Gamer

September 7, 2009

Movie Review By: Mr. Roboto

Year: 2009

Directed & Written by: Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Very High

Key Cast Members:

  • Kable/John Tillman: Gerard Buttler
  • Simon Silverton: Logan Lerman
  • Ken Castle: Michael C. Hall
  • Humanz Brother: Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges
  • Rating: 9 out of 10


    Kable and Simon

    Are you the player… or the played?

    Overview. At first glance, Gamer would seem to be about first-person shooters (FPSs) taken to new extremes… and the people who play them. Beneath all the explosions, spent bullet casings, and piles of fragged corpses, there’s a story about how one man is using nanotechnology for more than just sick entertainment. While the concept of technology to control humanity is nothing new to cyberpunk, how it is being used to that end in this movie may make you look at Quake and Unreal Tournament (and maybe The Sims series and Second Life) differently.

     

    The Story. Ken Castle is the mastermind behind Nanex, the nanotechnology that fuses to human neurons in the brain to effectively control it. With this level of control, one person can make a Nanex-infused human his/her personal meatbot-slave. This results in the creation of the two largest, most successful live-action MMORPGs: Society, a Sims style RPG, and Slayers, the FPS where convicted death-row inmates fight to survive thirty matches where they win their freedom.

    Kable, convicted of murder and separated from his wife and daughter, has won 26 matches already, thanks in part to his “controller” Simon. Kable has become a virtual god worshiped by the world, while Simon has become a rock star equivalent. But as Kable closes in on his 30th victory, a hacker group called the Humanz inform the duo that Kable’s appearance in Slayers is no accident as he hold information that can bring Castle’s empire down.

    Ludacris as Humanz Brother

    “This is not something you can control. It ain’t just a game, we’re all slaves.”

    Who’s playing you? The potential danger of Nanex becomes all too obvious near the end of the movie, with Castle seeking godlike status. The immediate problems can be seen as Angie (Kable’s wife) is often seen as a Society meatbot to a controller who… let’s just say that which once seen cannot be unseen.

    Kable and Castle

    Kable: “You pull all the strings around here.”
    Castle: “I think it, you do it.”

    As if to drive the point of control home, you should see the “Under My Skin” scene with Castle and some of this personal meatbots doing a little song and dance for visiting Kable, a’ la West Side Story.

    Kable and Angie

    Also worth noting: The contrast of the bright neon-and-flesh colors of Society vs. the blood-drenched gray war zones of Slayers.

     

    Conclusion. Some people might love watching meatbots fight for their freedom. Some might be turned away from the movie’s explosive (literally) battle scenes. But if you look past the blasts, you can see how it makes for a pretty good cyberpunk film.

    And if you don’t think meatbots are possible, you should take a quick look at this article from 2006…

    This post has been filed under Man-machine Interface, Dystopic Future Movies, 9 Star Movies, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 – 2009, Cyberpunk Theme, Movie by Mr. Roboto.

    Bubblegum Crisis

    August 13, 2006

    Movie Review By: SFAM

    Year: 1987

    Directed by: Katsuhito Akiyama, et. al.

    Written by: Katsuhito Akiyama, et. al., Toshimichi Suzuki (story)

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium

    Key Cast Members:

  • Sylia Stingray (voice): Yoshiko Sakakibara
  • Priscilla S. Asagiri ‘Priss’ (voice): Kinuko Ômori
  • Linna Yamazaki (voice): Michie Tomizawa
  • Nene Romanova (voice)Akiko Hiramatsu: Akiko Hiramatsu
  • Rating: 8 out of 10


     

    Creation of the Bubblegum Crisis Screen Capture

     

    Overview: Bubblegum Crisis (BGC) is one of the all-time classics of cyberpunk animation and anime in general. With a team of hawt chicks kicking butt in cute mecha outfits, while upbeat songs play in the background, Bubblegum Crisis has developed a franchise and staying power that few titles can match. Quite a number of sequels have been created as a testament to this. BGC is influential in a number of ways. Not only has its character animation been widely imitated, BGC was one of the first shows brought over in the US with subtitles. Overall, while there are some dark moments, the original BGC is an action-oriented, mostly light-hearted affair.

