February 22, 2014

RoboCop (2014)

Movie Review By: Mr. Roboto

Year: 2014

Directed by: José Padilha

Written by: Joshua Zetumer (screenplay), Edward Neumeier & Michael Miner (1987 screenplay)

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Moderate

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Moderate

Key Cast Members:

  • Alex Murphy / RoboCop: Joel Kinnaman
  • Jack Lewis: Michael K. Williams
  • Dr. Dennett Norton: Gary Oldman
  • Raymond Sellars (OmniCorp CEO): Michael Keaton
  • Pat Novak : Samuel L. Jackson
  • Clara Murphy: Abbie Cornish
  • David Murphy : John Paul Ruttan
  • Rating: 6 out of 10

    RoboCop (2014)

    You’ve been wondering what the new RoboCop is like. Brace yourselves…

    Overview: The original RoboCop has become one of the “must see” cyberpunk films, one that needs to be in everyone’s cyberpunk movie collection. Now, José Padilha has made an updated version of Paul Verhoeven’s masterpiece, leaving many to ask that inevitable question:

    Why would you do that?

    Well, much has changed in the world since Peter Weller first donned the RoboCop suit to rid old Detroit of crime. The original was not only a classic story of a man’s death and rebirth as avenging angel, but there was a statement of American consumerism of the 80s as shown in the built-in “commericals”. The new version deals more with America’s reliance on drones to fight wars, the possibility of autonomous drones being used, and of the radical ultra-conservative elements that have cropped up since the end of the Regan presidency.

     

    The Story: The movie opens with a right-wing TV program called “The Novak Element”, starring Pat Novak (Jackson)

    Novack (Jackson)

    Does he look like a bitch?

    He has corespondents in Tehran, now under US robot control, who report on a “random” (read: FORCED) scan of the people for threats. A couple of insurgents with vest-bombs kill themselves and destroy some of the bots. One of the insurgent’s son appears with a knife in his hand and is blown away by a mech-like ED-209. The feed is cut and Novak espouses how the robots can be used to make America “safer”, but the Dreyfus Act makes such robots illegal. OmniCorp, a division of Omni Consumer Products, made the robots.

    OmniCorp wants the Dreyfus Act terminated so they can sell the robots for American law enforcement use, increasing their profits and achieve world dominance, even though public opinion is against the idea of autonomous drones. Their solution: Create a law enforcement cyborg, a man inside the machine, to sway public opinion, beginning by using a permanently disabled cop.

    Detective Alex Murphy (Kinnaman) and partner Sgt. Lewis (Williams) have been tracking crime lord Antoine Vallon, but Vallon is tipped off and Lewis is seriously injured requiring hospitalization. While visiting his partner, Murphy’s car has a bomb planted on it by one of Vallon’s men. It explodes at his home, nearly killing him. He awakens three months later, in his new cyborg body and software thanks to consent of his wife, Clara (Cornish). Murphy doesn’t want to be RoboCop, but is convinced by Dr. Norton (Oldman) to “be strong for his wife and son” and begins training with Rick Mattox (Jackie Earle Haley) who seriously doubts Murphy will stand up to highly stressful and/or emotional situations where drones would not be so hindered.

     

    Notable differences. As you can tell, there are some major differences between the two RoboCops. First off, Lewis undergoes the Rule 63 (aka “gender swap”) treatment, and is now a Sargent… and black. OCP, the megacorp that privatized the Detroit police, is now a parent company with OmniCorp as the robotics subsidiary. The “news” is now a right-wing propaganda machine run by the brilliant performance of Samuel L. Jackson (again, does he look like a bitch?). The violence has been toned down considerably… well less bloody anyway. The ED-209s are now mecha-sized, there are more of them, and they are often accompanied by human-sized ED-208s (I think that was the model number used).

    Of course, much has changed in the twenty-seven since since the franchise first booted up, so the differences will come as a shock to those who have been watching since those heady early days of cyberpunk. But the biggest shock(s) vets may encounter will definitely be from Robo himself.

    RoboCop (2014) - Noticing his new skin.

    “What the hell did you do to me? “

    Paint it black. Perhaps the most jarring changes were made to Murphy/Robo himself, primarily in his armor. Oh, it starts as the classic silver-and-black scheme, but CEO Sellars (Keaton) wanted him to look more “tactical,” so black is the new… armor. It’s been said to make him look more insect like,

    RoboCop (2014) - New paint scheme and bike
    but it’s actually more of a streamlined borg appearance.

    But the biggest change to Murphy is also where the film tends to fall apart most: The original Murphy died and came back as a robo-revenant to avenge himself. This time around, Murphy doesn’t die. That alone kind of puts a damper on the philosophical discussions of whether a human mind can be put into a robot body and still be like before. Here, his mind (well, his whole head… and lungs… and heart… and windpipe) lives on in the new shell.

    That doesn’t mean he can’t still be treated like a machine; When he fails a simulation, Dr. Norton tries to “reprogram” Murphy to make him think that all his actions are under his conscious control, even though he’s still running a program. Later, when the upload of the police database causes Murphy to overload emotionally, Dr. Norton reduces his dopamine levels to where he becomes an emotionless robot, even ignoring his own wife and son.

    It’s not just OmniCorp that mistreats the new Murphy; It seems everyone involved with getting the Dreyfus act revoked is now using him as their poster boy, their messiah… their “tool” to mechanize America. Even as Murphy “comes to his senses” and goes rogue to solve his own attempted murder the ultra-conservatives and OmniCorp try to spin the events as showing how corruptible humans are and how machines would not be. They even plan to “martyr” Murphy out of fear because his wife went to the press because OmniCorp would not let her see him and might reveal what they did to him. Poor Murph can’t get a break.

    But like I said before, much has changed since the 80s. “Hair metal, glam metal,” or whatever-they-want-to-call-it-these-days metal has long had its party ruined by some coffee-gulping Seattle punks which lead to… whatever they call that shit on the radio now (can’t be music). Conspicuous consumerism has been eroded to conspicuous consumer pessimism while megacorps suck up the wealth like some hybrid octopus/shop-vac. And obviously, that one day… which lead to the NSA’s global panopticon and current planet-sized prison. Naturally, if a reboot needed to be made it would have to show the world in current terms as opposed to past expectations, but you’d think they would keep some of the philosophical aspect of Murphy’s transformation. Well, they do, but not in terms of death and rebirth. Rather, Murphy’s transformation and subsequent treatment is more about the dehumanization of a man, and possibly the whole of humanity, in the name of “security”, “peace”, and PROFITS.

    RoboCop (2014) - Training

    It looks like someone’s been watching Equilibrium.

     

    Conclusion: Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop was certainly the jewel of 80s cyberpunk, and its theme of death and resurection will make this an all-time classic. But you can’t blame José Padilha for wanting to update it to reflect current world events; The times they are a-changin’ (Bob Dylan) and even RoboCop can use an upgrade every so often. The movie works on its own with its theme of corporate dehumanization, so newbies have something to look forward to. As for us veterans… you have been warned.

