Once in a great while a TV show comes along that wake you up. And when it’s a cyberpunk show…
Overview: Almost missed out on Almost Human, Fox TV’s latest attempt at a cyberpunk/sci-fi show. Really didn’t know about this until mid-Febuary, and then it was almost too late. Mostly because of a similar sounding show on SyFy called Being Human which was more supernatural than sci-fi. Now I need to catch up with the reruns, or try video on demand (even if I have to purchase), or wait until the DVD, or maybe Pirate Bay… only as a last resort (Amazon already has season one for download). But based on what I have seen from the pilot and season finale, this may be one that’s going to stay for a while… but it has some serious past history to overcome, more later.
At first glance, Almost Human sounds like your typical police-buddy drama with a cyberpunk twist. That might be true, but there’s more to it. Check this:
The Story: The year 2048 sees rapid advances in science and technology; Too rapid for legal and government systems to control. The crime rate has jumped 400%, fueled by organized crime groups quick to exploit the lag. The most successful organization is the Insyndicate group. Desperate to combat these groups, police departments implement a new strategy: Pair human officers with an MX series advanced combat android.
Detective John Kennex (Urban) leads a raid on an Insyndicate warehouse, only to have his team wiped out in an ambush. Refusing to leave a critically injured partner, he is abandoned by his MX android. While trying to evacuate the scene with his partner, an explosive device goes off, amputating Kennex’s leg and killing his partner.
Two years later, Kennex is left with a prosthetic leg, damaged memories, psychological problems, and a girlfriend who abandoned him (possibly joining Insyndicate). While seeing an unlicensed “recollectionist” (a doctor who helps people recover lost memories), Kennex is called back to duty when Insyndicate robs an armored transport carrying synthetic, programmable DNA. Unhappy with his MX android partner wanting to report his behavior, and still stinging from the last one abandoning him, Kennex decides to gently “dismiss” his partner:
With no more MX androids available, Kennex is assigned an older android: DRN-0167 (Ealy) who prefers to be called “Dorian”. DRN androids were programmed to have human emotions, but many became “unstable” and were decommissioned and replaced with the highly-logical MX series. Dorian had been “offline” for three years before being reawakened to be Kennex’s partner. Despite their differences, they will need to work together to bring down Insyndicate and stop a mole in the police ranks.
Any similarities between Almost Human and Blade Runner is somewhat intended.
The Lighter Side of Cyberpunk? If the above screenshot looks too similar to Blade Runner, that was intended. Creator J.H. Wyman claimed that he “deliberately wanted to create a ‘hopeful’ interpretation of the future” as opposed to the darker visions of cyberpunk we’re accustomed to. Surprisingly, this doesn’t seem to detract from the overall cyberpunk-ness of the series, especially since it’s really about Kennex and Dorian, and their growing “ro-bromance” (The leading term for this budding human-android relationship). Such buddy-ships are often keys to a good cop film or series, and Almost Human takes it to a new level with the emerging android technology. Like any relationship, there are bound to be good times, there are bound to be bad times,…
“I apologize for scanning your balls.”
… and there are bound to be times that will totally rustle your jimmes.
History Never Repeats… We Hope. Sounds like Almost Human has what it takes to be a hit series. Unfortunately, the ratings says no and now it looks like the program’s only chance of being renewed is for a bunch of other Fox shows to crap out (Hey, it worked for Family Guy). The problem isn’t due to the show itself; It’s actually quite good… at least it’s better than CBS’s less-than-watchable Intelligence. But the show does have three major strikes against it:
First strike: Fox itself. The network’s track record with cyberpunk shows has been quite underwhelming. Remember early efforts like Harsh Realm and VR.5? VR.5 did last long enough to see a season… or series… finale; Harsh Realm wasn’t so lucky. More recent shows Dark Angel and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles saw a second season, though some say Connor lasted one season too long. It seems that sci-fi shows I like last only two seasons before they pull the plug. I’m expecting Almost Human to follow suit.
