Brat Farrar (bratfarrar) wrote,
Brat Farrar

reviews: As You Like It, Surrogates

Friday night, we went to see a college production of As You Like It, in which we had a friend playing a very minor role. She did quite well, but the production as a whole was . . . well, inconsistent. Confused, even. Part of the problem was that the play consists of four or five stories sort of unfolding in parallel--they overlap, but they don't really tie together into a single whole. Kinda. I mean, they do, but it's more a thematic whole than a plot whole.

Er. That didn't come out quite right, and anyway I don't want to talk about the play, which is a lot of fun and definitely worth reading or watching (the Branagh version is lovely though oddly cut in a few places, the Olivier version is laughable for all the wrong reasons and the sound is wonky). I want to talk about the production and why it didn't work, which does relate to the structure of the play somewhat, in that sticking half the characters in military fatigues and the other half in an assortment of Persian & hillbilly costumes just makes things confusing, not relevant, and it doesn't make any difference how funny the jokes are if the speeches get reeled off so quickly that the audience can't follow what's being said or why we should care. Some of Shakespeare's plays have a strong enough central plot to hold together bizarre production designs, but this ain't one of 'em, especially when not all the actors seem to be following the same set of directions.

Of course, not even a a slick production can save a paper-thin story that's populated with characters cut out of cardboard, such as in Surrogates, which looks, sounds, and plays out like a generic vaguely-futuristic, vaguely-dystopic movie. Seriously. The music is generic, the photography is generic, the main character is a generic maverick cop with a generic dead kid and a generic messed-up marriage. The whole thing is supposedly 40 years or so in the future [just checked and it takes place in 2017, what the hey? that makes no sense AT ALL], but the only thing that's futuristic about it is the presence of the surrogates themselves, which are really just totally implausible. Surrogates for dangerous jobs such as firefighting, I could understand. But for everyone to have one (yes, everyone: we're told it's something like 95% of the ENTIRE population, even secretaries and stock-boys and people starving in Africa) is just . . . well. I suppose if you set it about 150 years in the future and played up the whole germophobia thing, perhaps in response to an epidemic several generations previous, I could accept such a radical and widespread shift in the functioning of society. But a bare 7 YEARS? Without some kind of catalyst beyond traditional marketing? Yeah right. (See, two positives can make a negative.)

Really, the only even vaguely interesting bits were where they made an obvious effort to remind us that everyone we see (aside from the generic maverick cop, once his surrogate gets busted up) is actually a machine. But even those bits don't hold up to scrutiny, so the whole thing was just a big, fat disappointment, really. After it was over, I found myself wishing I'd spent the time rewatching I, Robot, which, despite its flaws, has engaging characters, some fairly witty banter, and an actual attempt at a plot. Seriously, the robot in that movie was about a billion times more compelling than all the characters in Surrogates put together.
Tags: reviews & recommendations

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