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Johnny Mnemonic

tn_johnnymnemonic

RELEASE DATE: May 26
RELEASE DATE: May 26

When we talk about JOHNNY MNEMONIC now it’s usually with a smirk. Rapid advances in the technology that it speculated about have made some of its vision of 2021 goofily dated. Star Keanu Reeves (BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA) was still solidifying as an action star and brought a funny surfer dude lilt to his slick underworld messenger character Johnny. And even at the time it was considered a failed moviefication of William Gibson’s “cyberpunk” style of sci-fi, which had a strong reputation as a cool, edgy type of literature as opposed to the old timey painted cover fantasies of previous eras. But they turned it into what was seen as some cheesy Hollywood bullshit.

Since the mid ’80s, tales have been told of the brave souls trying to adapt Gibson’s debut novel Neuromancer into a major motion picture (directors attached have included Chuck Russell, Chris Cunningham, Joseph Kahn and Vincenzo Natali). But this short story adaptation, directed by installation artist/occasional music video director Robert Longo and written by Gibson himself, beat it to the screen by 20 years and counting. They just had to replace the mirror-eyed “razor girl” character Molly Millions in the story with the regular-eyed Jane, because Molly was tied up with the rights for Neuromancer, since she’s in that too.

Gibson and Longo originally set out to make a $1.5 million black and white sci-fi noir, but couldn’t get the funding, so they agreed to a $20 million version with TriStar Pictures, whose other productions that year were THE QUICK AND THE DEAD, HIDEAWAY, 3 NINJAS KNUCKLE UP, JURY DUTY, MAGIC IN THE WATER, DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS, NEVER TALK TO STRANGERS and JUMANJI. As artistic types and Hollywood rookies they may have been out of their depth trying to make a summer blockbuster with the star of SPEED, and Longo didn’t get his cut anyway. It turned out undeniably messy.

Watching it two decades on, none of that has changed, but it may be easier to enjoy as an odd collision between the art world and b-movies. 1995 was the magical moment when these four things coincided:

1. Reeves was beginning his time as a marquee name, and already using his clout to launch unusual projects from audacious newcomers like this.

2. Second-billed Dolph Lundgren was trying his hand at a weird supporting villain in a major release right in the middle of a string of under-the-radar action vehicles. His last three had been JOSHUA TREE, PENTATHLON and MEN OF WAR, the following three were HIDDEN ASSASSIN, SILENT TRIGGER and THE PEACEKEEPER. Here he plays Street Preacher, an assassin-for-hire who dresses as Jesus and does a weird combination of proselytizing and one-liners as he stabs people with his crucifix-shaped daggers.

still_johnnymnemonic

3. Takeshi Kitano (credited just as “Takeshi”) was trying his hand at appearing in an American picture.  This was only a few movies after SONATINE. He plays the head of the American wing of an international pharmaceutical corporation, and also a Yakuza, I think.

4. Ice-T, still respected as a rapper (though his last album, Home Invasion, had been under-recognized), was spending that year playing weird characters in weird sci-fi movies. This wasn’t as goofy as the kangaroo man he played in TANK GIRL, but he does have an anarchy symbol on his head and wear goggles and lead a collective of punk TV-pirates who live on a blown up bridge with a dolphin (which I have reason to believe inspired Ice to build a shark tank in his house).

Trivia: Movie characters played by Ice-T have included T-Saint, J-Bone and C-Note.

Also you’ll see Udo Kier as Johnny’s sleazy agent Ralfi, Henry Rollins as an underground cybernetics doctor/mechanic Spider, and Dina Meyer (Dizzy from STARSHIP TROOPERS) as bodyguard-for-hire Jane. So it’s a pretty good cast.

mp_johnnymnemonicJohnny is a “mnemonic courier,” a guy who has a hard drive “wet-wired” into his brain so he can personally deliver sensitive information that they don’t want to be intercepted over a computer network. Or at least I think that’s what it’s used for, except in this case it turns out they need the information to be shared with everyone anyway, so I really don’t know what they were trying to do there. They shoulda just stuck it on bit torrent.