Strike two: The human-android-cop-buddy concept isn’t exactly original. It’s been tried before… several times, with none lasting beyond season one. Search IMDB for the shows Mann and Machine, Future Cop, Holmes and Yo-Yo, and Total Recall 2070. The syndicated Total Recall 2070 fared the best, lasting 22 episodes before having its plug pulled, but ultimately none lasted beyond season one. I put the blame on the screwball Holmes and Yo-Yo (#33 in TV Guide’s 50 Worst TV Shows of All Time) for poisoning the interest of the human-android-buddy-cops concept. There is humor in Almost Human, but it’s more of a dry, almost British sort laced with dark sarcasm (example: see GIF above).
Then again, the concept of robots/androids living and working among humans remains a touchy subject to most outside of Japan. Even now, that concept still generates friction amongst the meaty who still have visions of Skynet and robot takeovers burned into their BIOSs. Even with today’s advances, Almost Human may still give some cause for alarm with “robots intent on removing humanity and taking over the world, starting by taking over human jobs.”
Regardless of why the prior shows failed, Almost Human hopefully learned from their mistakes.
Strike three: Have you seen what’s on US TV schedules lately? Shoehorned between the reality (lack of) talent shows, the American airwaves are virtually choking on “procedural dramas.” Not that the format is new or unpopular, but it seems that such shows have been on the air since the original Law and Order debuted in 1990, and shows no sign of abating anytime soon. This glut is one reason why I haven’t been watching TV lately. The last thing we need… or I need… is yet another CSI-NCIS-SVU-SUV-DDT-TNT-ACDC-KMFDM-NRBQ-R2D2-C3P0-TMZ-DMZ-DVD-VCR-DVR-USB-ISA-SCSI-SATA-IDE-KKK-XXX-RSVP-LOL-ROFLMAO-ZOMG-WTF-BBQ clogging the networks. Then again, they don’t have futuristic technologies and sarcastic androids, so that may be an advantage.
Conclusion: No word yet on on the fate of Almost Human which may or may not be good news. Hopefully FOX will renew, but it looks more likely that it will be picked up on cable. Hope you have been watching, or at least recording to watch. This is one show that needs to be watched, especially by cyberpunk fans. Only once in a great while does a show come along that has such cyberpunk goodness. Do watch this show, by any means necessary. Then pester FOX until they renew it. And if FOX doesn’t renew…
Overview: Ever see a short movie and wished it could be made feature-length? OK, 9 made that jump in 09. Now, a new short has similar designs. Thieves made its debut in film-festivals in July, claiming audience choice at the Mitten Movie Project with a nomination for short of the year, and is now available for online viewing (like above).
The Story: America has created a new prototype energy cell that is now powering New Detroit. To protect both the cell and the city, an agency known only as “Butterfly” is formed to foster patriotism and stability, and to “recruit uniquely skilled people” to make it all possible. However, a terrorist organization has taken the prototype cell and plan to dismantle it. While the world waits for Armageddon, Butterfly has captured a high-value terrorist and plan to “recruit” him.
Sheldon Simmons: Remember his name. I got a feeling his name will be called at some future Oscar ceremony.
A Piece of a Larger Puzzle. Fourteen minutes hardly makes for a feature, so this short may make you feel like you’re missing a lot. THAT was intended:
From the beginning, Thieves was conceived as an excerpt from a much larger saga of feature films. As such, Thieves is not a self-contained piece. It’s made quite clear from its opening moments to its closing frame that there is most certainly a hell of a lot more going on before and after the events showcased in the short film.
Of course, there is the danger that if Thieves does become feature length it may become another Snakes on A Plane. But as long as the Zenisphere crew keeps true to their vision (and creative control of the project), that danger should be minimal.