     

    ONE MORE THING: Samuel L. Jackson… DOES HE LOOK LIKE A BITCH?

    This post has been filed under Cyberpunk movies from 2010 - 2019, Security-Surveillance State, Memory Modification, Man-machine Interface, Android Movies by Mr. Roboto.

    September 9, 2010

    Eyeborgs

    Movie Review By: Mr. Roboto

    Year: 2010

    Directed by: Richard Clabaugh

    Written by: Fran Clabaugh and Richard Clabaugh

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Moderate

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

    Key Cast Members:

  • R. J. ‘Gunner’ Reynolds: Adrian Paul
  • Barbara Hawkins: Megan Blake
  • Jarett Hewes: Luke Eberl
  • G-Man: Danny Trejo
  • Rating: 7 out of 10

    Small Eyeborg

    “I see what you did there…”

    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.

    Spider Eyeborg mistakes President’s nephew for a target.

    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.

    Gunner sees 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.

    The New President.

    “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.

    This post has been filed under Cyberpunk movies from 2010 - 2019, Security-Surveillance State, AI (no body), Dystopic Future Movies, Android Movies by Mr. Roboto.

    April 13, 2010

    Hardwired

    Movie Review By: Mr. Roboto

    Year: 2009

    Directed by: Ernie Barbarash

    Written by: Michael Hurst

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Moderate

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

    Key Cast Members:

  • Luke Gibson: Cuba Gooding Jr.
  • Virgil Kirkhill: Val Kilmer
  • Hal: Michael Ironside
  • Punk Red: Tatiana Maslany
  • Punk Blue: Juan Riedinger
  • Keyboard: Chad Krowchuk
  • Rating: 4 out of 10

    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.

     

    The Story:

    Hardwired Cityscape at Night

    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.

    Psi-Comp Implant

    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…

    Hardwire Cyberpunks

    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…

    Virgil Kirkhill (Val Kilmer)

    It looks like Bruce Willis now has some competition for the most WTF hairpiece.

    This post has been filed under Memory Modification, Security-Surveillance State, Dystopic Future Movies, Man-machine Interface, Hacker Movies, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 - 2009 by Mr. Roboto.

    April 23, 2007

    Cl.One

    Movie Review By: SFAM

    Year: 2005

    Directed by: Jason Tomaric

    Written by: Jason Tomaric

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Medium

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

    Key Cast Members:

    • Derek Strombourg: Jeff St. Clair
    • Orin Stalward: Bill Caco
    • Joshua Adams: Gary Skiba
    • Valerie Renee Law: Mira DelForna
    Rating: 5 out of 10


    Cl.One screen capture

    Overview: There have been some truly interesting projects in the no-budget Sci-Fi indie movie business. One of the most impressive is Jason Tomaric’s Cl.One. Made for a budget of only 25,000, Tomaric tapped into the power of mass collaboration to solicit help from half the city of Cleveland, Ohio. While I might have a number of issues with the movie itself, nobody viewing the effects and look of Cl.One would ever think they were produced on a shoestring. In short, the Tomaric was able to pull together a far more professional looking movie based on personality alone. In a Wired article, Tomaric guestimates that he received somewhere between 1.7 to 2 million in free goods and services. The tagline for this movie is “3,000 extras. 48 locations. 650 digital effects…. Made by one kid out of his parents’ basement.” Count me as impressed!

     

    Cl.One screen capture

     

    The Story: Due to a horrible nuclear world war, the last vestiges of humanity can no longer procreate. The damage caused by radiation has genetically mutated the remaining inhabitants. So now, humanity exists in pockets of globed cities that are administered in a surveillance-type society mode. The cities are connected via a series of high—speed tunnel trains. The hope is that genetic research and cloning will offer a continuation of the species. Unfortunately, an anti-government resistance movement called Spectrum has also arisen.

     

    Cl.One screen capture

     

    Unfortunately, cloning seems to yield fully formed, but soul-less, mindless humans. In essence they are empty shells. To transform these clones into living beings, it is hypothesized that a human will be found who’s DNA has not been irradiated, and who’s genetic sequence will be an exact match needed to give life the clones. In doing so, humanity’s future will be restored.

     

    Cl.One screen capture

     

    Chancellor Derek Strombourg, the head New Athens who is beset by the loss of his only child who died due to radiation damage, has created a school of the best and brightest. But this is just a front for his real goal – to test all students with the hopes of finding the “one” – the one with the genetic match necessary to bring the dormant clones to life. After four years of searching, he finally has a match - Student Orin Stalward. To make this work, he has to initiate the experiment right at the moment that Stalward is planning on taking his own life. To make matters worse, Spectrum, the anti-government “terrorist” organization headed up by Joshua Adams is causing significant problems to Strombourg’s leadership, both in its attacks and in its intrusion into Orin’s life.

     

    Cl.One screen capture

     

    The Pacing and Story Issues: From a pacing standpoint, Cl.One starts off with an impressive “bang” and goes downhill from there. Cl.One is at best a very complicated story. I consider myself fairly astute at this point in picking up various cyberpunk themes and storylines, but still found that it took me two or three viewings just to get the jist of Cl.One’s basic plot (this is different from say, taking two or three viewings to “figure out the meaning” of movies like Oshii’s Avalon for instance). Adding to this is the relatively meandering pacing, where most of the story complications are narrated. If you aren’t awake enough to catch and assimilate a myriad of facts in seemingly innocuous dialogue moments, you’ll miss the meaning of the later scenes. In totality, the project doesn’t come together. There are a lot of interesting themes and ideas, but the execution falls short. Had they done this over, my suggestion would be to transform more story points into active story points versus narrating or orating them over a the first third of the movie. Even more problematic is the change in actor focus near the end of the movie – the “exciting mindfuck twist” finish at the end is always cool, but the change of context really muddies the overall experience.

     

    Cl.One screen capture

     

    The Acting: The acting in Cl.One is certainly nothing to write home about. Jeff St. Clair as Derek Strombourg is really the only one who delivers a consistent performance. That said, there are very few clunkers either. Nobody truly embarrass themselves, and you never really get the feeling you’re watching a cheesefest trainwreck. While this isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement, keep in mind that this cast is almost comprised completely of amateurs. Not even the director had any experience prior to this shoot. While there were few clunkers, there was also distinct lack of emotional “umph” that really detracted from the overall experience. The stilted, uneven dialogue dialogue contributes to this in that it really doesn’t give the cast much to work with. Everyone was playing their parts but the performances as a whole came off as flat, which reflected poorly on an already slow-paced flick.

     

    Cl.One screen capture

     

    The FX: One of the best ways to cut corners on low-to-no budget science fiction projects is the selection of interesting locations. Cl.One excels in transforming seemingly ordinary locations into cool science-fiction settings. In all, fourty-eight Cleveland locations where used, including a nuclear power plant, a jail and Nasa locations. But perhaps the most interesting was the laboratory, which was created in a beer brewery. While one or two of the FX scenes look cheap (primarily the train sequence), the majority of the CG used in this Cl.One worked wonderfully. The FX and overall production values were generally what you would expect from a professional film, not a no-budget indie flick. Cl.One creates a look similar to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, in that the entire film has been sent through digitized color filtering. While the overall look was professional, it served to drab-down the picture, which didn’t work well when combined with flat acting and slow pacing.