(I guess maybe the scientists sending this information are trying to steal it for their own profit? That must be it, but the way they’re so jumpy and suspicious they seem more like whistleblowers trying to do the right thing.)

I was thinking that now days a mnemonic courier would just be a guy with a thumb drive. Maybe he would put it in a briefcase handcuffed to himself for safety. Or maybe he’d just hide it in his sock. Johnny has an 80 gig capacity although it works as 160 gigs after he plugs in a “doubler.” I mean, that’s not much more than 3 blu-ray discs worth of storage.

I don’t know, it’s probly cool to have a hard drive in your head sometimes, finally get some use out of those digital copies that come with your DVDs and Blu-Rays. But in this case it’s pretty shitty for Johnny because

i.) the information was stolen from a corporation called PharmaKom who work with the Yakuza and send assassins to cut off his head and literally put it on ice.

ii.) He’s so desperate for the gig he lies about his capacity and takes a 230 gig file. Somehow it fits on there, but it’s leaking, whatever that means, and will kill him in a day or two if he doesn’t get it the fuck out of there.

Jane is also hard-up for work, so when she happens to see some Yakuzas catch Johnny and about to get to sawing she jumps into the fray and gets hired as his bodyguard. She takes him to Spider who takes him to J-Bone who takes him to Jones, who is a US Navy veteran who Spider believes may be the only one who can help them, and who also is the dolphin that I mentioned earlier.

Jones is an easily dismissable character, because most people, let’s face it, are racists against dolphins. Sure, they think they’re cute and everything, but they’re condescending about it. They can’t accept a strong, complex dolphin character like Jones. But I thinks he’s pretty cool. He has cybernetic sonar attachments that he might be able to use to get past security into Johnny’s head. It makes sense, in my opinion. The actual Navy have in fact trained dolphins and even put equipment on them. It’s a good extrapolation of current technology. In the story Jones could communicate by creating color patterns on a grid of LED lights, but in Gibson’s script he actually spoke English, with an interesting description:

script_jm1

The script also made it clear that (as in the short story) he was a drug addict, which from what I’ve read may’ve been referred to in Longo’s cut, but the studio may have worried that there were way too many movies about dolphins hooked on smack so they cut it out in order to stand out from the pack. I think they cut this bit:

script_jm2

Anyway, in the finished movie he doesn’t shoot up or talk, he just squeaks. Probly the best idea even though I want to hear what that voice would’ve sounded like.

Johnny and Jones aren’t the only ones around here who’ve been customized. It seems like most people have been. Jane has some kind of strength enhancement, Street Preacher has little plugs in his forearms like track marks, the lead assassin Shinji (Denis Akiyama, DEAD RINGERS) has cyborg thumbtips that create a laser filament between them. He can work it like a piano wire or a whip. He uses it to slash a statue, and later Ralfi, into slices. And we learn from Takahashi that he lost the original thumbs due to some shameful failure. You know Yakuzas and finger-chopping.

But being a cyborg just creates more work. They’re constantly talking about upgrades and repairs. Ralfi had been pressuring Johnny to improve his implants, and he has to get ahold of that “memory doubler” and it’s still not enough to do his job safely.

That’s the problem with man merging with technology: in that case man will constantly be in danger of obsolescence. They don’t make new models of flesh that you’re gonna be tempted to buy, but cyborg shit will be designed to be constantly replaced. Just think about those guys standing in line outside of the Apple store once every year or two in desperate need for a shiny plastic fix in their pocket. As I’m writing this I am sadly realizing that FOR SURE we are gonna be cyborgs before too long and it’s gonna be more embarrassing than cool. So let me be ahead of the curve in saying that most cyborgs are douches. Just dudes with too much money standing around looking at their robot arms and bragging about what model and operating system it is and what they’re thinking about getting next. Fuck ’em.

In the movie there’s this disease going around called NAS (Nerve Attenuation Syndrome), apparently caused by all the technology everybody uses. Seems like not an unreasonable prediction. There’s a theme of information and technology overload that is not that far off base. The disease gives Jane the shakes and should eventually kill her, except that the information in Johnny’s head turns out to be the cure. If they can just get it out.