Conclusion: If you haven’t heard of Thieves before, be ready to hear more of it in the future. Zenisphere has made a slam-dunk short that’s going to leave you wanting more. Already gathering high praise from indie film bloggers, Thieves is set to garner even bigger accolades (like ours), and possibly become the next Blade Runner, or at least The Matrix.
Overview: Billed as a “Tribute to the cyberpunk genre,” Perspective gives us a rather unique… perspective… of a cyberpunked future, where VR is the drug of choice to escape the harsh reality of… well, reality. Mehmet Can Koçak shows us one person’s escape to a VR fantasy by not just following him with a camera, but with the person AS the camera as we look through the hobo’s eyes. It’s perfectly understandable if you suddenly feel like hunting shamblers, cyberdemons, or zombies with roast-turkey headgear…
After all, it’s called “Perspective” for a reason.
We “watch” as the hobo purchases a cartridge from a shady dealer then heads into a wreck of a building where he jacks into his Commodore 64T…
64 Terabytes of RAM… on a Commodore 64… it can happen.
… and dives into a fantasy encounter with a redhead girl. Until an apparent glitch causes more than a program crash.
There once was a girl named Alice… At a running length of only ten minutes, Perspective doesn’t have much time to present in-depth themes. The one main theme is the mirror; How we see ourselves in reality and fantasy, and how the two can suddenly become fused together to cause no end of confusion. Or as Friedrich Nietzsche put it, when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.
Conclusion: Short-n-sweet. ‘Bout all I can really say. Koçak’s piece shows some potential for something more like, let’s say, a whole series of first-person movies; Short, interwoven films showing life in this future, and the viewer gets to choose what character’s eyes they would like to experience it. Might be a challenge to make, but it would a radical new way to “watch” movies.
Overview: Our resident Cecil B. DeMille, Lazlo Kovacs, and his pals at Key Pixel have brought us the follow-up to the short underground fave UCF: Toronto Cybercide. The second chapter, Abstract Messiah, continues the story of Toronto’s rebuilding struggles as a new enemy come to the forefront determined to stop the cyborgs.
Kovacs said that the movie was about 98% complete and wanted to send a screener to preview. From what I’ve seen, it looks fairly ready for prime-time. Like many low-budget films, there are some issues to deal with, but they’re easy to overlook as long as you’re not expecting Blade Runner-quality fare.
Duct tape is just a good as a band-aid.
The Story: Pax is called back to Toronto to retrieve the body of his former partner, and gets to meet up with his UCF mentor, a history professor. The professor is reported as kidnapped when he misses an appointment. Pax and company are called in to investigate when a member of the Luddites is considered the prime suspect. The investigation leads the UCF team to a prison for cyborgs where the Luddites plan to use the inmates in their ultimate plan; To use retrieve the nanotechnology in Pax’s deceased partner.
The game. A recurring theme is the chess game; Specifically, how the action is equivalent to moves and counter-moves on a chess board.
If that’s true then Equilibrium’s gun-fu scenes should be considered hands of Texas Hold-Em.
Seriously, every action movie would like to be compared to chess; That all the gun-play and violence has some intellectual reason and not just eye candy. For Abstract Messiah, they take the comparison to a new level starting with a real chess match between Pax and his Foundation mentor.
“While you were watching us learn, we were watching you teach.”
Such back and forth banter isn’t uncommon in action movies, as each side tries to impart their vision to the other. But when the two are bitter rivals, diametrical opposites of each other, that’s when the chess game quickly becomes an NBA-style trash talk fest, right before everyone STFU and lets their guns speak for them. Fortunately, Abstract Messiah doesn’t get to the trash-talk even though Crom does come off as the right-wingnut zealot type (nicely played). In fact, I keep getting this feeling that this movie is just one minor move in a much larger game.
Knuckle dusted. If there was a major problem with Abstract Messiah, it was the fight scenes. The fisticuffs weren’t all that convincing, but when a limited budget limits the use of professional stunt people you just have to use what you got and keep them safe for a possible part three.
