April 6, 2006
Movie Review By: SFAM
Directed by: Neill Fearnley
Written by: Wynne McLaughlin
Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Low
Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium
Key Cast Members:
Overview: Some low-budget movies make it with a terrific story and just the right quality of effects; others come close; and others still get worried about not quite making it, so they decide to spew insane plot twists at the viewer in the hopes of increasing the tension. Unfortunately, Johnny 2.0 takes this tact. The movie was “teetering on the edge” of being decent, but fell off the wrong side. Instead of going with the stream of increasingly unbelievable plot twists, had they spent just a bit more on beefing up the story, Johnny 2.0 could have gotten some real kudos.
The Story: In the present, the experimentation with cloning begins to take off when scientist Johnny Dalton (Jeff Fahey) teams up with Frank Donahue (Michael Ironside) to create a small cloning start-up that has terrific potential. They are able to speed up the cloning process, and more surprisingly, are able to take an MRI scan of a person’s brain in a way that can record their entire set of memories. Unfortunately, anti-technology terrorists attack their complex and severely hurt Johnny, causing a massive, bleeding head injury.
Johnny wakes up later to find that almost 20 years have passed, and that he is no longer Johnny Dalton – he’s a clone. Now referred to as “Johnny 2.0,” Johnny’s memories extend only to the injury 20 years ago when he had a scan of his memory. Now, the earth has become a dystopia, where countries have broken down, and only the corporations exist to maintain order. Worse, the “real” Johnny Dalton has either been taken by terrorists, or worse, has joined them, and has taken all his research, including a software program that removes imperfections in clones. Now, unless Johnny 2.0 can find and return the original Johnny Dalton, his body will start to break down within the week!
While the story starts off in an interesting way, and generally keeps a decent pacing, as things get tense, instead of resolving things in an innovative way, the viewer is continually assaulted with the most extreme plot twists. OK, one or maybe two might work, but Johnny 2.0 just doesn’t know when to leave well enough alone. Worse, in key scenes the rationale for certain characters starts to resemble the massive space invasion force surrounding Naboo in The Phantom Menace – they all seemingly took a lunch break when the counter attack came, leaving only one ship to defend their forces. When all is said and done, it’s simply not possible to suspend disbelief.
Johnny 2.0 Clone Technology Musings: For all its faults, Johnny 2.0 does have some interesting musings about cloning. The idea that clones can be sped up, and enhanced (by removing eye imperfections, improving the immune system, etc.) is interesting. More interesting is the idea that our memories can be recorded and re-inserted into a new host. Unfortunately, Johnny 2.0 doesn’t address idea with any degree of thought. In Johnny 2.0, the brain is essentially seen as an empty hard drive just waiting to be filled up with new memories. Even existing people apparently can have their memories wiped and re-inserted with new ones. Had this technology been combined with the rapid growth process, whereby a clone could be created while having their brain slowly become adapted to the imprinted memories, this would have worked lots better. Unfortunately, shortcomings in the ending narrative precluded anything unique here.
Even with the faults, Johnny 2.0 poses an interesting idea – that our existence could be perpetually extended by a combination of cloning and brain scanning. In Johnny 2.0, it’s the evil corporate head who is trying to cheat death, but if such a technology were created, one can only imagine the change we see in society. Imagine the chances we individually would take.
The FX: For the most part, the FX was what you’d expect – low budget TV fare. It wasn’t too distracting though, and pretty much worked for what was intended. Some of the effects, like the force field walkthrough scene was pretty forced though. One wonders why they would spend the money for a high-tech force field instead of a wall, especially when it can be penetrated so easily. They also seemed to try to stick VR helmets on everyone – this is more a sign of the times as VR stuff was hot in the mid nineties.
The Bottom Line: While the concept is interesting, this made for TV movie is poorly implemented. Although, there is enough here to get a modicum of enjoyment, and the movie does start off well enough that I feel compelled to give it at least a 5 star rating, especially considering it’s low budget. The actors were at least adequate (Michael Ironside of Total Recall fame was definitely the best of the bunch), so consider giving it a watch if nothing else strikes you.