J-Bone is the leader of the Lo-Teks. I think they’re supposed to be anti-technology, they don’t do cyborg parts, but they’re not exactly Mennonites either. They just make their hacking and pirate broadcasting set-up out of junk. They have a tower of non-flat, standard definition TVs. But also they’re kind of like urban Ewoks. Instead of a tree village they have their bridge hideout they call “Heaven.” Instead of rocks they drop exploding VW Bugs on people.

Some of the details of the world are the coolest parts of the movie. The design and fashion in the fancy hotels and stuff have aged pretty well, they still look slick. The tech he uses to upload and download (a helmet, mouthpiece, etc.) is ridiculous, but cool in that imagined-future-of-the-past type of way. The automated customs machine that x-rays him and warns him of health issues is a neat idea. And their concept of “cyberspace” is sort of an animated virtual city representation of the internet that he has to travel through using VR gloves. I like the avatar he uses, a good example of using computer animation in a stylized, abstracted kind of way instead of trying to create photo-realism.

still_johnnymnemonic2

Also I like that the main location is “The Free City of Newark.” Are there any other sci-fi movies with a futuristic metropolis in New Jersey? Not that I know of. It’s actually the birthplace of Ice-T, too, so hopefully they have a statue of him in there somewhere.

I mean, there are alot of little details that are cool, like Jane having a pink grenade, or the password for his data being a sequence of three images chosen by pushing a button and screengrabbing from TV. He gets a little print out of it, which he has to fax to someone. I guess they still use faxes in 2021. Another technology thing you might laugh at is when J-Bone is about to broadcast the cure for NAS and he says “Get your VCRs ready ’cause we got what you need.” But think of it this way. J-Bone is a Lo-Tek. I bet you anything he’s one of those guys who will try to convince you that some super rare shot-on-video backyard horror movie is the Holy Grail. And you’ll watch it with him and there’s no way you’d watch the whole thing if it was up to you but you’re afraid he’ll throw you in the dolphin tank or something so you nod your head and you’re like “Yeah, that was awesome, J-Bone! Movies now days are too slick and professional! And don’t even get me started about the CGI, I hate the CGI.”

Anyway what I’m saying is J-Bone is a VHS collector, that’s just his thing, so he forgets sometimes that most people don’t have VCRs anymore. It all checks out.

I think the worst part of the movie is the A.I. character who shows up sort of magically to tell Takahashi how the corporation screwed him. It reminds me of some earlier things like the superior Max Headroom and the inferior RoboCop: The Series, where A.I.s are faces (usually female) that appear on TV screens when they want to. Here, storywise, it just seems like a big cheat.

But Takahashi is kind of a cool character. The first thing we know about him, as he’s trying to have Johnny hunted down, is that he’s mourning the recent death of his daughter. That’s his main character trait, which is not your usual cliche for the heavy of a movie played by a guy known for playing gangsters. Actually the cut released in Japan apparently has some extra scenes with him, so maybe there was a little more to him. As is he’s lightly sketched, but I like the implied depth.

I don’ t know man, this is one of those movies that is an overall failure but has enough going for it that I enjoy digging it out every once in a while.

Legacy

Reeves continued to work with audacious newcomers, leading to THE MATRIX and JOHN WICK. THE MATRIX was, of course, heavily influenced by Gibson’s work, but did a much better job of making it cinematic.

To date, Abel Ferrara’s NEW ROSE HOTEL (1998) is the only other feature film adaptation of a Gibson story, though PATTERN RECOGNITION, ARCHANGEL and of course NEUROMANCER are allegedly on their way. Gibson also co-wrote with fellow cyberpunk novelist Tom Maddox two technology-based episodes of The X-Files (“Kill Switch” and “First Person Shooter”).

Kitano made no further attempts to penetrate Hollywood unless you count BROTHER, his great 2000 film that takes place partly in the U.S. with English-speaking characters.

Longo has not directed since.