“The Luddites refuse to be slaves to the cybernetic machines, and I refuse to continue being a slave to the machinations of the Foundation.”
Conclusion: Since the original UCF short was released back in ‘06 there was a call for more of the Luddites. This should satisfy them for a good 80 minutes as the Luddites are now front and center.
Everyone should consider getting Abstract Messiah even if just to support indie movie makers like Key Pixel. Even with amateurish production on a shoe-string budget they still manage to make a movie that’s more watchable than what some major distributors with trillion-dollar purses have been cranking out lately.
One has to wonder what UCF 3 would be like, especially if they get a larger budget. Dare to dream… until Kovacs sends a PM saying he has a screener ready to preview.
Overview: With the upcoming anniversary of 9/11, one has to wonder how far our security-surveillance panopticon prison planet has come. Britons have seen a rise in the Orwellian nightmare, while Americans have had something of a reprieve from the “Patriot” Act, although other forces may be taking over that role. Eyeborgs breeds 1984 with The Matrix to create a new form of high-tech overlord scenario.
I probably would have missed this one if it wasn’t for my DVD club. While the “borgs” of Eyeborgs caught my initial attention, the description of the story is what sold me on it. After watching it, I was glad I had a chance to see it, even if it was direct-to-video. While not up to Terminator or Robocop standards, this is one of the better movies to come down the wires in some time.
That’s no punk, that’s President Hewes’s nephew.
The Story: The on-going threat of terrorism has led to the adoption of the “Freedom of Observation” act. This gives the Department of Homeland Security new weapons in their surveillance of US citizens. Among them are the “Eyeborgs,” cameras with robotic legs that allow them to move around. Coordinating them, and the millions of already existing stationary cameras, is the Optical Defense Intelligent Network… “O.D.I.N.” for short.
DHS agent R.J. “Gunner” Reynolds (Paul) is observing a gun sale to a possible terrorist whose targeting President Hewes. The person gets away, but is later caught when eyeborgs see his bike at a punk show where the President’s nephew, Jarett, is playing with his band. The person is captured for targeting Jarett and interrogated at a DHS office. Leaving the man alone for a few minutes, he manages to escape when the eyeborgs in the room attack him. He dies later when the eyeborgs force him over a railing and causing him to fall six stories to his death. It was determined via surveillance cameras that Reynolds left the door unlocked allowing the man to escape, but Reynolds did lock the door. He begins questioning the integrity of O.D.I.N. as other people involved with the investigation die in mysterious ways while the eyeborgs give a very different version of the truth.
“See with your own eyes… not theirs.”
O Say Can You See? Just when you the plot is pretty much cut-and-dried, the big twist comes when Reynolds tries to get Jarett from the Presidential Debate. That’s when Reynolds, and the viewers, figure out what the truth is. O.D.I.N. has been manipulating reality, or whoever is manipulating O.D.I.N. to manipulate reality, for their own end.
“Everybody knows that videos can be faked. Regardless of the motives of the people, they’re designed to confuse you, so you must ask yourself, each and every citizen of this country, ask yourself one question and one question only - Who do you believe? A government that is sworn to protect you, or a ratings-hungry media beholden to no one?”
For the most part the movies works well, but you might see a problem with some of the eyeborgs late in the movie. The colors reflecting from the machines feel “off,” and some of the eyeborgs appear to be two-dimensional sprites instead of 3D during the rescue scene. Probably a result of being rushed to video.
Conclusion: Given the current state of terrorism-generated paranoia, Eyeborgs seems like just the ticket to stoke those tin-foil hat fires. While it may have avoided theatrical release (and competition from Iron Man 2), it shouldn’t be left out of your home video collection, especially with recent disappointments from Hollywood.