     

    Cl.One screen capture

     

    Blank Clone Bodies? One of the “take on faith” science points that Cl.One asks the viewer to swallow is the idea that they can make cloned bodies which are “blank” – meaning they have no soul, no memories and no personalities. The big challenge involves figuring out how to make these blank bodies get magically filled by finding the right matching genetic sequence to give life to a thousand frozen embryos. . All sorts of questions that might go through your head are all bypassed – why can’t the way that cloning today works still work in the future? Also, if they have all this expertise at genetic engineering to the point that they “know” the match they need, why can’t they modify the genetic code prior to uploading? Even more problematic, if they are transferring DNA sequences, why does the state of the person whom the DNA is from matter (Orin needed to be suicidal for his thoughts to not transfer to the clones)? You can ask those questions if you buy-in to the idea that clones can be made without souls or thinking, etc. This is an extreme version of the blank-slate approach, one which is nonsensical on its face, and one which they provide absolutely no rationale for in the narrative.

     

    Cl.One screen capture

     

    The Bottom Line: Cl.One has some terrific things going for it, but in the end, I like the background story of its production far more than I like the movie itself. Truly, I absolutely loved the “making of” featurette. That large segments of Cleveland pitched in for free to make this movie is a crowing achievement, one which should be celebrated. In orchestrating this dynamic, Jason Tomaric shows himself to be a true film making talent. And while the lighting and production values are high quality, the movie itself just doesn’t come together. The score is way too emotional and dominating when matched with the scenes, the actor performances and dialogue. The story doesn’t hold together, and the “twist” near the end makes you seriously question the character focus choices throughout the movie. On a positive note, the lighting and visuals were consistently interesting. Because of this and the background of the production, I would recommend Cl.One to anyone interesting in indie Sci-Fi flicks.

     

    This post has been filed under Security-Surveillance State, Memory Modification, Dystopic Future Movies, 5 Star Rated Movies, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 - 2009 by SFAM.

    Movie Review By: SFAM

    Year: 2004

    Directed by: Hiroki Yamaguchi

    Written by: Hiroki Yamaguchi

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

    Key Cast Members:

    • Luchino: Luchino Fujisaki
    • Elevator Operator: Ninalada Mochiduki
    • Business Man: Viblio Sawatsukumori
    • Housewife: Alamocia Nakaji
    • Headphone Guy: Nocosh Utsunomiya
    • Serial Rapist (prisoner): Zitacock Obitani
    • Bomber (prisonor): Calpico Teranouchi
    Rating: 7 out of 10

     


    Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap

     

    Overview: One thing I love about Indie movies is the opportunity for complete originality. Indie director Hiroki Yamaguchi delivers a strange, but very well made micro-budget movie that is truly unique. From viewing the extras, virtually every part of the set was designed by searching through junkyards for throw-offs. Similar to the Cube, Hellevator: The Bottled Fools largely takes place on a single set. Similar to Brazil, the world of Hellevator is a bizarrely dystopic surveillance society where things just don’t seem to work right. Nobody got paid who worked on this, but you wouldn’t know it from the quality. Hellevator definitely has its own feel.

     

    Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap

     

    The Setting: Hellevator takes place in a non-specific dystopic near future, where a colony of people have long ago decided to move underground. While some aspects of life clearly involve advanced technologies, there is a strong analog, mechanistic component to society. Now, all life takes place in a very large megalopolis comprised of a set of very large levels and tunnels. Life is fully governed by an omnipresent security force, who have cameras in all key locations. Over 130 levels in all, each has a specific purpose. Some have hospitals or schools, others are power centers, and Level 99 is the prison ward. Because everything is underground, issues related to air quality are at a premium. Smoking is illegal, and merits a death sentence. To get from each level, people use these very large, mechanical elevators.

     

    Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap

     

    The Story: The beginning of Hellevator starts off with a television report of a set of explosions on Level 138, which ends up killing over 100 people. The police have pegged a few suspects of causing this crime, both of which ended up stuck on an elevator which malfunctioned during the explosion. Flashback to Luchino (played by Luchino Fujisaki) who is a troubled teen-age girl living on Level 138 who is on her way to school, which is on Level 4. She has a penchant for rebelling against the system and starts her day by illegally purchasing cigarettes from a drug dealer. Unfortunately, she almost gets caught, and ends up leaving her still burning cigarette butt at the power center near a set of flammable fluid containers.

     

    Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap

     

    Luchino gets on the elevator to take her to level 4, which is where the rest of the story takes place. On each floor, new people get on while others leave. Eventually when the elevator gets past 110, the elevator operator announces that they have entered the “express mode” – no more stops should occur for a long time. At this point, the elevator is holding the white-gloved elevator operator (Ninalada Mochiduki), a business man (Viblio Sawatsukumori), a woman with a baby carriage (Alamocia Nakaji), a quite guy with headphones (Nocosh Utsunomiya) and Luchino. Unfortunately, the elevator is force-stopped at level 99, the prison level. Two prisoners, one a bomber (Calpico Teranouchi), and the other a serial rapist (played wonderfully by Zitacock Obitani) get on with a very unstable young prison guard. Shortly afterwards, the explosion on Level 138 occurs. This causes the elevator to malfunction, and the small group is now stranded.

     

    Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap

     

    The malfunctioned elevator becomes a powder keg for runaway paranoia. The prison guard starts to lose it, and through a strange sequence of events, causes the prisoners to become free. The rapist quickly beats the guard to a pulp, which ends with a sequence where he takes a bite out of the guard’s neck. From there the prisoners sadistically start to impose their will on the beleaguered elevator participants. The rapist starts to do his thing on the elevator operator and eventually starts kicking Luchino. Luchino starts to have flashbacks of times when her father abused her similarly - Luchino eventually snaps. She picks up the gun and starts to repeatedly shoot the bomber prisoner.

     

    Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap

     

    From there, the story devolves into a repetitive set of sequential events which cause various people on the elevator to lose control. Some result in murders while others result in interesting character expositions. Throughout, the mood is high tension paranoia. Eventually, the THX-1138-like guards break the remaining few left alive. The story then connects back to the police detective, who is in the process of interviewing those that survived the elevator trip. The ending, not discussed here, provides a different take on the world which this future takes place.

     

    Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap

     

    The Acting: The acting in Hellevator is far better than one would expect in a movie where nobody was getting paid. Luchino Fujisaki turns in a solid performance as a person devolving back into psychosis. Zitacock Obitani is terrific as an extremely bizarre serial rapist, and almost makes the movie a must-watch all by himself. The rest of the cast works. The only stand-out lousy performance is turned in by the blond haired prisoner guard, but he doesn’t last long enough to matter.