In 2014 one of the producers of La Femme Nikita and Lost Girl announced a Johnny Mnemonic TV series that has not happened. Sounds like a good idea, though. He has to do different deliveries, or it could follow the end of the short story and he blackmails his former clients with traces of information stuck in his brain. Either way he would work with Jones and the Lo-Teks would be in it and stuff, it could work I think.

Additional material

Music videos by Robert Longo:

Vintage Neuromancer movie promotional video:

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

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40 Responses to “Johnny Mnemonic”

  1. I always liked this one. Never got the hate. It’s like a more farcical version of STRANGE DAYS (from the same year). Dolph as hobo Jesus is still one of the most inspired performances from the 1990’s in my book.

  2. Yeah, if anything this one actually seems much more charming from a modern perspective. Corny in a lot of ways, but absolutely packed with fun gimmicks, cool ideas, and impressive, detailed production. And I think to date it’s Henry Rollins’ biggest film role? That’s gotta be worth something.

    I swear, with all the money that gets spent on movies today you don’t see production detail this rich anymore. EVERYWHERE they go in this movie, the screen is packed with interesting detail work to look at and imagine living in the world. I think there’s really something in the old-fashioned, hand-crafted production design aesthetic that inspires creativity and imagination about the world in a way computer-enhanced stuff just doesn’t. It’s not a matter of art, I think maybe just having to physically inhabit these spaces and physically handle the objects in them gets the brain working on a different level than pure illustration would.

  3. Glad to see you’re obviously a fan of Gibson’s work, Vern. I’ve been reading his stuff for many, many years. The Sprawl Trilogy is still my favourite (I was just the right age and mindset for it to really work) but his recent stuff has been very interesting and enigmatic. Not sure I ever want to see Neuromancer get a movie adaptation. I’m afraid they would fuck it up, no matter who was involved. They may have gotten some of the design aspects correct but they would have missed Case’s urban malaise and his motivational self loathing.

    I’m actually glad that Molly wasn’t used in JM. It would have been a shame to ruin such an iconic character in this messy little film. I always thought Michelle Forbes (Kalifornia and ST:NG) would have been a great Molly –

    http://www.imdb.com/media/rm1019269632/nm0000405?ref_=nm_phs_md_1
    http://www.imdb.com/media/rm2452737024/nm0000405?ref_=nmmi_mi_all_sf_100

  4. Huh. I would’ve testified in court that that Henry Rollins character was in ESCAPE FROM L.A. Shows how much I remember of this movie. Speaking of Rollins, what happened to HE NEVER DIED? Did that come out? Did I miss it? It looked good. Anybody seen it to say?

  5. The Original Paul

    May 27th, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    It says a lot about how much impression JOHNNY MNEMONIC made on me that I couldn’t even remember that Dolph was in it before Vern’s review. Figures though. I’ve expressed my frustration at Dolph’s film output before now – honestly I think he’s wasted in 90% of the stuff he’s in, and I also think he’s got a fascinating real-life persona that I’ve never once seen used successfully in any of his movies – or to put it another way, I think he’s way better than the films he’s in, and more interesting than the characters he plays. There are exeptions (UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION, anybody?) but those films tend to be good in their own right and not because they make use of Dolph’s persona in any way.

    I’ve tried to sit through JOHNNY MNEMONIC at least three times. Possibly four. Each time I had to give up after forty minutes or so. I’ve even tried watching it from about two thirds of the way through, just to see how it ends, and couldn’t even stick it out that long. It’s just a drab uninteresting film with a drab uninteresting performance from Keanu. Who actually had a lot of stinkers in his early career. Look, you guys know I’m no fan of POINT BREAK. But that at least had scene-chewing Swayze and a couple of excellent action sequences. JOHNNY MNEMONIC doesn’t have either of those things going for it.

    Yeah… sorry guys… but to me this one is just bad. Not bad in an interesting way, not “so bad it’s hilarious”. Just completely unsatisfying as an experience. Thinking back to it now, I honestly couldn’t tell you what happened in the bits of it I did see (and I’ve probably seen most of it, albeit in different sittings). I never liked the look of the film. I couldn’t describe any of the characters to you. I couldn’t give you any kind of an analysis on why I think it didn’t work for me. It just didn’t. I’m actually impressed that Vern got as much material out of it as he did to write this review, ’cause I don’t know if I could’ve held on for long enough myself.