     

    Creation of the Bubblegum Crisis Screen Capture

     

    The Story: In 2025 an earthquake destroyed Tokyo. With the assistance of androids and robots created by the omnipresent and ever-powerful Genom corporation called boomers, Tokyo is rebuilt as Mega-Tokyo. Unfortunately, like Bladerunner, sometimes the boomers get out of line, often in fact. Boomers can appear human, but often this is just a fascade for a far more dangerous bio or mecha beast that can break-through the skin. In response to this danger, the authorities have created an under-funded agency called the AD Police, who’s primary mission is to handle boomer incidents. Unfortunately, often the boomers are too strong for the police to handle.

     

    Creation of the Bubblegum Crisis Screen Capture

     

    Enter the Knight Sabers. Headed up by Sylia Stingray, the billionaire daughter of the former Genom Corporation scientist who invented boomers, Sylia has advanced the research on her father’s mecha hard suits, and has recruited a team of three other hawt action chicks who, along with Sylia, comprise the Knight Sabers. All of them have secret identities. Priss is a pop singer, Nene is a hacker who works as a dispatcher at AD Police HQ, and Linna is an aerobics instructor. But all four of them have trained to become mercenaries extraordinaire in defense of boomer incidents.

     

    Creation of the Bubblegum Crisis Screen Capture

     

    Unlike most OAVs, BGC is designed with each episode being as self-contained story. While many of the stories string together, there are no cliffhangers here. Some of the episodes have at least a modicum of intrigue, but generally, when it gets right down to it, the goal is for the knight riders to kick some boomer ass. Action dominates, which works considering the relatively short time allotted to each story (up to 50 minutes). As the series continues, most of the storylines deal with the Kight Sabers foiling attempts by the Genom corporation to secure even more power. A few of the episodes have complex storylines, but the majority are straightforward, with evil genius types (boomer or human) directing boomer machines who create death and destruction.

     

    Creation of the Bubblegum Crisis Screen Capture

     

    For me, my favorite episode is Episode #5, where a two unique bio-based sexroid boomers who need blood for sustenance escape from escape Genaros, the SDPC’s orbital supply station for humanity’s moonbases, and make their way to Mega-Tokyo. The episode is far more complex than most, and touches on similar issues to Blade Runner, in that these Boomers just want to be free to live. Most of the boomers in BGC (other than the major villains) don’t really exhibit any form of sentience, but the ones in this episode (and the continuation in #6) are sentient and multidimensional.

     

    Creation of the Bubblegum Crisis Screen Capture

     

    Influential Visuals: Along with Akira, BGC animation has been very influential in transforming anime to the popular style we see today. Characters with overly large eyes and the familiar facial styles are on display in BGC, as are a bevy of experimental looks and styles. The look of anime changed dramatically from the late 80s to the early nineties – BGC will always hold a place in history due to its influence on this change.

     

    Creation of the Bubblegum Crisis Screen Capture

     

    Mega-Tokyo: BGC took the Blade Runner city visuals and applied them to anime, which was then imitated by most of the shows that followed. The cityscapes are modern looking with a blue background, with various green and red highlights. Grays and blues are shown in abundance, with occasional orange and red daytime scenes. Most of the shots are from above, focusing on the overall city-scape, but there are a number of ultra-modern buildings including the Genom’s Tower (which looks like the Blade Runner Terrel Corporation building) and the AD Police building – same as Blade Runner as well.

     

    Creation of the Bubblegum Crisis Screen Capture

     

    The Action: By far the best quality animation BGC brings is in their action sequences. While the rest of the series is really not very special, the action sequences are very well done. We get a variety of effects and perspectives that driving the relatively quick-pacing. In many of the scenes, the backgrounds show a variety of methods to enhance the speed and action. Often BGC engages in mecha-style battles (many of the bad-guy boomers are variations on mecha characters), but these are different from some in that the Kight Sabers are in nimble, tight-fitting suits, which increases the speed of the action.