Overview: I heard about this movie from the Columbia House DVD club, then bought it after reading the description. After doing some research about it and learning about it being released direct to home video, I got to watch it… and found out why it went direct to video. To take some of the best cyberpunk themes, add some major star-power, then squander it on what would have worked better as a television pilot episode only shows that cyberpunk still has Hollywood seeing $$$ despite recent failures like Repo Men.
Just a few years from now, corporations control and observe everything.
Luke Gibson (Gooding) and his pregnant wife get involved in a car accident. She dies on the scene, and he is hospitalized with brain damage (amnesia) and no insurance. The Hope Corporation finances his brain operation, which involves a Psi-Comp implant on his visual lobe. He soon starts having hallucinations, which are commercials that only he can see and hear. But hackers manage to tap into the implant and give him messages which lead him to Keyboard, a former Hope employee turned hacker, who has information that can stop The Hope Corporation’s plans for the implants.
Cyberpunk themes… they got ‘em. There’s little question about this being cyberpunk; It’s practically dripping with cy-punk themes throughout. The Psi-Comp implants can be used to control people, either with persistent commercials or a painful “fail-safe” that can blow your head off, depending on how Hope Co. feels about your finding out about the truth about them. The hackers try to free Luke from Hope’s control over him by using the implant themselves. Hope Co’s. cameras everywhere watching most everything that goes on. There’s even holographic projections of corporate brands above and on cityscapes and landmarks, owing to how corporations had bail out governments due to their failed bailouts. About the only thing missing would be the dystopic atmosphere, though through sound bytes from televisions indicate that the dystopia is financial.
So what could (or did) possibly go wrong? With Hardwired’s abundance of cy-punk themes, it might be hard to imagine that this could not be the next Blade Runner. That might be the big problem: It’s trying to be the next Blade Runner. Not that aspiring to be such a classic is a bad thing, it’s just most cyberpunk movies lately are trying to be Blade Runner, and they try so hard that they ultimately fail to be even a good movie. Let’s try to make a good movie first, then you can try being Blade Runner. Best way to start is to actually do something with those themes. It’s obvious the makers seem to know about what cyberpunk is, but it’s also obvious they don’t know what to do with it all. Maybe they should hang out here for a while…
Are you certain that the one on the left is Punk Blue and not Punk Green?
Another problem is more “technical,” the operation scene when Luke gets the implant. Inside the operating room, Luke is sitting upright, but a scene through a security cam (assumed to be in the same O.R.) shows him lying down, face up, even though the doctor just finished drilling into the back of Luke’s neck. It’s not like every movie is one-hundred percent accurate, but such noticeable goofs early on can make the rest of the film less believable. Also, the hackers use the chip to send Luke information a la “augmented reality.” His eyes were not replaced with holographic projectors, so we should not be able to see the transmitted data in front of his face. Seeing that stuff as Luke sees it, first-person like, would have worked better.
Conclusion: It’s hard to put Hardwired down because it has a great idea, but some bad implementations may have doomed it to direct-to-video hell and lack of reviews. The only other review called it “cheesy, seriously cheesy.” Plus, the ending practically begs “please let us become a franchise,” though it might serve better as a pilot for some futuristic TV series. Maybe.
So much potential…
It looks like Bruce Willis now has some competition for the most WTF hairpiece.
Overview: I was hoping to see this movie before seeing Repo Men so I could at least see how close to each other they were. While there are some minor similarities (primarily a megacorp, their organ financing, and the use of repo men) the visuals, story-lines, and this being an opera make the two movies vastly different. While Repo Men’s visuals draws more from Blade Runner, Repo! is definitely goth with frequent scenes involving corpses and/or graveyards.
The Story: Geneco becomes the top company when an epidemic of unexplained organ failures sweep the planet. They manage to make organ transplants affordable, but they also manage to get a law passed that allows the organs to be repossessed. Another product Genco makes is Zydrate, a highly addictive pain killer often used by surgery addicts. Geneco is the only legalized source of Zydrate, but a black market exists where grave robbers extract the drug from the brains of corpses.