  6. I’m looking forward to BATMAN FOREVER and CONGO reviews because I always found them oddly entertaining and wonder how Vern feels (I think he’ll hate them lol). WATERWORLD review should be really epic though.

  7. Oh and VIRTUOSITY. I hated that one when it came out but appreciated it when I watched it again recently almost 20 years later.

  8. Maggie — ESCAPE FROM L.A. has every other cult character actor in existence, so you’re forgiven for mentally transplanting Rollins in there. He would have fit right in.

    Paul — to be fair, even though Dolph’s second-billed he’s actually hardly in this, has almost no dialogue and only a few significant scenes, and almost none in the first 40 minutes (which are all you’ve seen) so no big surprise you don’t remember him. He has a pretty good death scenes but admittedly he is kind of wasted here, particularly since his character doesn’t really have a personal stake and there’s already another hitman character in the movie doing more or less the same job he is.

  9. A lot of this cyberpunk stuff from the 80’s and 90’s may seem laughably dated today, but I think in the broad strokes they got the general tone of the real life 21st century right, the basic message seems to be “every day technology is about to get a lot more advanced, American culture is going to get a lot weirder and corporations will basically take over the world right from under everyone’s noses” and that’s pretty much where we are now, it’s just maybe not as flashy as what you’d see in a movie.

    As for William Gibson he’s an author I’ve been interested in for a while now but so far I’ve only read IDORU, which predicted Hatsune Miku and I liked what I read and plan on reading more.

  10. Mr. S: That’s a great comment and an extremely interesting subject. I don’t know if your particular theory is true, but it is certainly plausible. My first though was of Guillermo De Toro’s always excellent film commentaries where he talks quite a bit about the density of visual detail in every frame of his movies and the thought that he and his collaborators put into it. But I just assumed his propensity for extremely rich visualization came from his Gothic aesthetic, so your observation would have a basically conceptual explanation. It’s an interesting idea that the materials of the medium might have as great an influence on creativity as the ideas.

    I know many people who read this site have film industry knowledge and experience, and I’d be really interested to hear their thoughts on this. Maybe money is part of the issue? Maybe it’s because filmmakers tend to have different artistic backgrounds than older filmmakers did?

  11. I may not have had the right perspective on the summer of 1995 as it was the summer I experienced my first breakup. It seems more of the movies became classics than I gave credit at the time, or was I right it was a lot of near misses: Mnemonic, Virtuosity, Species, Waterworld, Batman Forever… Also feel I can’t complete a list of that summer’s movies by memory.

    But we got BRAVEHEART, Crimson Tide, Under Siege 2, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Bridges of Madison County and Clueless that summer. ’98 was way worse.

    I could’ve sworn Vern reviewed Johnny Mnemonic already, and Virtuosity, but here we are. Keanu also had the big romance A Walk in the Clouds the same summer.

  12. Broddie, for any reason I can imagine that Vern MIGHT get SOME enjoyment out of CONGO, but he mentioned already several times that he really doesn’t like BATMAN FOREVER. (But I really hope he reviews it anyway and I’m pretty sure he will.)

  13. The Original Paul

    May 28th, 2015 at 1:10 am

    Broddie – the Michael Crichton novel CONGO is actually pretty enjoyable. I saw the film after reading it and was like “No… just no.”

    Best thing I can say about the film version is that at least it’s “watchably bad”. Which gives it a leg up over JOHNNY MNEMONIC. And yeah, I’d be interested to see what Vern makes of it as well.

  14. Johnny Mnemonic will always have a special place in my heart from 1) the scene where they hit Dolph’s street preacher with the car and he gets up and mumbles “Jesus!” and 2) Keanu’s amazing delivery of the line “Time?” before he sets off a distraction-bomb. So good.

  15. Broddie – VIRTUOSITY is actually decent. Not ground breaking or anything, but a solidly entertaining afternoon killer.

