Johnny 2.0

April 6, 2006

Movie Review By: SFAM

Year: 1998

Directed by: Neill Fearnley

Written by: Wynne McLaughlin

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Low

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium

Key Cast Members:

  • Johnny Dalton: Jeff Fahey
  • Nikki Holland: Tahnee Welch
  • Frank Donahue: Michael Ironside
  • Bosch: John Neville
  • Rating: 5 out of 10


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    Overview: Some low-budget movies make it with a terrific story and just the right quality of effects; others come close; and others still get worried about not quite making it, so they decide to spew insane plot twists at the viewer in the hopes of increasing the tension. Unfortunately, Johnny 2.0 takes this tact. The movie was “teetering on the edge” of being decent, but fell off the wrong side. Instead of going with the stream of increasingly unbelievable plot twists, had they spent just a bit more on beefing up the story, Johnny 2.0 could have gotten some real kudos.

     

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    The Story: In the present, the experimentation with cloning begins to take off when scientist Johnny Dalton (Jeff Fahey) teams up with Frank Donahue (Michael Ironside) to create a small cloning start-up that has terrific potential. They are able to speed up the cloning process, and more surprisingly, are able to take an MRI scan of a person’s brain in a way that can record their entire set of memories. Unfortunately, anti-technology terrorists attack their complex and severely hurt Johnny, causing a massive, bleeding head injury.

     

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    Johnny wakes up later to find that almost 20 years have passed, and that he is no longer Johnny Dalton – he’s a clone. Now referred to as “Johnny 2.0,” Johnny’s memories extend only to the injury 20 years ago when he had a scan of his memory. Now, the earth has become a dystopia, where countries have broken down, and only the corporations exist to maintain order. Worse, the “real” Johnny Dalton has either been taken by terrorists, or worse, has joined them, and has taken all his research, including a software program that removes imperfections in clones. Now, unless Johnny 2.0 can find and return the original Johnny Dalton, his body will start to break down within the week!

     

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    While the story starts off in an interesting way, and generally keeps a decent pacing, as things get tense, instead of resolving things in an innovative way, the viewer is continually assaulted with the most extreme plot twists. OK, one or maybe two might work, but Johnny 2.0 just doesn’t know when to leave well enough alone. Worse, in key scenes the rationale for certain characters starts to resemble the massive space invasion force surrounding Naboo in The Phantom Menace – they all seemingly took a lunch break when the counter attack came, leaving only one ship to defend their forces. When all is said and done, it’s simply not possible to suspend disbelief.

     

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    Johnny 2.0 Clone Technology Musings: For all its faults, Johnny 2.0 does have some interesting musings about cloning. The idea that clones can be sped up, and enhanced (by removing eye imperfections, improving the immune system, etc.) is interesting. More interesting is the idea that our memories can be recorded and re-inserted into a new host. Unfortunately, Johnny 2.0 doesn’t address idea with any degree of thought. In Johnny 2.0, the brain is essentially seen as an empty hard drive just waiting to be filled up with new memories. Even existing people apparently can have their memories wiped and re-inserted with new ones. Had this technology been combined with the rapid growth process, whereby a clone could be created while having their brain slowly become adapted to the imprinted memories, this would have worked lots better. Unfortunately, shortcomings in the ending narrative precluded anything unique here.

     

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    Even with the faults, Johnny 2.0 poses an interesting idea – that our existence could be perpetually extended by a combination of cloning and brain scanning. In Johnny 2.0, it’s the evil corporate head who is trying to cheat death, but if such a technology were created, one can only imagine the change we see in society. Imagine the chances we individually would take.

     

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    The FX: For the most part, the FX was what you’d expect – low budget TV fare. It wasn’t too distracting though, and pretty much worked for what was intended. Some of the effects, like the force field walkthrough scene was pretty forced though. One wonders why they would spend the money for a high-tech force field instead of a wall, especially when it can be penetrated so easily. They also seemed to try to stick VR helmets on everyone – this is more a sign of the times as VR stuff was hot in the mid nineties.

     

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    The Bottom Line: While the concept is interesting, this made for TV movie is poorly implemented. Although, there is enough here to get a modicum of enjoyment, and the movie does start off well enough that I feel compelled to give it at least a 5 star rating, especially considering it’s low budget. The actors were at least adequate (Michael Ironside of Total Recall fame was definitely the best of the bunch), so consider giving it a watch if nothing else strikes you.

