In this history of science fiction series, we are currently looking at cyberpunk, and have already looked at key books by authors such as Neal Stephenson and Bruce Sterling. Last week we looked at Japanese manga and anime. Cyberpunk influenced film too. The Ghost in the Shell manga was the inspiration for the hugely successful The Matrix (1999) series. The film Johnny Mnemonic (1995) was based on a short story of the same name by William Gibson. Other films were Total Recall (1990), The Lawnmower Man (1992) and Virtuosity (1995). The growing market in video games also picked up the themes, with the critically acclaimed Deus Ex (2000) and the Metal Gear (1981) series.
The Matrix (1999)
This is a science fiction action media franchise created by The Wachowskis, about heroes who fight a desperate war against machine overlords that have enslaved humanity in an extremely sophisticated virtual reality system.
The series began with the feature film The Matrix (1999), and continued with two sequels, The Matrix Reloaded (2003) and The Matrix Revolutions (2003), all written and directed by The Wachowskis and produced by Joel Silver. The franchise is owned by Warner Bros., which distributed the films along with Village Roadshow Pictures. The latter, along with Silver Pictures are the two production companies that worked on all three films.
The first film was an important critical and commercial success, winning four Academy Awards, introducing popular culture symbols such as the red pill and blue pill, and influencing action filmmaking. For those reasons it has been added to the National Film Registry for preservation. Its first sequel was an even bigger commercial success, becoming the highest-grossing R-rated film in history, a title which it held for 13 years.
The series features a cyberpunk story of the technological fall of man, in which a self-aware artificial intelligence has wiped most of humanity from the Earth except for those it enslaves in a virtual reality system as a farmed power source, and the relatively few remaining humans who are free of that system. The A.I. (Matrix) agenda is to destroy all humans who are free, considering them a threat/disease. The story incorporates references to numerous philosophical and religious ideas. Influences include the principles of mythology, anime, and Hong Kong action films (particularly "heroic bloodshed" and martial arts movies). Consistent throughout are the concepts of inter-dependency and love.
Johnny Mnemonic (1995)
This is a Canadian-American cyberpunk action thriller film directed by Robert Longo in his directorial debut. The film stars Keanu Reeves and Dolph Lundgren. The film is based on the story of the same name by William Gibson. Keanu Reeves plays the title character, a man with a cybernetic brain implant designed to store information. The film portrays Gibson's dystopian view of the future with the world dominated by megacorporations and with strong East Asian influences.
In 2021, Johnny is a "mnemonic courier" with a data storage device implanted in his brain, allowing him to discreetly carry information too sensitive to transfer across the Net, the virtual-reality equivalent of the Internet. While lucrative, the implant has cost Johnny his childhood memories, and he seeks to have the implant removed to regain his memories back; his handler, Ralfi assigns him one more job that would cover the costs of the operation (which are extremely expensive), sending Johnny to Beijing to deliver the latest information.
At the designated place, he finds a group of frantic scientists watching anime who have the data he is to carry, but at 320 GB it far exceeds Johnny's storage capacity. The remaining amount of data will be uploaded directly in his brain, causing severe psychological damage and potentially, death. Johnny accepts anyway, in need of the money. After uploading their data, the group is massacred by Yakuza, but Johnny manages to escape with a portion of the encryption password. After contacting Ralfi, Johnny returns to Newark and soon finds that two groups are after the data he carries.
Total Recall (1990)
This is an American science-fiction action film directed by Paul Verhoeven, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Ronny Cox, and Michael Ironside. The film is loosely based on the Philip K. Dick short story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale". It was written by Ronald Shusett, Dan O'Bannon, Jon Povill, and Gary Goldman, and won a Special Achievement Academy Award for its visual effects. The original score composed by Jerry Goldsmith won the BMI Film Music Award.
Douglas Quaid is a bored construction worker in the year 2084 who dreams of visiting the colonized Mars. He visits "Rekall," a company that plants false memories into people's brains, in order to experience the thrill of Mars without having to travel there. But something goes wrong during the procedure; Quaid discovers that his entire life is actually a false memory and that the people who implanted it in his head now want him dead.
The film was remade in 2012 starring Colin Farrell.
The Lawnmower Man (1992)
This is a 1992 science fiction action horror film directed by Brett Leonard and written by Brett Leonard and Gimel Everett. The movie is supposedly an adaptation of Stephen King short story of the same name; but, aside from a single scene, the two are completely different. The film stars Jeff Fahey as Jobe Smith, a simple-minded gardener, and Pierce Brosnan as Dr. Lawrence Angelo, the scientist who decides to experiment on him.
Dr. Angelo realizes he needs a human subject to work with, and he spots Jobe mowing his lawn. Peter Parkette, Dr. Angelo's young neighbor, is friends with Jobe. Dr. Angelo invites both of them over to play some virtual reality games. Learning more about Jobe, Angelo persuades him to participate in his experiments, letting him know it will make him smarter. Jobe agrees and begins the program.
Jobe develops telekinetic and pyrokinetic powers, but the treatments are also affecting his mental stability. He exacts revenge on those who mistreated him when he was ‘dumb’. Jobe believes his final stage of evolution is to become "pure energy" in the VSI computer mainframe, and from there reach into all the systems of the world. He promises his "birth" will be signaled by every telephone on the planet ringing simultaneously. Dr. Angelo remotely infects the VSI computer, encrypting all of the links to the outside world, trapping Jobe in the mainframe.
Jobe escapes through a back door before the building is destroyed in multiple explosions. Back at home with Peter, Dr. Angelo and Peter's mother Carla are about to leave when their telephone rings, followed by the noise of a second, and then hundreds of telephones ring, all around the globe.
The Law Enforcement Technology Advancement Centre (LETAC) has developed SID version 6.7: a Sadistic, Intelligent, and Dangerous virtual reality entity which is synthesized from the personalities of more than 150 serial killers. LETAC would like to train police officers by putting them in VR with SID, but they must prove the concept by using prisoners as test subjects. One such prisoner is ex-cop Parker Barnes. When SID manages to inject his personality into a nano-machine android, it appears that Barnes might be the only one who can stop him.
[adapted from Wikipedia and IMDB]
Ann Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Follow her at http://eepurl.com/bbOsyz