    I rewatched CONGO sometime back. It was shit.

    Not seen this one since…1998? Long time ago.

  16. The Director’s Cut, or a faximile of it was supposedly released on Japanese Laserdisc. But probably of more relevance to most of us, at least in this very second, is that this version is currently on YouTube. I haven’t watched it yet, but it seems pretty much everyone agrees it’s at least an improvement.

    Have to admit I’ve always found this pretty dull (in fairness I also struggled with the Gibson stuff I’ve actually read), having watched it once in full and in parts a couple of times, but part of it are intersting and/or amusing, and I’ve been meaning to give it another go since listening to a Podcast about Cyberpunk films recently. Will probably give the YouTube of the Directors Cut a look when I get my laptop back from the shop.

  17. Phillip — funny you should bring up Del Toro, because it’s actually his films which influenced me to come up with this theory. His actual physical production stuff IS so sumptuously rich in detail that when he switches to the computer there’s a palpable change in quality. Witness the difference in impact between the subway fight in HELLBOY (mostly practical, with an actor in the weird dog suit) vs the weightless and plastic CG tentacle monster at the end. The difference between the pure orgasmic nerd love of the Troll market in HELLBOY 2 to the repetitiveness of the Golden Army at the end. Watching PACIFIC RIM, which is mostly CG, is a fun experience, but the ratio of magic to frame is way lower than any of his other films. Less inventiveness, less gimmicks, less dense with imagination (although just to be clear still a hella fun movie).

    It just makes sense to me that having a physical thing on set engages your brain differently, forces you to interact differently with the world and spend more time in it. With the subway fight in HELLBOY, they had to painstakingly design it, build it, practice it over and over. When you’re physically doing that, you’ve got way more chances to change things, to build, to add, to say “hey, wouldn’t it be awesome right now if…” — with the computers, you just have to imagine it, storyboard it, and ship it off to the nerds to make it real. It’s a much more linear process with a lot less room to build interactively. Once it’s in the computer, you can’t really reshape it much without incurring huge costs, and i think imagination suffers somewhat for it.

    Aside from that, I actually think having the technology to literally depict anything you can imagine may paradoxically impede the imaginative process in the same way. You can just go with your first design of anything, there’s no need to go back and revisit the concept and tweak it and make sure the puppet works right. Sometimes the limitations of practical sets have the effect of forcing that same back-and-forth process; you have to revisit a design a dozen times before it works right, and in the process you simply get to spend a lot of time physically interacting with it and rethinking it, and sometimes that ends up generating a whole lot of new and better ideas than you had before.

  18. That’s like how in JAWS they couldn’t get the bloody shark to work the way they wanted, so they had to use it less than they wanted. Can you imagine that movie if you saw the shark in the first scene? Maybe it still would be a great movie, but for me, the tension of the unknown was so visceral I can’t imagine it being as good.

  19. CJ – Yeah I recall seeing Vern shit on BF before. I do think however now with the perspective of being viewed in a world where those pretentious Batmans from Nolan now exist the “20 years later” theme will bring something special to that review. We now know what the other side of Schumacher looks like. Personally I’d take Snyder over either extreme. The Batman he is setting up is looking to be a force to be reckoned with and has a lot of kick ass action movie fun.

  20. Paul – Funny thing about Crichton. It took me reading two of his novels for the first time when I was like 11 back in ’94 (Jurassic Park and Rising Sun) to finally realize “the book is usually better” is real when it comes to movies.

    I never read CONGO but the movie is so stupid it manages to have it’s own kind of charm. It’s like Mighty Joe Young meets Tremors and Predator. A weird mish mash that is more entertaining to me than it had any business being. The execution of Amy’s voice box alone is just pure hilarity.

  21. I’m surprised no one has yet brought up Keanu’s notorious “I want room service” monologue. It’s well worth watching if you haven’t seen it:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1okpAj7Fhw

    One of many moments in 1990s cinema which convinced people that Keanu’s reach exceeded his grasp as an actor.