     

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    This post has been filed under Made for TV, Memory Modification, Dystopic Future Movies, 5 Star Rated Movies, Cyberpunk movies from 1990 – 1999 by SFAM.
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    8 Man After

    March 27, 2006

    Movie Review By: SFAM

    Year: 1993

    Directed by: Sumiyoshi Furakawa

    Written by: Yasushi Hirano (story), Kazumasa Hirai & Jirô Kuwata (characters)

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Low

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

    Rating: 7 out of 10


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    Overview: If you’re hankering for a sequel to Robocop, skip the live action sequels, and instead get 8 Man After. You won’t get the best animation, but the story itself is more than passable. The characters aren’t all that deep, but they’re interesting enough to keep your attention. This OVA, which on the DVD is presented as a film, seems to rise above the obviously meager animation budget to produce a decent product.

     

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    The Story: 8 Man After is a sequel to the 1960s TV series called 8th Man (I have not seen the original). In 8th Man, a cop dies, is revived, and is given a cybernetic body that can move lightning fast. He uses it to confront a cyborgs crime lord in similar circumstances, but is later killed. His girlfriend, Sachiko Yokogawa, never learns what happens to him. Since then, petty criminals with cybernetic implants have started to rule the streets. The police are outgunned, and decide they need a special edge – so they decide to revive the 8 Man.

     

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    In 8 Man After, a similar situation occurs as in the original – this time, police detective Hazama Itsuro, an emotionally fragile cop, meets up with Sachiko on a chance encounter, and they begin to fall in love. But fate intervenes, and a nasty criminal with cyborgs implants comes to kill them. Hazama is able to defeat him, but seemingly dies in the process by falling out of a high story window. Hazama is revived when the police take Hazama’s brain and insert it into 8 Man’s body.

     

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    Hazama can now move lightning fast, and due to technical reasons, is the most advanced cyborgs on earth. He begins to fight the bad guys, but unfortunately, it turns out that his emotional troubles cause him to occasionally lose control over his actions. This is complicated by Hazama’s continuing relationship with Sachiko, who does not know what he’s become. Things come to a head when Hazama/8 Man goes up against the crime lord while trying to rescue Sachiko.

     

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    This is a “Who am I?” Story: 8 Man After does a decent job of going over established ground in that it questions whether a brain inserted into a cyborgs host is still human. The complicating twist in 8 Man’s case is that his emotions end up making him temporarily lose control over his body, and in fact, lose awareness over certain events. The added relationship aspect, where Sachiko has now fallen in love with two people who end up losing their bodies is sort of interesting as well. Again, there’s nothing really new here, but it is well done.

     

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    The Animation: At some level, animation of this quality, five years after Akira is surprising. Many of the shots look like straight Saturday morning cartoon fodder. Every now and then, we get a terrific shot or two, and sometimes get an innovating looking camera approach, but for the most part, you get simplistic backgrounds, very basic character designs, linear movement, and lots of pan and scans of stills. Worse, you also get some repeated 8 Man after streaking shots. Without an absolutely kickin story (which it has), 8 Man After just wouldn’t be worth the time.

     

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    The Violence: Like Robocop, 8 Man After is very violent. However, the animation isn’t good enough for this to really matter all that much. There is lots of blood and killing which is usually don’t in the context of a motivating story, but it just doesn’t have the impact of many violent animes. Even if you can’t stomach violent story lines, you will probably be OK with 8 Man After.

     

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    The Bottom Line: OK, the animation isn’t the greatest, but the story is pretty good – FAR better than the Robocop sequels. The sub-plot of the son with a burnt-out cyborg father is especially well done. If you’re looking for a Robocop-like examination of humanity, animated from the cyborg’s perspective, 8 Man After is a decent choice.

     

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    This post has been filed under Made for TV, Man-machine Interface, Animes, Cyberpunk movies from 1990 – 1999 by SFAM.
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    Reboot

    February 16, 2006

    Year: 1994

    Directed by: Alan Best et al.

    Written by: Martin M. Borycki et al.

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium

    Rating: 8 out of 10


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    Overview: This is one of those shows that TOTALLY addicted me to it when it came out. This was the first 3D animation I ever saw, and I must say, I completely fell in love with it. Reboot is a wonderfully intelligent kids show, that for techies, seemed to have all the inside-tech jokes just right. All the characters are inside a computer world – the mainframe, and the good guys are trying to stop the evil virus, Megabyte from infecting the rest of the mainframe.

     

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    The Bottom Line: Reboot provided us a terrific fantasy view inside a virtual computer. While the first two seasons were fun, season 3 was just terrific! After ABC dropped this Canadian production, they were able to go adult-like, with much darker themes and a really cool sword and sorcery bent. The follow-on movies captured the fun of the first two seasons while keeping the darkness of the third. And while the CG has definitely been surpassed, for some reason, the look still works.

     

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    Tags: cyberpunk movie review Reboot anime

    This post has been filed under Made for TV, 8 Star Movies, Animes, VR Movies, Cyberpunk movies from 1990 – 1999 by SFAM.
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