     

    Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap

     

    The Cinematography: Hellevator, uses two omnipresent color schemes: within the elevator, everything is dingy yellows and greens. For the police interrogation scenes, everything is dark blue. Yamaguchi makes liberal use of perspective shots, sometimes involving fish-eye lenses, and frequently looking down or up at the participants. In short, Yamaguchi makes the most of a very limited budget and set. He even throws in a Matrix slo-mo shot that was apparently filmed with a single camera.

     

    Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap

     

    System Service Staff as Robots: In Hellevator, the elevator lady acts completely robotic until the convicts break things. Her overt disposition is of a person who never gets rattled, never intimates a personal connection, and never changes her demeanor regardless of the surroundings. In a sense, she is the perfect employee for the underground megalopolis. Similar to movies like Brazil or 1984, the elevator lady represents the humans as machines metaphor. In this view, we are nothing more than a single redundant part – a cog in a massive machine. For the ideal system employee, individualism has been quashed in favor of ritualized, repeatable routines.

     

    Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap

     

    Telepathy: Hellevator does a good job of integrating telepaths into its strange world. The majority of the people are normal, and do not recognize the telepaths. In Hellevator, the Telepaths are able to notice when another uses their sensory perception. What makes Yamaguchi’s view of telepath’s somewhat interesting is he also touches on their ability to see others’ memories. This leads to some interesting flashbacks of others’ experiences on the elevator. More interesting though is the fact that Luchino’s personal psychosis colors her views of the others’ memories. This turns reading thoughts into something far less precise, and in the end makes it more believable.

     

    Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap

     

    Repression Exposed by Extreme Psychological Pressure: Hellevator explores extreme psychological pressures on a group of already unstable people. Everyone stuck on the elevator is hiding something significant about themselves. The businessman is potentially a bioterrorist; the woman with the crib is hiding groceries instead of a baby, and the quiet guy in the corner is masquerading as a cop. Luchino had been abused by her father to the point that she eventually flipped and killed him. She has since repressed her issues but when placed in a similar circumstance, Luchino responds similarly and goes on to murder one of the convicts. Her perception of reality starts to bear little resemblance to the rest. The robotic elevator woman turns into an emotional basket case. Although this is a fully reasonable reaction to an attempted rape, the contrast shown is with her earlier robotic persona. In fact, everyone, when thrown into this circumstance acts in wholly strange ways.

     

    Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap

     

    The Bottom Line: If you like Extreme Japanese Cyberpunk movies, Hellevator: The Bottled Fools is well worth a watch. There’s quite a bit of blood and gore, but not when compared to some of the more extreme straight Japanese horrors. The plot is pretty straightforward once the movie gets moving – I would have wished for a bit more interplay between the plot points. Also, there are a number of plot points which were touched on as significant, but were never completed. But overall, the movie is original and interesting. Little throwaways like the child’s pet brain only add to the fun. Yamaguchi and crew really make the most of their set and the overall shoot. This one will stay with you for a few days.

     

    Page 2: More Screencaps –>>

     

    This post has been filed under Dystopic Future Movies, Security-Surveillance State, Horror, 7 Star Movies, Japanese Cyberpunk, Surreal Cyberpunk Movies, Good low-budget movies, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 - 2009 by SFAM.

    March 16, 2007

    Sneakers

    Movie Review By: Mr. Roboto

    Year: 1992

    Directed by: Phil Alden Robinson

    Written by: Phil Alden Robinson, Lawrence Lasker, Walter F. Parkes

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Low

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium

    Key Cast Members:

    • Martin Bishop (”Marty”): Robert Redford
    • Donald Crease: Sidney Poitier
    • Erwin Emory (”Whistler”): David Strathairn
    • “Mother”: Dan Akroyd
    • Carl Arbegast: River Phoenix
    • Liz: Mary McDonnell
    • Cosmo: Ben Kingsley
    Rating: 8 out of 10


    Sneakers opening

    December 1969: Marty and Cosmo just helped the Republicans make a donation to the Black Panthers. Right on!

     

    OVERVIEW: Martin Bryce is a fugitive since December 1969 when he left for pizza while his friend, Cosmo, was arrested for their hacking activities. Now living as Martin Bishop, he leads a “tiger team” that tests security systems. Two men claiming to be from the NSA want to hire Marty’s team to retrieve a “black box” developed by a brilliant mathematician for a project called “SETEC Astronomy.” They succeed in retrieving the box, but when they discover what it is, that’s when the real danger begins…

     

    Note: Not an actual screen shot. Animation of key Scrabble moment in movie.
    NOT ACTUAL SCENE

    Remember: When playing Scrabble on Monterey’s Coast, keep score on My Socrates Note or you’ll end up with Cootys Rat Semen!

     

    Sneakers is an intellectual cyber-caper movie that features an all-star cast with a slick production. There’s little question about this being a great movie to watch…

     

    … But is it cyberpunk?: Some might question whether Sneakers qualifies as a cyberpunk movie. Other cyberpunk sites do list it as such, but does it make the grade here? Let’s compare it to SFAM’s idea of what makes a movie cyberpunk:

    • Negative impact of technology on humanity: The “black box” is capable of breaking the most secure encryption codes without the need for a key. Whoever has this device can essentially read any e-mail, site, or whatever they want, without needing a decryption key. Sound pretty negative to me.
    • Fusion of man and machine: In literal terms, no such fusion occurs here. The closest would be Whistler using his braille terminal, though one might say that Marty’s team does work like a well-tuned machine.
    • Corporate control over society: Things are a bit hazy here. While there’s no such control apparent, one can imagine what the wrong people can do with the “black box.”
    • Story focuses on the underground: Mary and Cosmo are hackers from the 60s. Cosmo works with organized crime (”Don’t kid yourself. It’s not that organized.”), and Marty’s team is mostly made from people who got into trouble with some type of technical activity.
    • Ubiquitous access to information: The ability to decrypt and read any site or message. ‘Nuff said.
    • Visuals and style: Being set in modern San Francisco (circa 1992) makes it impossible to depict a near future, but there are scenes where single colors and contrasting schemes are apparent: The red brick of the team’s office during the Scrabble scene, the darkness of Marty’s ride in the trunk of a car, Cosmo’s bluish office with the bright white “soundproof” room.

      The movie itself has an intelligent style that often make viewers think about the consequences of the “black box” decrypter, politics, privacy, and the role of the NSA.

     

    The Bottom Line: This is definitely one that needs to be in your collection alongside WarGames. It’s a fun, intelligent, and even humorous (sometimes darkly humorous) adventure into our privacy at stake. As to whether it can be called cyberpunk…

    WHO CARES?

    You’ll definitely like watching Sneakers and trying to decide for yourself

    And while you watch this gem, keep this almost Matrix-like observation in mind:
    Reunion

    “… I learned that everything in this world, including money, operates not on reality. — But the perception of reality.”

     

    Page 2: More Screencaps –>>

     

    This post has been filed under Security-Surveillance State, 8 Star Movies, Hacker Movies, Cyberpunk movies from 1990 - 1999 by Mr. Roboto.