    Anyway, I was a sucker for all things cyberpunk back in the day so this movie has epic levels of nostalgia for me.

  22. And Paul, it’s not the movie’s fault you don’t remember Lundgren in it. His long hair and beard made him unrecognizable. Some of us didn’t even know it was him until the credits rolled.

    JOHNNY MNEMONIC is a hard movie to defend, yet equally hard to resist. Sometimes the crummy movies end up being cooler than the timeless ones. I enjoy the retro-90s grungy feel of this movie – it’s funny how cyberpunk was so obsessed with all things digital and yet so grubby and analog in its aesthetic.

    I’m also a proud owner of the soundtrack album.

  23. The Original Paul

    May 28th, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    Broddie – I’d take ANDROMEDA STRAIN actually. Both the book and movie have been criminally underlooked in their respective genres. Probably because the book reads like the world’s most tense scientific case study, whereas the film takes place 90% underground inside a giant bunker. But both are surprisingly tense. They made some changes to the film – most notably changing the sex of one of the characters – but none that really harmed it.

    The Andromeda Strain itself might actually be one of the all-time-scariest movie monsters out there. (Yeah, not even kidding.) I get the same feeling from that as I had the first time I watched JUGGERNAUT and realised that, yeah, those bombs can (and do) go off, and people will die as a result. As great as SPEED is… nobody ever thought the bus would actually explode (at least, not until Keanu and crew were off of it!) JUGGERNAUT, with multiple bombs to contend with, there’s no such reassurance. ANDROMEDA shares that quality. The Andromeda strain itself is just a green crystal that occasionally mutates (you see it do so under a microscope in the film). And if you’re exposed to it, for any amount of time at all, your blood turns to powder and you die, instantly. Its effects – and its potential to be lethal – constantly change, and in wildly unpredictable ways. Just compare it to something like OUTBREAK, which has a much more easily-contained virus that takes longer to act and whose visible symptoms are less “alien” than Andromeda’s blood-powder. I think ANDROMEDA more perfectly plays off of the fear of something alien getting into your body and doing you harm.

    Actually the only thing I really didn’t like in the film of ANDROMEDA STRAIN is a case of pure geek bitchery. Why did they replace the poison darts of the books with sci-fi lasers in the film? It was so down-to-earth until they brought out the sci-fi lasers.

  24. Illinois Smith

    May 29th, 2015 at 1:19 am

    If his implant is just a hard drive, WHY THE FUCK WOULD YOU STICK IT INTO YOUR BRAIN INSTEAD OF ANYWHERE ELSE ON THE HUMAN BODY?

  25. Broddie – if Schumacher and Nolan takes are the “extremes”, what does that make Burton?

  26. Pacman 2.0 – Thanks for the info that the extended version is online. Will be watching this tonight. Has been so long since I saw the original, I can’t even remember liking it or not. Still, have been on a bit of a Dolph Lundgren binge lately, so this will do nicely.

  27. Paul – Thanks for reminding me because I always meant to check that movie out.

    RRA – He’s in the middle of both extremes. His movies could have overtly serious moments contrasted with light heartedness and even camp without seeming bipolar.

  28. I should’ve mentioned in the review that although Dolph is second-billed he’s not in it that much. The credit shows that he was still treated as a big name in ’95 despite those movies I listed not being widely seen.

  29. On the back of his experience on this, Gibson wrote a heartfelt appreciation of Kitano called THE BADDEST DUDE ON EARTH.

    It ends:

    “Takeshi is simultaneously tougher and more wounded than you or I will ever be. Given the ever deeper and more precise reach of the spectral hand of marketing, I suspect that he’s tougher and more wounded than any Hollywood star is ever likely to be allowed to be.”

    I love that.

