our cyberculture's tendencies lead to people who are less personable and cold?
- Although we are obviously not living to the extremes that users of surrogates are, we still live in a world where we are always plugged in. Often times I hear the expressions “I don’t know if I could go a day without my phone” or “I feel naked without my phone.” How close are we to a point where we could not function if our technology was taken from us? In Surrogates when Greer choses to completely disable the surrogates' network everyone must complete tasks on their own, without the help of surrogates. If all of our technology disappeared and we were “on our own,” what would happen? Could we survive?