    February 27, 2007

    Gattaca

    Movie Review By: SFAM

    Year: 1997

    Directed by: Andrew Niccol

    Written by: Andrew Niccol

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Medium

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

    Key Cast Members:

  • Vincent Freeman: Ethan Hawke
  • Jerome Eugene Morrow: Jude Law
  • Irene Cassini: Uma Thurman
  • Rating: 8 out of 10


    Gattaca Screen Capture

     

    Overview: Director Andrew Niccol explores the potential horrors of genetic engineering in Gattaca. Originally seen as a flop, taking in only 12 million on a 36 million dollar budget, Gattaca has developed a loyal following from cable and DVD viewings. Whether or not people find this movie enjoyable or believable, virtually everyone agrees that Gattaca is quality film. Viewers will definitely notice a well paced movie that’s wonderfully acted in artfully composed scenes.

     

    Gattaca Screen Capture

     

    The Setting: In an unspecified near future time frame, genetic engineering has altered the course of society. Genetic engineering is employed to remove all major defects when conceiving. Upon birth, each new-born baby is given a Genetic Quotient (G.Q.) that details their potential risk areas, including heart issues and susceptibility to diseases. Some couples still ignore the genetic engineering of children and instead go for a “faith birth” – one where potential defects in the baby are left to chance. Unfortunately, these “faith” children now grow up in a world where their genetic pedigree significantly reduces their opportunities. A surveillance society is now in place where people are divided into having either “valid” and “in-valid” status. Highly sought after jobs are only available to those with “valid” status, while “in-valids” are left to handle the menial tasks of society.

     

    Gattaca Screen Capture

     

    Ethan Hawke plays a flawed “faith birth” named Vincent Freeman who dreams of becoming an astronaut. Vincent is particularly flawed, and is predicted to have a 99% chance of heart failure by age 30. All but the most menial jobs are out of reach for “de-gene-erits” like Vincent, and he is told by both is parents and his genetically engineered brother to lower his expectations. But Vincent decides to defy the odds. Vincent seeks out shady characters in the underclass who put him in contact with wheel chair-bound Jerome (Jude Law), a person with an almost perfect GQ score, who broke his back in a car accident. Jerome agrees to give Vincent urine and blood samples so that he can assume Jerome’s identity and bypass the security measures in place at Gattaca, the huge aerospace corporation.

     

    Gattaca Screen Capture

     

    Vincent succeeds in fooling Gattaca personnel with the urine and blood samples, and by almost neurotically ensuring that any genetic tissue of his will not be left behind. He scrubs his body daily to remove excess skin cells or loose hairs, and constantly cleans his office space and keyboard to ensure there is no material left behind other than planted samples from Jerome. Due to his immense personal drive, Vincent quickly climbs the ranks of the organization. He is put on a project to design a year-long flight to one of Saturn’s moons.

     

    Gattaca Screen Capture

     

    Vincent’s dreams are almost coming true, but just as quickly his dreams are jeopardized when the lead flight director is horribly murdered – unfortunately the investigation has turned up one of Vincent’s “in-valid” eyelashes. Worse, his brother Anton is heading up the investigation. Complicating matters further, Vincent has fallen for a fellow Gattaca employee named Irene (Uma Thurman). Irene’s GQ is not good enough for flight, and has accepted her lesser standing in society. Ethan must escape the investigation while still keeping his astronaut and love life dreams alive.

     

    Gattaca Screen Capture

     

    The Acting: Gattaca boasts a terrific cast in which all key roles are wonderfully delivered. Ethan Hawke provides us with a terrific flawed but inspired faith child. Jude Law is just as good as the crippled GQ has-been, and Uma Thurman performs solidly in a supporting role as the love interest who has given up hope for fulfilling her dreams. The rest of the cast is also solid, including Alan Arkin as a beat cop, and William Lee Scott as Vincent’s brother. Along with solid pacing, the quality of the acting allow us to overlook some of the more problematic aspects of the story.

     

    Gattaca Screen Capture

     

    The Visuals: Gattaca goes for an understated, high-tech view of the future, where we are only treated to the higher echelons of society. Director Andrew Niccol plays with a number of oppressive color schemes to give us a dystopic vibe. Yellows and blacks are constantly employed, as are dull blue-grays to provide us a sense of hopelessness and inevitability. Greens and sleek, shiny charcoal grays are employed to convey the high-tech nature of society. Niccol and Cinematographer Slawomir Idziak consistently provide us with well composed shots and artistic visuals and set pieces that take in a range of lighting and shadows effects.

     

    Gattaca Screen Capture

     

    Surveillance Society Through Genetic Profiling: The vision of a domineering surveillance society we see in Gattaca may be more relevant now than when it was released in 1997. In thinking through a variety of policy options, the United States is currently debating the trade-offs between public safety and personal privacy. Worse, the technology surrounding our personal genetic code is right around the corner that will give insurance companies information on predilections we have toward certain diseases. It is hardly a stretch to imagine corporations and insurance companies engaging in genetic profiling within the next ten years or so. In that sense, Gattaca cuts to the heart of the issue – even though percentages may suggest clear issues with the majority of a population, there will still be outliers like Vincent. Gattaca tells us that personal drive can still overcome genetic superiority.

     

    Gattaca Screen Capture

     

    Genetics Is Overplayed: In many ways, Gattaca is a one trick pony in that it examines a world where genetic profiling drives virtually every aspect of society. While the vision is motivating, we are left wondering why extreme advances in genetics don’t lead to improvements in medical care. For instance, a prediction upon birth that a heart has a 99% of failure by age 30 is based on an assumption medical treatments will remain static. For the viewer to buy this vision of the future, we must believe that society has given up on the long-standing notion that technology can cure all ills. On a lesser scale, one wonders why a corporation as powerful as the Gattaca Corporation cannot figure a more streamlined method of ensuring the loyalty of their employees – one wonders who any work is ever done considering the employees seem to spent a significant amount of time verifying their identity and drug free status through the daily gauntlet of surveillance testing.

     

    Gattaca Screen Capture

     

    The Bottom Line: Gattaca is a very well made film that provides us a valuable cautionary tale into how genetic engineering abuses could lead to significant societal maladies. The pacing, acting and cinematography are all of consistently high quality. That said, the world of Gattaca isn’t as coherent as I would have liked. We get no sense of the political implications of genetic profiling, nor do we see any innovations other than genetic engineering. In this sense the future setting is perhaps more simplistic than was necessary. Additionally, some of the plot points seem over-contrived. The last week of Vincent’s life prior to launch has too much going on (a new love interest, a murder investigation headed up by his brother, issues with Jerome), and there was probably a bit of overkill on the sentimental ending. That said, Gattaca is a great flick, and very much deserves a viewing.

     

    This post has been filed under Security-Surveillance State, Dystopic Future Movies, 8 Star Movies, Cyberpunk movies from 1990 - 1999 by SFAM.

    January 26, 2007

    Renaissance

    Movie Review By: SFAM

    Year: 2006

    Directed by: Christian Volckman

    Written by: Alexandre de La Patellière, Mathieu Delaporte, et al.

