Not long ago, I was bemoaning how poorly a well-known graphic novel, Whiteout, had been translated to the big screen. Among other things, the film simply didn't translate into the riveting entertainment I'd hoped for when I rented it. In writing that review, I neglected to mention two other films that had also been born from graphic novel format. One is obvious, the biggest blockbuster of them all, Watchmen, which I did not enjoy (in the immortal words of Jay Sherman: "It Stinks") nearly as much as I should have.
The other was released last fall to much less fanfare: Surrogates, based on the relatively little-known comic series of the same name which ran from 2005 to 2006, and was written by Robert Venditti and drawn by Brett Weldele. Despite never having heard of the graphic novel, my first impressions of the movie trailers that preceded the movie's release were mostly positive: In a world where humans control synthetic bodies called surrogates to carry out everyday tasks, the future almost looks idylic as violent crime is down to a standstill and even if an operator's surrogate is accidentally damaged or destroyed, no harm can come to the user. People never even have to leave their homes.
What I had at first found fascinating about Surrogates was that it had been filmed in my hometown (and where I still call home) of Boston, MA, and some of the surrounding towns. It was actually interesting for once to see familiar territory, as far too often films claiming to be in Boston film elsewhere, Toronto for instance. I was sure that would be the only thing I would enjoy about the movie, especially after a less-than-stellar opening which was informative as to how this universe came to be but otherwise not entertaining. However, the slick storytelling and visuals quickly vacated those thoughts from my mind, and I proceeded to mindlessly enjoy one of last year's more underrated films.
I've never read the graphic novel (or it's prequel, Surrogates: Flesh and Bone), but while I can't comment on the comic's art styles in comparison to the movie's, I can definitely say that from a quick synopsis of the comic's plot that the movie took numerous liberties with the plot, one for instance being that in the comic, there are no murders that push the book forward, only the desire to eliminate surrogacy by destroying the bodies. It's a good thing the movie changed that aspect, as in the comic's story, that would add to little more than vandalism. Also, in a positive turn, the leads of the comic, which had been two men, change, with one of them having eventually become Peters. Remember those few weeks ago when I decried the reduction of Whiteout's two lead females to one female because the studios wouldn't buy two female leads? Here's one for Surrogates showing some guts. And it's not as if Peters has been changed that way just so she can become someone's romantic angle, it's just a case of someone saying that they wanted a female for this role and made it happen.
The movie can hardly expect to be perfect, however. Though I understand that most people who are bigots rarely are well informed about the thing they're bigoted towards, it was a drag that no further intelligence could have been gleamed for the people in the Dread Reservation towards surrogacy. They were mostly portratyed as redneck gun-toting racists for the most part, and that, while accurate, was not wholely welcome when I hoped they would have some more higher understanding about why their way was better (or perhaps get an explanation for why the military didn't put a clamp down military-style on these pockets of resistance where they basically seceded from the Union). Critics have stated that the movie devolves to pure action-y for the final act of the film, and while that's at least partially true, it's done smartly with enough surprises that you want to find the next piece of the puzzle. It's all done smartly and never makes you feel like you're riding the wave, going only where they take you.