Gone Crazy for Pandorum, Need Replacement for Surrogates

It’s really quite interesting how two different Hollywood movies view the future. One sees 99% of the population owning super high-tech robot recreations of ourselves in the next 20 years, while the other sees the human race onboard a clunker of a spaceship in the next 150.

Surrogates

Surrogates, starring our favorite goatee-d madman, Bruce Willis, is the former. I wish I could say that if you can buy into the premise that people will stay at home and let their robot alter-egos do all the work, you’ll like this movie. Unfortunately, story problems and lousy execution make Surrogates stutter out. Even worse, for me, I just couldn’t buy into this world that was created for me. It’s a huge nitpick, and no one understands me, but I just couldn’t buy the science vs. cultural impact. Here’s what’s proposed:

In 20 years, virtually anybody can purchase a robot that can look like anybody, machines that can transmit all senses to their hosts. 99% of the world’s population buy these robots. These robots are only produced by one company. A small fraction of humanity has decided to give up ALL machines and live in shanty towns on the edge of U.S. cities, seemingly with no oversight by the government.

To me, I just start thinking about how the world would be radically different in that scenario. This isn’t a minor technological advance like a cellphone or an iPod. This isn’t even the internet. I mean, imagine how the workplace would change. In the movie, they show surrogates riding subways all over the place and driving cars. Why? Why wouldn’t a Subway sandwich maker surrogate just be standing at the counter all day? Why would it need to go home? And for that matter, who would be actually going to delis or restaurants if virtually everyone is a robot that doesn’t need to eat? Wouldn’t the food industry shutdown? Wouldn’t that cause even more problems? And that’s just one thing that pops in my head.

If they depicted the world as being overrun with violence or terrorism, I could understand opting for a surrogate versus going outside… but they paint the opposite stating that crime drops to 1%. Am I to believe that if 99% of the world’s population were able to pilot invulnerable versions of themselves (or others), that they wouldn’t do crazy shit with it? Really? I run people over in Grand Theft Auto all the time!

So with that already in my head, the sloppy execution of the movie doesn’t help. It’s a concept that looks as if it was created by commitee, and holds your hand every step of the way. Five minutes doesn’t go by without someone telling you, the moviegoer, what’s going on, and even in one classic part, a character tells Bruce Willis what he needs to do, as if telling us where this story is headed. Boo Surrogates. Boo.

Pandorum

Pandorum, on the other hand, does the opposite. The movie opens with the lead characters suffering from amnesia, dropped into an unfamiliar world. It’s really a great tactic for storytelling, as the audience is able to learn about what’s going on with the character, instead of waiting for the characters to catch-up. The story is set in the future, where an overpopulated humanity is at the edge of extinction, and has sent out a spaceship to discover a new Earth. Unfortunately for our heroes, when they awake from their hypersleep, the crew is missing, the ship is falling apart and there is something onboard that likes to eat people. Without giving too much away, Pandorum executes its premise wonderfully, though there are a few scenes dealing with “Pandorum” that pain me. Pandorum is described as a psychological condition which can cause vivid hallucinations, paranoia, etc. It’s not intrinsic to the plot, but it basically means that a character can go a little crazy.

Dealing with “crazy people” requires a skillful touch, as there’s nothing worse than watching that unfold on screen to me. It’s probably my own rational head that gives me such a hard time with it, but “crazy” on screen rarely makes sense to me. It seems a lazy way of getting characters to do something out-of-character without having to explain it, or as a device to help further the plot in, again, another unforeseen direction. In the movie though, it rarely surfaces and didn’t take away from the major storylines in Pandorum.

I did see where this movie was going early on, but it didn’t prevent me from enjoying the way it unfolded. The actors played their parts well, the creatures were cool albeit strangely designed, and it wraps up nicely. I’m not sure I’m in a rush to see this again, but I’m glad I saw it and would encourage sci-fi fans to check it out. If I look at my sci-fi scale as giving Alien a 10 and Sunshine an 8, I’d give Pandorum a 6 or 7.

Now what will next week’s Zombieland fit in the scale of Dawn of the Dead and Shaun of the Dead???

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One Response to “Gone Crazy for Pandorum, Need Replacement for Surrogates”

  1. allenlisakings says:

    My Luminary is Hellen, Nice to foregather you all !

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