The idea of people staying perpetually at home and interacting through television is not a new one. Neither is the use of remotely-controlled robots as stand-ins. Many science fiction stories have dealt with these themes, and I think there have probably been movies about it, too, though I can’t bring one to mind just now. There are all sorts of possibilities here, and this movie manages to miss just about all of them in pursuit of a ho-hum detective thriller.
Many of the premises are pretty stupid, too. I’ll take just one of them; I don’t have all day to pick them all apart. Right up front we are told that 98% of all humanity now interact solely though their surrogate robots. Yeah, right. This is happening no more than twenty years from now. I’m sure surrogates come in real handy to a Bedouin on a camel caravan in the middle of the freaking Sahara desert. Or the African villager trying get in a pitiful harvest of millet or sorghum when the rains haven’t fallen. “Just what I needed! Now I can starve to death in the comfort and safety of my mud hut, while my $500,000 surrogate fails to get in the crops! Thank god for the United Nations for providing this useful tool!” What fucking planet are these screenwriters living on? Planet Rodeo Drive, apparently. Do they really think the problems of hunger and poverty and ignorance will be solved in 20 years, giving the billions of poor people around the world the leisure to use a high-tech robot for their daily affairs? It would have been a quick fix. Just say that 98% of the industrialized world is now using surrogates. I mean, it doesn’t bear thinking about for a nanosecond, but it apparently shot right by these shit-for-brains writers that much of the world aspires to nothing more than a handful of rice a day, and here they are supplying the whole world with robots when we haven’t even been able to get $100 laptops to a few million African kids in five years of trying. (The idiots in question are Michael Ferris and John D. Brancato. It takes more than one moron to come up with something this boneheaded, and they should be named.)
As for missed possibilities … some of the things people are doing to their one and only, irreplaceable and all-too-delicate bodies even today would take your breath away (and in some cases, nauseate you). Body piercing, whole-face tattoos, extreme body modification. People with metal spikes embedded in their heads. Yes! People do this! How much more radical do you think they would get if they could express their creativity on a plastic golem that felt no pain and could be made to look literally any way you wanted it to look? I have a feeling the streets of a surrogate society would be more colorful than the bar in Star Wars. Here, the most anyone does is to make their robot surrogate younger, thinner, and prettier than the poor schmuck or schmuckess lying back home in the simulation chair. And how about sports? When all surrogate bodies are engineered to be super-strong and insensate to pain, what would that do to, say, the NFL? The star quarterback could be a 10-year-old girl in India, playing a game in New York.
That’s only a few of the more obvious ideas. I’m sure you can think of half a dozen more in ten minutes. Sorry to say, the writers didn’t.