The current head of Geneco, Rotti Largo (Sorvino), is terminally ill and plans to name his successor at “The Genetic Opera” when popular singer Blind Mag also plans to make her final performance. His three children, the violent Luigi (Mosley), the mask wearing Pavi (Skinny Puppy’s Ogre, FTW), and surgery-and-Zydrate addicted Amber Sweet (Hilton) hope to inherit daddy’s company, but he is disappointed with his kids and has another person in mind: Shilo Wallace.
Pavi (Ogre) gets his game face on. Well, he gets someone’s face on.
Shilo (Vega) is the daughter of Nathan (Head), who is not only trying to find a cure for the blood disease that Shilo inherited from her mother, but is also Geneco’s repo man. He keeps her locked in her room, fearing she might die from the disease while he goes out for repossessions. Shilo sneaks out anyway and in her nightly journeys she meets a grave robber (Zdunich) who introduces her to the Zydrate underground and reveals that Blind Mag, Shilo’s favorite singer, is going to lose her eyes because she will no longer be working with Geneco.
A tangled web. With several different story lines going on at once, it may be hard to follow them with all the singing. They may seem unrelated to each other at first, but thanks to comic-styled flashbacks they show how they are connected to Nathan’s dead wife and the upcoming Genetic Opera.
Speaking of the songs, it’s been reported that there were some 65-75 songs made for the film. Not all of them have been used, but do appear on the various soundtracks (memo to self: find the soundtracks.). Most of them are short, only a minute or two, but often involve at least two cast members singing together with different lyrics. This may add to the confusion of following the stories, but not too much to follow if you pay attention.
Blade Runner or Count Dracula? The distant city scene above may make one think of Blade Runner’s future Los Angeles, but the closer-in scenes is very much goth inspired. The Wallace house could very well be a haunted house (just needs some more cobwebs) while Shilo frequents a graveyard where her mother’s tomb is (side note: Shilo also collects insects). People are often dressed like they’re going to a funeral or an S&M club. There’s an area called “Sanitarium Square,” where a festival is happening before the Opera, that has brightly lit tents amid the darker streets. Not quite the cyberpunk visuals I was expecting, but does make the dark atmosphere… darker.
Conclusion: To be honest, Repo! wasn’t quite what I expected. It felt more goth than actual cyberpunk, so much so that I’m tempted to tag this as “not cyberpunk.” Then again, with goth style being closely related to cyberpunk lately it can almost be expected. In this case, it helped rather than hurt, as it made the operatic aspects more intense. Repo! is a bit of a bloody mind bender, but certainly worth watching… and listening to.
“Relax, it’s totally painless! I won’t feel a thing! Besides, once you’re dead you won’t even notice.”
Overview: The timing of this movie’s release is eerie. Originally scheduled for April 2, it was instead released March 19, the same weekend that the US Congress scheduled a vote on Health Care Reform. Coincidence? Maybe, but this film could be considered a vision to what could happen if HCR fails (or succeeds, depending on how you want to look at it). No, cities won’t turn into a Blade Runner landscapes, but a corporation does finds a way to make its “customers” live on borrowed time… literally and figuratively… while they profit.
The Story: Megacorporation “The Union” has apparently cornered the market on artificial organs, or “artiforgs.” This, plus a (continuing) global economic meltdown, has made such implants a very expensive purchase, even to save a life. To make them affordable to those who can’t buy outright, The Union has financing plans available similar to today’s car and/or home loans. But there is a downside to such financing; Fail to make a payment for 90 days, and The Union will send repossession men to retrieve the organ. The organs have an RFID-style tracking system installed, so repo men can track down the delinquent, cut them open, and retrieve the organ. Remy (Jude Law) and Jake (Forest Whitaker), former schoolmates and soldiers, are The Union’s best repo men.