  30. I believe Gibson was fairly complimentary of Dolph too, although mostly regarding a sermon scene that was cut from the movie, something along the lines of “he can do comedy, who’d have thought it?”. I think the scene he was talking about comes in a 4:14 in this video:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHFOxciYklI

    It seems you MNEMONICians feel much the same way about this as I do about THE LAWNMOWER MAN. Yes, I am a LAWNMOWER fan, well versed enough to even be able/bothered to argue that the Directors Cut is better than the Theatrical. I also dig VIRTUOSITY, maybe I’m just a Brett Leonard guy (wasn’t too hot on HIDEAWAY though)

  31. Pacman – Another LAWNMOWER FAN here and I also loved HIDEAWAY back in the day. Some solid Goldblum sci-fi/horror there which is saying something since Goldblum has pretty much cut his teeth on that mash up of genres for decades now.

  32. Lawnmower Man Fans Unite! Though I prefer the theatrical cut. It’s just leaner and more punk.

  33. I’m a big William Gibson fan. I’ve read Neuromancer at least three times. This is probably why I haven’t seen this film. As much as his novels seem like they might make good films, I think some of his ideas are so unique that they might have difficulty translating to the big screen. But since some people seem to be vouching for Johnny Mnemonic, I might give it a shot.

    I do think that cyberpunk, with its dissolution of national borders and immensely powerful corporations, more realistically depicts the future than something like 1984. I’m surprised we haven’t seen more of this genre on screen in the 21st century.

  34. RBatty – Best advice when going into this movie for a Gibson fan who hasn’t seen it (I read his works years after this movie) is to not expect it to be like Neuromancer but to accept it as being a bat shit crazy cyber punk story in it’s own right.

  35. The Original Paul

    June 1st, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    Wow, just rewatched ANDROMEDA STRAIN. Hate to say this but it’s not as good as I remembered it being. It’s still got some really nice moments, but I’m not sure about the whole “war games” thing. Honestly it feels kinda like a product of its time, which basically means it’s the Tower of Babel myth all over again (along with JAWS, TOWERING INFERNO, JURASSIC PARK, EARTHQUAKE, and a dozen other films where man’s over-ambition and hubris is torn down by nature’s/ God’s wrath.)

    RBATTY – All I can say is, don’t go out of your way to pay for JOHNNY MNEMONIC. There’s always a chance that you’ll like it, but it’s just as likely that you’ll end up kicking yourself. And go in with expectations set low.

  36. Surprised no one has brought this up yet.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQVtwdY3AXk

    They made an “interactive” video game of the movie. It was one of those heavy FMV games but weirdly they didn’t use clips from the film. They shot a new story starring Christopher Gartin (aka the sidekick from Tremors 2).

    The more you know!

  37. Thanks for the advice, Broddie and Paul. I might have to put this on the Netflix Queue.

  38. Keanu was a big fucking deal after SPEED and this was his “big” follow-up and it was neat, but it felt more like a B-movie than a blockbuster. I loved William Gibson, but this already felt like it was behind the times when it came out. The computer stuff was laughable, Dolph was hardly in it, Ice-T and Henry Rollins felt like stunt casting, I dunno… I haven’t seen it since the theater. But I think in general, that might be because I just graduated high school and while I loved this kind of sci-fi schlock, I was in the mood for things that were a little more intense (SE7EN came out that same summer, Braveheart came out the same week as this, maybe I just thought that downer endings were more realistic as I was getting older.) I was a cheesy action guy (My favorite tee for years was a Brandon Lee Rapid Fire shirt that I got at a preview screening) but I think my favorite straight-up action movie that summer was Under Siege 2 (Eric Bogosian was solid, Everett McGill with that blonde hair) maybe this flick just wasn’t dark enough for me at the place I was in my life.

    But that was a weird summer. Tank Girl, Judge Dredd, the abominable Species (has any film ever had a cooler trailer that ended up being such a bullshit movie?), I appreciated what they were trying to do here, but I don’t know if it demands a rewatch.

  39. I watched this the other night and enjoyed it a lot more than I did on my two previous encounters. Whatever its problems, there’s never been anything quite like it in the world of big(ish) budget Hollywood movies, and I’m glad they at least tried. Dolph is great but 1)Needed more screen time, although 2) Doesn’t really seem like he belongs in the movie, though perhaps by establishing such a deliberately cartoonish villain it created the room for Takeshi’s character to be just that little bit more interesting then you’d expect.

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