     

    Creation of the Bubblegum Crisis Screen Capture

     

    The Music: Very few OVAs have music as recognizable as BCG. BGC is known for being one of the first (or at least one of the most recognized) to essentially embed music videos into their action sequences. The songs play a big part in Bubblegum Crises, with a large number of the action sequences and dramatic moments overlaid with song accompaniment. Almost twenty years later, this innovation has blossomed and morphed into what we see with FLCL for instance, where entire sequences are purely videos intertwined with the story.

     

    Creation of the Bubblegum Crisis Screen Capture

     

    The Bottom Line : While I’m generally not too excited about mecha anime (this is purely a preference on my part, and not a knock on mecha), I find BGC quite enjoyable. BGC is more like an earlier version of GITS SAC in that the focus is action first, and philosophy second. While a few episodes do explore what it means to be human, in all but a few cases, this is usually done in the context of a fairly light plot and intense action. Perhaps the philosophical aspects would have been highlighted had the series continued, but for legal reasons, BGC was cut short at only eight episodes. On pure enjoyment I’d probably rate the series a 7 out of 10, but due to its significant influence on anime and cyberpunk I’m giving it an extra star.

     

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    This post has been filed under Man-machine Interface, Hot Cyberchicks Kicking Butt, 8 Star Movies, Animes, Android Movies, Cyberpunk movies from 1980-1989 by SFAM.

    Matrix Revolutions

    July 30, 2006

    Movie Review By: SFAM

    Year: 2003

    Directed by: Andy & Larry Wachowski

    Written by: Andy & Larry Wachowski

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Very High

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Very High

    Key Cast Members:

  • Neo: Keanu Reeves
  • Trinity: Carrie-Anne Moss
  • Morpheus: Laurence Fishburne
  • Mr. Smith: Hugo Weaving
  • Rating: 9 out of 10


    Matrix Revolutions Screen Capture

     

    Overview: Yes, the majority of the population was disappointed with Matrix Revolutions. Many voiced issues with various movie aspects such as dialogue and acting. More still complained that the overall story was non-sensical, with many points seemly completely incoherent. Some even commented that even though it was incoherent, they absolutely loved the action sequences. Personally, I found an altogether different movie. At times I almost felt Matrix Revolutions was purposely written for someone exactly like me. My background in cybernetics seemed wonderfully tailored to understanding the trilogy from a science fiction perspective (versus the philosophical perspective that is most often explored) – as rarely do I find a symbolic struggle of positive and negative feedback systems so overtly played out in film. Strangely enough, many others tend to have this same sentiment (that the movie was MADE for them), although their backgrounds are very different from mine. In this sense, for those that LOVED Matrix Revolutions, something about the movie just “clicked” for them – in most cases, that special something was different for each person. While yes, the action is astounding, as are the visuals, its this aspect of Matrix Revolutions which is most intriguing to me. It may not be for everyone, but for those that like it, its almost tailor made.

     

    Matrix Revolutions Screen Capture

     

    The Story: Matrix Revolutions is the third installment of the Matrix Trilogy, where Neo’s decision at the end of Reloaded causes a final confrontation between Zion and the Machines. In rejecting the Architect’s control system, Neo has thrown the relationship between humanity and the machines in a completely unpredictable direction. The machines are quickly digging to reach the last human city of Zion, while Neo, Morpheus, Trinity and a host of others look to recover from their last ditch attempt meeting with the Architect at the end of Reloaded.

     

    Matrix Revolutions Screen Capture

     

    Nothing was at it seemed. The history of the one was a lie, all part of an elaborate control system. Now, in less than twenty hours, the machines will penetrate Zion’s defenses, and potentially destroy humanity forever. Worse, Neo’s mind has somehow separated from his body and now lies comatose next to Bane on-board the Ship called the Hammer. Morpheus is still despondent about the false prophecy, and the Zion’s defenses have been all but wiped out by a premature EMP pulse.