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Very High

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium

    Rating: 8 out of 10

     

    Renaissance Screen Capture

     

    Overview – Good luck in finding a copy! Once upon a time, Renaissance was one of my most anticipated movies of 2006. Originally released in France on March 15th, I eagerly awaited its September release in the US. My anticipation was heightened in that I was even contacted by Miramax representatives as part of a pre-hype blitz. So imagine my surprise when its release in the US only comprised a few select cities – unfortunately my city didn’t make the cut (thanks Miramax!). Similar to so many other good, but foreign science fiction and fantasy flicks, instead of getting a nice theatrical viewing, I was yet again forced wait and then later buy an import (or pirated – sometimes you just aren’t sure) DVD off of eBay. If you are in the US and are interested in seeing Renaissance, chances are you’re in the same boat. One would have hoped that a movie as visually stunning as Renaissance would have been at least able to quality for a DVD release, but clearly something larger is going on here as many other foreign genre films are in the same boat.

     

    Renaissance Screen Capture

     

    The Setting: In the year 2054, mega-corporations are all-powerful, with tentacles in all aspects of life. The divisions between rich (megacorps) and poor are greater than ever. Paris has grown in layers, with high-tech buildings pushing every further into the sky. Although the city is sleek and stylish, most people live a pathetic existence. In Paris, the Avalon Corporation rules the cityscapes. The police force is not immune from their pressures, and often become their lackeys.

     

    Renaissance Screen Capture

     

    The Story: When a promising young biogeneticist named Ilona (voiced by Romala Garai) from the Avalon Corporation is kidnapped, detective Barthélémy Karas (Daniel Craig) and his team are brought in to investigate. As Karas interviews all the key players, it becomes clear that this isn’t a simple missing person case, as the details of the disappearance become increasingly more bizarre and complicated. The Avalon corporation president, Dellenback (Jonathan Pryce), not known for his loyalty to his workers, is extremely interested in her return. Ilona’s bioengineering mentor has a strange past, and stopped doing research after an accident from 2006. Karas befriends Ilona’s older sister, Bislane (Catherine McCormack), who tells of a stolen book.

     

    Renaissance Screen Capture

     

    Similar to Howard Hawks’ “The Big Sleep” (1946), Karas spirals back and forth between the key players as more clues are provided. Karas uncovers a darker side of the Avalon Corporation, and of Ilona’s mentor, Dellenback. Furthermore, it appears that the secret to immortality has been discovered, and is tied to Ilona herself. As Karas and Bislane continue searching for Ilona, the list of enemies grows. The key players are getting offed, Karas is booted from the force, and is now in fear of his life. Worse, they are discovering that humanity itself may be at risk if Ilona is found.

     

    Renaissance Screen Capture

     

    The Characters: It’s not a stretch to say that virtually every character in Renaissance comes “cookie cutter” from the old noir movies, with a nice slice of traditional cyberpunk thrown in the mix. From the honest but jaded crusty cop with a soft spot to the megalomaniac mega-corporation leader, to the shady friend the cop goes to when he needs a favor to the femme fatale; don’t expect freshness, because it isn’t coming. Like the old noirs, everyone in Renaissance is flawed; everyone is gray – which does make for an interesting contrast when transposed on such stark black and white animation.

     

    Renaissance Screen Capture

     

    The Atmosphere: While the story falls short, the look of Renaissance fully original and is flat-out amazing. If Renaissance is best described as style over substance, the style really comes STRONG to the party. Stark black and whites dominate virtually every shot. Shadows are in abundance, and usually highlight the main action points. Gray is used sparingly, and is usually applied to change the mood of the scene. To its credit, Volckman succeeds at creating a near-future world that is deeply flawed but not overly futuristic. The cityscapes are incredibly detailed, and give the impression that there are always a bevy of interesting happenings occurring. A transparent glass-like substance is now used to make walkways above and below the roads – this more than anything creates a sleek, near-future ambience. The stark black and white look of Renaissance works well both in the daylight and evening shots, both having shadows prominently placed in virtually every frame.

     

    Renaissance Screen Capture

     

    Traditional cyberpunk conventions are often applied, including huge billboards of beautiful women that extol the virtues of the Avalon Corporation. Avalon fills the role of the dominating mega-corporation that owns and controls virtually everything in Paris. Nothing is beyond their grasp. The police are on their payroll, and the entire city appears to be under surveillance. Immortality, derived through advances in bioengineering (initially undertaken by a Japanese scientist) is the dominating technology intended to challenge God’s position over humanity.

     

    Renaissance Screen Capture

     

    Similarities with Sin City: Volckman stated he was interested in creating a visual feel similar to what one might get when looking at a painting. In terms of what was produced, yes, the look is definitely similar, but Renaissance is not copying Sin City. Although Sin City came out first, Renaissance started its production far before Sin City. In terms of look, Renaissance really does match very closely with the Sin City graphic novels – more so than Sin City in fact. But while it also is a neo-noir, the dialogue and mood of Renaissance is far more like a corporate espionage version of a standard 40s detective noir (think “The Big Sleep” with corporations instead of the mob), whereas Sin City had more of a hyper-real, over-the-top neo-noir feel.

     

    Renaissance Screen Capture

     

    The Animation: Using an innovative motion-capture to rotoscope approach, where 24 cameras are used when shooting the actors, Volckman was able to work on the framing and viewpoint well after the shoot was complete, and then paint on the black and white animation. Unlike Linklater’s rotoscoping, where the actors’ faces and body appear to be constantly shifting, the level of precision used in Renaissance is significantly higher. When moving, the sprite’s actions are incredibly human-looking. There is a slight lag though when they first take action – a noticeable lag that’s slower than you would expect a person’s actions to be.

     

    Renaissance Screen Capture

     

    The Technology: While the basic story for Renaissance is straight cyberpunk neo-noir, the technology options provided are numerous and fairly interesting. Most visually arresting was the Holodeck sphere prison where Ilona is kept. Karas had a very advanced cybernetic eye implant that allowed him to identify people through solid objects – it also was able to be hacked by Avalon, the Mega-corporation. Computers are slick, now often just the size of a pen with a virtual display that arises upon command. Biotechnological modifications are in vogue, although not at the level of Ghost in the Shell. Similar to Motoko’s invisibility suit, the goons at Avalon have similar suits, although they look more like the soldiers in Jin-Roh than they do the hawt, naked Motoko. Holograms are now used in combination with pictures to remember people and events – in some cases, holograms interact with their human counterparts.

     

    Renaissance Screen Capture

     

    Do you Want to Live Forever? One thesis of Renaissance is the notion that immortality, if invented, would destroy humanity. Not a lot of backing is provided for this idea, but the idea put forward is that this irrevocable change in the hands of a mega-corporation would provide a method of control so powerful that society would no longer function. This is all the more interesting in that some are predicting that humanity will have the equivalent of immortality within the next 50 years. If this comes to pass, will the possibility of immortality be distributed evenly or will this be a tool of domination similar to in Renaissance?