Remy has a wife and a son, and lately, she has been pressuring Remy to switch from repossession to sales which doesn’t pay as much but would allow him to spend more time with his family. During one repossession mission, a defibrillator malfunctions and nearly kills Remy. He awakens in a hospital with a Union financed Jarvik artiforg heart… and the bill for it.
The Corporate Brand: Not just for salarymen.
Tin Man. A new heart wouldn’t necessarily be the end of the world, but when Remy tries a repossession he couldn’t go thorough with it. Physically, his normally steady hands start shaking, and mentally his tell-tale heart can be heard. It’s as though losing his heart actually gives him a heart; Losing part of his humanity made him more human. His new Jarvik heart must have had an empathy attachment, since he is now unable to do repossessions… or even sales as his graphic descriptions of repossessions scares customers.
Unable to make money, Remy soon finds himself being hunted by repo men, including his friend Jake.
The cat in the… box? At a couple of moments in the movie, Remy refers to an experiment where a scientist places a cat inside a box with a machine that emits poison gas at some point. We are simultaneously alive and dead, was the scientist’s conclusion, but Remy didn’t understand what that meant until he was being hunted himself, and found himself identifying with the cat:
We can either lick our paws and wait for the inevitable, or we can fight and claw our way out of the box.
Remy chooses to fight his way out, and hopes to liberate other repo targets from the system.
“Welcome to your world, repo man.”
OK, should be go see it? There’s not much new to see. In fact, some of the city scenes could be confused for Blade Runner, only without the spinners flying about. There is the contrast of the sterile environs of The Union’s offices (especially the “clean room” that doesn’t stay clean) and the run-down part of town known as the “black hole.” There’s also Beth, the woman who is almost nothing but artiforgs, including enhanced eyes and ears. And of course, The Union and its payment-and-repossession program that can be called predatory. Pretty much standard issue cyberpunk stuff.
UPDATE: After having seen Repo! The Genetic Opera, I can say there is not much similar between these two movies. With Repo Men’s cyberpunk tomes vs. Repo!’s goth atmosphere, we can keep this at 5 stars.
Conclusion: Can’t really say Repo Men is a great movie, or even a good one. It does it’s job well enough, but lacking originality, the current politics with health care reform… and some obligatory operational blood… may be enough to turn many off. Adequate enough to waste a couple of hours on, but only IF you’re not into operas.
“You owe it to your family. You owe it to yourself.”
“It’s like whatever path we choose in this life, this generation has been set up to extinguish itself.” - Christian
Overview: One of several DVDs I have that I’ve been trying to get to reviewing (this one for Quiet Earth, better late than never I suppose), The Gene Generation follows the path taken by Ultraviolet and the live-action Aeon Flux with a gun-totting, leather clad femme fatale working for the government or some group-entity to bring law and order or some justice to a dystopic future. This time around, Bai Ling is carrying the guns, and if you’ve ever seen her photos on the nets, you’ll definitely love her guns.
The rest of the movie, maybe not so much. Not exactly Ghost in the Shell/Matrix/Blade Runner quality level, but certainly a better way to waste 90 minutes of free time. Plus you’ll get to hear aggrotech act Combichrist when they were at their peak with ditties like this:
The Story: Olympia, Washington, US: Hayden Technologies creates the Transcoder, a glove-like device that manipulates DNA to heal… or kill. A Transcoder accident pollutes Olympia, forcing authorities to construct a “wall” around the city to insure that the pollutant does not leave, but the people want to.
To leave, people need to undergo DNA screening to insure that they are not contaminated. This gives rise to the practice of “DNA hacking:” Using a clone of the transcoder and a sample of a clean person’s DNA, a hacker could re-sequence to clean his own DNA, while the “donor” was killed of due to genetic mutation. The government hires assassins to take out the hackers.
Michele is an assassin who is trying to save money from her jobs to get out of Olympia. Unfortunately, her efforts are hindered by her own brother, Jackie, whose drinking and gambling has forced him to take the money in order to pay off a brutal loan shark. Desperate for money, Jackie breaks into Christian’s apartment and takes the transcoder, unaware of what it is. Michele must now track down the transcoder, save her brother from the loan shark, and protect Christian from those looking for him and the transcoder.
