The last time we saw director Jonathan Mostow he was battling with murderous time-travelling cyborgs in present day California in Arnie’s swansong Terminator 3. But he no longer has Cyberdyne creations to contend with, instead it’s mind-controlled androids, or ‘robotic human surrogates’, that are causing all kinds of calamity for the folks of 2017.
Surrogacy has been widely adopted in the future with people content to send their robo-engineered selves out into the world while they lounge around at home in their PJs, controlling their stronger, faster, better-looking pseudo-selves from the safety and comfort of their own home. But when two people die while connected through their stem-chairs to their surrogates, something that was hitherto impossible, FBI agent Greer (Willis) finds himself faced with the first homicide in years, his investigation revealing a sinister world behind the pimple-free visage of surrogacy.
The sci-fi leanings of identity and human connection are reflected through Greer and his wife’s flailing marriage as they use their surrogates to deflect the pain from the death of their son, but Mostow’s adaptation of Robert Venditti’s comic book series is less a philosophical puzzler and more a conspiracy thriller by nature.
Produced by the House of Mouse, it’s a remarkably claret free affair. When the surrogates get squished, bashed and totalled we get splishy sploshy green goo rather than any streaming red stuff, and it’s also a little action light too, a foot-chase as Brucie’s bequiffed surrogate tears after a suspect being the standout set piece. It’s the story that lets the film down, though, the tale involving the usual array of innocent pawns, self-serving individuals, mischievous militaries and extremists never offering anything wholly original or memorable. “The durability of a machine with the grace of the human body” is what surrogacy claims it can offer its owners, but Mostow’s film is terribly mechanical itself and never achieves any heart or soul of its own.
Sleek and shiny but ultimately lifeless, an interesting premise becomes terribly humdrum in this sci-fi thriller. There’s nothing to offend, but little of note either.