     

    Renaissance Screen Capture

     

    The Bottom Line: Although the story and characters are not original, the animation and overall cinematography is both innovative and outstanding, and should not be missed. There is truly something unique in the look here that you just won’t find anywhere else. The voice and motion acting are more than passable and Nicholas Dodd’s score provides a wonderful combination of a 007 espionage flick with the haunting eeriness of the score from Stargate. As icing on the cake, the science, technology and architecture exhibited in Renaissance will make you think. It may be hard to find, but it’s well worth the time spent looking for it.

     

    Page 2, More Screencaps–>

     

    ~See movies similar to this one~

    This post has been filed under Utopia Surrounded by Poverty, Security-Surveillance State, Dystopic Future Movies, 8 Star Movies, Animes, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 - 2009 by SFAM.

    November 14, 2006

    Equilibrium

    Movie Review By: SFAM

    Year: 2002

    Directed by: Kurt Wimmer

    Written by: Kurt Wimmer

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium

    Key Cast Members:

  • Cleric John Preston: Christian Bale
  • Dupont: Angus Macfadyen
  • Errol Partridge: Sean Bean
  • Brandt: Taye Diggs
  • Jürgen: William Fichtner
  • Mary O’Brien: Emily Watson
  • Rating: 8 out of 10

     

    Equilibrium Screen Capture

     

    Overview: Equilibrium is one of those movies that most everyone who knows of it has only seen it on DVD. Essentially thrown away by its studio, Equilibrium, created for a budget just over 20 million was given no dollars for marketing and made less than a million at the box office. But don’t let that sway you into thinking this movie is a piece of trash. Equilibrium has become a cult DVD hit. Made in Eastern Germany portion of Berlin, Equilibrium looks lots more substantial than the 20 million that went into it. Due to some terrific location choices, Equilibrium shines with a polish of a movie made for at least twice that budget. This, plus high quality acting and at least a modicum of interesting thought raise Equilibrium up from the pop-FX action-fest that it otherwise might have become.

     

    Equilibrium Screen Capture

     

    The Setting: Set sometime in the 21st century, after a massive nuclear war has wiped out the majority of the human race, a 1984 style society has emerged after a method of full population control was discovered. The entire population is now given a daily dose of a drug called of Prozium. Prozium removes all semblances of emotion, and leaves the populace docile and controlled. Exhibiting emotion is now considered the greatest of all crimes, and is punishable by death. The all-knowing, all-controlling “Father” has constructed a group of supra-police called “clerics” who spend their time seeking out “sense offenders” and burning all remnants of the old way.

     

    Equilibrium Screen Capture

     

    The Story: Cleric John Preston (starring Christian Bale) is among the best cleric enforcers. Along with his partner, Errol Partridge (Sean Bean), they spend their days burning heretical artifacts like the Mona Lisa and bringing sense offenders in for processing – a euphemism for baking people in a large oven. Unfortunately, Partridge has begun to have doubts about society, and has apparently stopped taking the drug. After Preston finds out and kills him, Partridge’s final thoughts compel Preston to revisit his own personal history in which he showed no emotions as his wife was burned for sense making. Preston begins to question the intense surveillance society.

     

    Equilibrium Screen Capture

     

    In tracking down Partridge’s lover (Emily Watson), Preston’s world finally crumbles. Now he realizes he has presided over the destruction of humanity, and can no longer continue. Unfortunately, Dupont (Angus Macfadyen), the mouthpiece of the Father and leader of the Clerics has asked Preston to infiltrate the remainder of the resistance in order to crush them once and for all. But Preston is actually approached by the resistance leader, Jürgen (William Fichtner) who has noticed his recent spate of emotion. While Preston is still conflicted, Jürgen tries to enlist Preston in destroying the Father. Even worse, Preston’s ambitious new partner, Brandt (Taye Diggs) strongly suspects Preston of becoming a sense offender.

     

    Equilibrium Screen Capture

     

    The Acting: The acting in Equilibrium is top notch. For my money, the best performance is turned in by Sean Bean, who, while only on screen for a brief time, really hammers home the essence of the message Equilibrium is conveying. But truly, all the main cast is terrific. Bale does a very good job in going through a conversion in losing his faith, while Fichtner, Macfadyen, Diggs and Watson all really add real believability to a somewhat forced story. Truly, the acting sets Equilibrium above a better than average genre movie to something really worth watching.

     

    Equilibrium Screen Capture

     

    The Action - GunKata: Gunkata is Kurt Wimmer’s newly invented martial art – gun combat in close quarters. The idea is that body positioning and fluid movements, along with an intense understanding of one’s opponents’ most likely actions will allow the Gunkata master – Clerics, in Equilibrium – to be close to unstoppable. Many times in Equilibrium, Preston goes into a room LOADED of bad guys and wipes them all out. Does it look in the least realistic? Not at all, but it does look cool. The action sequences are hectic by design, but are always well planned out and executed. Even if you could care less about the message, if you like gun fighting, Equilibrium is for you!

     

    Equilibrium Screen Capture

     

    The Visuals: The color of the day for Equilibrium is black, gray and occasionally white. Virtually everything is in black with brief highlights. This makes the instances where other colors are used, such as Preston’s Bruce Lee white outfit near the end of the picture, or the yellow sunset as seeming enormously more significant than they normally would seem. The other dominant theme is squared off architecture. Everything here is comprised of right angles to emphasize the controlled, boxed-in feel of the society. Even worse, the only prominent place that a circle appears is the processing factory, where sense-offenders are burned. Wimmer uses his most excellent set selections to optimal effect. The Cinematography choices always go for high shadows and contrasts, and usually come from interesting angles and contexts. Without trying to resort to high-tech wizardry, the world Wimmer ultimately creates is believable and otherworldly.

     

    Equilibrium Screen Capture

     

    Centralized Control and the Surveillance Society: While the message is often obscured by the slick visuals and action sequences, Equilibrium’s basis is right out of the Metropolis, 1984 model. In looking at a situation where humanity has gone awry, the corrective procedure is one which divorces people from that which makes them human – their emotions. In this model, emotion control leads to thought control, which yields a smooth, functioning society. The warning is clear – if we move down a road that involves giving up our personal freedom, the danger is that we lose our technology. If I were to point out quibbles with this, the idea of the single, evil genius behind all of everything bad lessons the impact. The message conveyed is that society slowly made the choice to go this route – it would have been better to see remnants of that choice still guiding the society versus the simple “glorious leader” bad guy.

     

    Equilibrium Screen Capture

     

    Is There Any Relevance to Today’s World? While only briefly mentioned by Sean Bean’s character, Partridge discusses the “trade off” that humanity made. In exchange for security and stability, they agreed to trade away their freewill. One gets the sense that this was a slow process at first, but which picked up dramatically once centralized control was present. While it’s a far stretch to imagine an emotion blocker being instituted, if we imagine freewill as a sliding scale, its clear that the debate between our personal freedoms and societal security measures are clashing right now. One can only imagine how much greater support the security side would be if in fact a nuclear conflict did break out. Unfortunately, this too is becoming far more likely – in 20 years, we can certainly envision that the number of groups and governments in possession of nuclear material will be far greater than today. The risk isn’t just that a small group of terrorists will use it. Unfortunately, pre-emption of conflict by larger countries could also lead to such a response. In short, as the concern for security and stability are greater, the pressure to impact personal freedoms will grow. If this isn’t a key ingredient for the creation of a cyberpunked world, I don’t know what would be.