Tentacle porn much? When I first announced that I was going to review this movie, I was told that it wasn’t and easy watch. Being a cyberpunk movie, I knew that certain aspects would be a potential turn-off. There is blood… lots of blood flowed throughout, but that was expected. What wasn’t expected was how the transcoder killed people: The target’s DNA was mutated to create tentacles that erupted from within, bursting out of the mouth, ears, nose, and wherever there was a break in the skin. What has been seen…
Fortunately, all the blood, sweat, and city grime makes Michele take showers frequently:
Definitely worth an extra star in my book.
On the downside, a sex scene between Michele and Christian is intermixed with Jackie being beaten by Randall’s henchmen. Do not want.
Conclusion: Difficult to watch, they said. Well, not TOO difficult for me, even with the tentacle violence. Hopefully you’re not too squeamish about tentacles. At least Bai Ling’s eye-candy makes it worthwhile. The rest is on par with Ultraviolet and Aeon Flux (2005), so those who love kick-ass babes will definitely get a kick out of Gene Generation.
Pearry told me that: “This one will be very dark. A hyper realistic / shooting documentary style and lots and lots of body modifications. We’re shooting it mad max style, set in the badlands… outside the cities.” Shooting will start in March with a completion date of September.
By my estimates, that means release will be around the first half of 2011. Stay tuned for future news as they develop…
Overview: After reading the graphic novels, I thought I was ready for the movie. Unfortunately, Hollywood decided to “tweak” certain elements until there’s little left resembling the books. Not that ink-on-single-colors would work for a live-action film, but they could have left the action in Georgia instead of moving it to Boston, and leaving Greer (Harvey, not John) as a city detective as opposed to an FBI agent. While some “tweaking” might not have hurt, totally deviating from the books doesn’t. This could probably be traced to the trio of Mostow, Ferris, and Brancato, who were also behind the train-wreck of Terminator 3.
The good news is the message remained intact.
The Story: In a near future (no exact year given), humans spend all their time at home jacked into stem-chairs while piloting their surrogates, robotic avatars that interact in the real world now abandoned by humanity.
Two surrogates are destroyed by a mag-pulse type weapon. The destruction kills the operators, one of whom is the son of the surrogate’s inventor. FBI agent Greer searches for the weapon and is lead to the walled “Dread Nation” where his surrogate is destroyed by the anti-surrogate group. He continues without it as he probes deeper into a conspiracy that involves the military, Virtual Self Inc., the company behind the surrogate phenomenon, and the surrogate inventor, Dr. Cantor.
William Shatner, you are not.
What else went wrong? Another problem, other than the deviation from the books, is the look of the movie. Other than scenes showing the stem-chairs and a couple of scenes showing the “central control” of the surrogate grid, it is virtually impossible to tell if it is 2053 or 2009. Having live actors playing the robotic roles only adds to the confusion, though there were times where they not only looked like robots, but acted like robots. That was a surprisingly interesting touch.
… And the message? You can hear just as the movie starts: Does living life through a surrogate mean you’re actually living? Does being a robot make you less of a human? Have you been so plugged into your surrogate that you can’t unplug? And once you are unplugged… then what?
Those kind of questions about humanity being (over)connected to technology are what cyberpunk writers and fans have been asking since William Gibson’s first draft of Neuromancer.
Conclusion: If you’ve already read the books, the movie may only disappoint you with how far off it is. Bruce Willis fans and fans of action films may get a kick out Surrogates. Cyberpunk fans should find the message familiar, though you would be better off with the books.
“Holy father, I pray that you keep Jonathan Mostow, Michael Ferris, and John D. Brancato from ever making another cyberpunk movie, lest they cause the universe to collapse on itself.”