     

    Matrix Revolutions Screen Capture

     

    It turns out that Neo’s mind has been trapped in a place in-between the Matrix and the Machine City, inside something called the Mobile Avenue Train Station (better known as limbo, which is an anagram for “Mobile” Avenue). Unfortunately, this is controlled by the Merovingian. Trinity and Morpheus, along with Seraph must now convince the Merovingian to let Neo Free. Meanwhile, Mr. Smith has virtually taken over the Matrix with duplicates of himself while Zion prepares for the attack of the Machines, and decide to place virtually all their resources into holding the dock. As things become clear, Neo decides the only way he can save Zion is to personally go to the virtually impenetrable Machine City. Meanwhile, as the Dock Fight goes from bad to worse, Niaobi (Jada Pinkett Smith), Morpheus and company race back in the Hammer to help save Zion with the humanity’s last remaining EMP.

     

    Matrix Revolutions Screen Capture

     

    Revolutions is a War Movie: Whereas the first movie, the Matrix involved a personal awakening, and Matrix Reloaded was almost more of a chase movie, Matrix Revolutions is more a war movie than anything else. In this sense, each of the three movies are very different from one another. Many new characters are introduced in Revolutions, while some of the staples of the first two movies take more of a back seat. We see less of Morpheus here, for instance, but are almost bombarded with a myriad of secondary characters, each intended to bring us a sense of drama associated with the enormity of their undertaking. While one can discuss how well each of the minor characters worked, the need for their inclusion is rather clear – without them, the scale of the conflict doesn’t really work.

     

    Matrix Revolutions Screen Capture

     

    The Matrix Trilogy as a Participative Movie Watching Experience: Most movies are meant to be conveyed in a rather passive manner – one which may require the view to actively pay attention to what transpires but doesn’t require them to actively think about what they have seen. Conversely, quite a few cyberpunk flicks are just the opposite – animes like Serial Experiments Lain or Fragile Machine, extreme Japanse Cyberpunk flicks like Tetsuo, indie flicks like Puzzlehead, or even action flicks like Casshern all require the viewer to spend significant time actively thinking through the implications of what they just saw. The Matrix Trilogy, and especially Matrix Revolutions flat out requires active participation to make sense of it. Arguments abound on this point as many critics consider this a sign of bad movie making, while many Matrix fans respond with the inevitable, “You just don’t get it” comment, as if those who hate Revolutions are somehow intellectually inferior. My take on this is that this is more a sign of preference in movie tastes. Some people (like me) LOVE to encounter movies that take more than one viewing to really understand, whereas others absolutely hate watching films like this. Regardless where you come down on this, your perception of whether you like Revolutions or not will in large part be answered by your preferences on this scale.

     

    Matrix Revolutions Screen Capture

     

    The Power of The One: The Oracle makes clear in her meeting with Neo that the “power of the one” comes from the Source, and that this power is necessary to communicate with the source. From a SciFi standpoint, the explanation for this is clear – the power of the one is based on the sentient learning program embedded in Neo from birth (the Architect tells Neo this at the end of Reloaded). As is documented in my Man-Machine-Interface essay, this is what gives Neo the power to attack the machines in the real world. Neo has Sysadmin-like powers so that he (the sentient program portion of Neo) is able to reboot the Matrix.

     

     

    Matrix Revolutions Screen Capture

     

    Getting Back to a Steady State: In Reloaded, Neo, with significant prompting from the Oracle has effectively wiped out the Architect’s negative feedback control system (meaning a cybernetic control system that “negates change from an initial goal state). The thresholds were exceeded, and the entire control system spun out of control. This, after all was the Oracle’s purpose. From a cybernetic perspective, the Oracle’s goal was to create a positive feedback loop (increasing change from an initial goal state). In doing so, she effected the complete destruction of the negative feedback system that had managed human-machine relations for the better part of 600-800 years. When a cybernetic control system exceeds its thresholds, it is possible for the system to again regain a steady-state, but almost never is it possible to return to the previous steady state. This truly is the Oracle’s purpose. By effecting out-of-control change (by creating the anomaly that is Mr. Smith), the Oracle created a situation where both the humans and machines would need to work together to stave off elimination of their species. The proposed steady state (peace) would have to be founded on a completely different set of assumptions. This would necessitate changes in the operation of the Matrix, and a far more integral relationship between the humans and machines.