     

    Equilibrium Screen Capture

     

    Is Equilibrium Cyberpunk? This is an open question at some level, but I’ve come down on the “yes” side (obviously, as its reviewed here) for three reasons. First, in Equilibrium, centralized control dominates all “above ground” communication, while the horizontal control is the domain of the rebels. We don’t really see any instances of an internet, but we know it exists in some form, based on the rebel leader Jürgen’s comments. The only true downer from a cyberpunk control standpoint is the book used to record contraband – gimme a break, Wimmer! The second reason is the drug, Prozium. The bio-engineered drugs serve as a dominating form of technology that serves to dehumanize society. Until we separate out “Biopunk” movies from Cyberpunk, Equilibrium belongs here. Thirdly, the visuals TRULY fit into a post-Matrix cyberpunk visual style. Without hearing a lick of dialogue, if you only saw the visuals, you might consider sticking Equilibrium into the cyberpunk bucket.

     

    Equilibrium Screen Capture

     

    The Bottom Line: Equilibrium makes the most of its 20 million dollar budget. Truly, after watching it, most people are shocked to find out how little was spent on making Equilibrium. From an execution standpoint, everything fits like a sleeck black glove. From the well integrated and motivating score, to the high quality acting, to the even pacing, Equilibrium works to create a very believable mood. On top of this, Equilibrium’s action is hot shit! Wimmer’s creation of GunKata - a new martial arts for close-combat gunfighting is interesting and innovative. However, the story itself is still a stretch, as is the believability of the Gunkata. In the end though, this is really a minor quibble, as the end product is intelligent enough to cause you to ponder while engaging enough to keep you entertained.

     

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    This post has been filed under Security-Surveillance State, 8 Star Movies, Good low-budget movies, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 - 2009 by SFAM.

    August 25, 2006

    Cyborg 2087

    Movie Review By: SFAM

    Year: 1966

    Directed by: Franklin Adreon

    Written by: Arthur C. Pierce

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Low

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

    Key Cast Members:

  • Gareth A7: Michael Rennie
  • Dr. Karen Mason: Karen Steele
  • Rating: 4 out of 10

     

    Cyborg 2087 Screen Capture

     

    Overview: On its face, Cyborg 2087 sounds like the plot for the terminator: this guy from a dystopic future comes back to the past to stop the development of a new technology with lots of promise, that ends up destroying humanity as we know it; unfortunately, he is chased by these cyborg things who are bent on stopping him. While there are certainly some similarities, the differences are perhaps broader. Aside from the obvious budget differences, the plot in Cyborg 2087 involves a cyborg returning from the future versus a man, and he’s not trying to perform a “retroactive abortion,” he is doing something similar to Sarah Conner in T2 – he wants to stop the technology from being released at that time.

     

    Cyborg 2087 Screen Capture

     

    The Story Genius scientist Professor Sigmund Marx has created a technology that allows us to guide other people and influence their thoughts. Unfortunately, it turns out that this technology will be subverted by the government and military to engage in mass thought control of the population. In the future, humanity’s freewill has been crushed. Now a race of cyborgs have taken control to maintain stability. A small group of freedom fighters has come upon a method for restoring humanity. They have created a time machine, and intend to send back a cyborg who has had his “control” chip removed – the goal of which is to convince Professor Marx to abandon his experiment, or in worse case, to kill him.

     

    Cyborg 2087 Screen Capture

     

    The cyborg, Gareth A7 (played by Michael Rennie of Day the Earth Stood Still), doesn’t have access to all his technology when he was sent back. Worse, he has a homing beacon implanted in him that will lead the killer cyborgs, called tracers, right to him. He happens upon Professor Marx’s assistant, Dr. Sharon Mason (Karen Steele), and uses the perfected form of Marx’s technology to overwhelm her freewill and force her to assist him. From there it’s a race. The bad cyborgs from the future have arrived and are sporting killer ray guns. Gareth and Sharon must find the professor and convince him prior to the killer cyborgs finding him.

     

    Cyborg 2087 Screen Capture

     

    The Acting: The acting in Cyborg 2087 is fairly sub par. Aside from Michael Rennie, who I just enjoy seeing in another flick, the rest of the cast really falls short. Karen Steele over-emotes, as does her secondary love interest, Harey Carey Jr. The tracers are particularly bad, as are most of the bit characters. The Sheriff, played by Wendell Corey, while over the top, is at least well done. The bottom line here, with a budget as low as this one was, the only way Cyborg 2087 could have worked is if the acting paid off – unfortunately it didn’t.

     

    Cyborg 2087 Screen Capture

     

    The FX: Cyborg 2087 is very low budget, so we can’t expect much in the way of realistic effects. The extent of fanciness here involves making something disappear by taking another shot with the object removed. The ray guns have the cheesy thick white light look, and the outfits are anything but high tech. The opening shot of the futuristic city, which is nothing more than a painting, is at least interesting from the standpoint that it shows you what people in the sixties thought our futuristic cities would look like. At best, Cyborg 2087 tries for the cyberpunk western look, but this too is problematic. Perhaps the worst part of the FX deals with the tracers, who are heavyset guys running around in fake US army costumes. They really coulda spent at least a buck or two to buy an extra who at least was in shape. On top of this, the cartoonish sounding score is especially atrocious. If there were any quality scenes in this movie, the score ensures that they won’t be noticed.

     

    Cyborg 2087 Screen Capture

     

    Cyborgs: In Cyborg 2087, we are told that the cyborgs are a combination of man and machine, but we really don’t get much more of a breakdown than that. We know that they have wide open spaces in their bodies, and that they have the power of five or six men. Basically, the model we get here is of regular people that basically work like simple computers, and are able to have various computer chips embedded in them. In the end, its not a very believable view of cyborgs, and isn’t even a consistent one. We are told that cyborgs have no emotion, but somehow, Gareth falls in love with Sharon. The movie would have worked so much better had he let her die near the end versus what did happen (the heroic rescue).

     

    Cyborg 2087 Screen Capture

     

    The Bottom Line: Arthur Pierce’s script for Cyborg 2087 probably mostly decent (aside for the Hollywood happy ending factor), but unfortunately Franklin Adreon’s directing talents are not enough to bring it to a successful fruition. Far too frequently, Cyborg 2087 comes across as poorly done SciFi cheese. Again, had the acting been decent, one could easily overlook the low-qual FX. Unfortunately this is not the case. However, I did find it worthwhile to watch for one reason only – I loved Michael Rennie in the Day the Earth Stood Still, and really enjoyed seeing him in another flick. His acting is pretty much the same (Stoic, serious, impending doom looking demeanor), but at least we get to see him running around and performing action scenes.

     

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    This post has been filed under Security-Surveillance State, Time Travel, Man-machine Interface, 4 Star Movies, B Cyberpunk Cinema, Cyberpunk movies from before 1980 by SFAM.
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