Thursday, January 28, 2010

DVD Review: SURROGATES (Disney)

FBI agents (Bruce Willis, Radha Mitchell) investigate the mysterious murder of a college student linked to the man who helped create a high-tech surrogate phenomenon that allows people to purchase unflawed robotic versions of themselves—fit, good looking remotely controlled machines that ultimately assume their life roles—enabling people to experience life vicariously from the comfort and safety of their own homes. The murder spawns a quest for answers: in a world of masks, who's real and who can you trust?

The Film: Surrogates, directed by Jonathan Mostow (Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines), is an interesting film that raises particular questions. The film takes the idea of Avatars (not the Cameron film), which have been popularized by online video games and social networks, and takes it to the next level. Civilization no longer interacts face to face. Everyone plugs into a specialized chair that allows him or her to link up with his or her surrogate. They then pilot the surrogate out into the world, while they stay tucked away in the safety of their home.

The safety of surrogates comes into question when two surrogates are attacked with an electrical device. Not only are the surrogates shorted out, but the device overrides the fail safe between surrogate and controller, killing the human being connected to the surrogate as well. This sends our main characters on a search for answers, and leads to some fairly intense action sequences. For the most part, the film is entertaining. While I wouldn’t rank it up there with recent action movies like Star Trek, it’s still a decent action adventure movie.

Video: The blu-ray version of the film presents a nice video transfer. There are a few soft shots, but the majority of the film is crisp and clear. The film employs contrasting color schemes for the surrogates and the real world. Whenever surrogates are present and dominating the frame, the color scheme is a cold blue. However, when scenes take place out in the open, particularly in the camp filled with people who reject the use of surrogates, the color palette is warm with browns and oranges. The strength of the transfer really enhances these color differences and makes the viewer take notice.

Sound: The sound design and implementation on the blu-ray is every bit as nice as the video transfer. The sound mixing is appropriate for each scene. During conversations, the dialogue is mixed high, and is easy to understand. During action sequences the bass is amped up and shotgun blasts, helicopter blades, and motorcycle engines sound as if they are in the same room with you.

Features: This is where the blu-ray falters. The special features are very basic and don’t take advantage of the blu-ray format, other than being presented in HD.

Features include:
- Audio commentary with director Jonathan Mostow
- A More Perfect You: The Science of Surrogates (15 mins)
- Breaking the Frame: A Graphic Novel Comes to Life (7 mins)
- Deleted Scenes (6 mins)
- Music Video: “I Will Not Bow” by Breaking Benjamin (4 mins)

Value: Listing at around $24 (Amazon), the lack of special features really hurts this release. When compared to recent blu-ray releases like Star Trek (3.5 hours of special features) and Up (1.75 hours of special features), both of which include two blu-ray discs and a digital copy (Up also includes a DVD version of the film), and can be purchased for under $20 on Amazon, the single disc, almost featureless Surrogates blu-ray seems like a rip off at $24. However, Disney is offering a $10 off coupon to be used in retail stores for the first week of the films release, so you still have a few days to take advantage of that if you really want the movie, but like me think $24 is a bit high. At around $15 the price is right for this blu-ray disc. The coupon can be located at:

Terry Barnhill
Staff Reviewer

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