     

    Matrix Revolutions Screen Capture

     

    The Philosophical Aspects: Matrix Revolutions, even moreso than the previous films, is replete with interesting philosophical references from Hinduism, Christianity and various writers that ideas such as freewill and determinism, the nature of reality, the notion of purpose, and so on. In totality, the Matrix is a virtual cornucopia of ideas which ends up leading towards a larger integration of purpose, one which serves to unite the needs of man and machine in their struggle to survive. That these ideas are melded into a very compelling story – one which can almost completely divorce itself from the SciFi aspects and still work is pretty amazing. One can easily view the trilogy from the perspective of Neo as a messianic figure who’s story arc involves the coming of age, the sheding the bonds of slavery, and eventually the recapturing of humanity’s (and the machine’s) salvation. The Matrix Trilogy is one of the very few movies which have spurned an ever increasing number of philosophical analysis books – truly this is rather unique, and itself something to be celebrated.

     

    Matrix Revolutions Screen Capture

     

    The Acting: While much has been said about some uneven performances, by and large, the leads in Matrix Revolutions turn in very solid performances. Keanu Reeves deserves additional credit for the incredible work he in preparation for the part – his martial arts and wire work in Revolutions are just terrific. Hugo Weaving turned in a supporting performance worthy of what I would consider an Oscar nomination. His monologue (“Why Neo, why?) near the end is absolutely riveting. However some of the secondary actors, most notably the “kid” (Clayton Watson) were pretty bad. Also, there were some dialogue issues in Revolutions which could have been worked a bit more (shortening the Trinity “you gave me one more chance” scene, for instance). In light of the incredibly ambitious goals for Matrix Revolutions, its not too surprising that some of the details could have been worked more.

     

    Matrix Revolutions Screen Capture

     

    The FX: Matrix Revolutions has some of the most impressive FX on film. Regardless whether or not you hate the film, the quality and enormity of the FX we see in Revolutions is a wonderful cap to the series. From an FX standpoint, the Dock Fight was an absolutely monumental undertaking. This combination of CG, miniatures, full-sized models with human actors, and motion-capture provided one of the great battles ever seen on film. Because of the speed and chaos, like many elements in Revolutions, it really does take an extra watching or two to really get the sense of what’s happening. But once you aren’t overwhelmed by the enormity of it, the pace of the battle and the actions of the machines make sense. In fact, it becomes clear that the dock fight is one of the most significantly choreographed combat scenes ever put on film.

     

    Matrix Revolutions Screen Capture

     

    The Visuals: Visually, Matrix Revolutions is a stunning movie. While the bulk of the visuals use a blue-red color sceme, the familiar green matrix colors are also prominently displayed. Similarly, we get bursts of yellow-orange colors denoting machines disconnected from the Matrix. Shadows are liberally used in the larger panoramic scenes, while many of the close-ups are more starkly lit. Overall, the mood of the blue-red color scheme is reminiscent of Star Wars’ Empire Strikes Back, in that we get the same darkened atmosphere.

     

    Matrix Revolutions Screen Capture

     

    The Score: Don Davis’ music for Matrix Revolutions provided a terrific accompaniment. The diversity, from industrial sounds to haunting choral arrangements served to heighten the tension and energy at pivotal scenes. Probably the highlight of this was at the beginning of the Super Burly Brawl between Neo and Mr. Smith where the piece, “Neodammerung” signals the final confrontation.

     

    Matrix Revolutions Screen Capture

     

    The Bottom Line: The Matrix Trilogy is one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken in movies. It combines almost two distinct storylines – one based on philosophy and religion and the other based on science fiction – with revolutionary effects, great action and truly interesting ideas throughout. As a cyberpunk dystopia, it’s hard to find a situation worse than the one posed in the world of the Matrix. While the majority of its viewers found fault with Revolutions, especially the ending, I personally found enormous satisfaction out of both the ending and the movie as a whole. While I certainly agree that there are some acting and dialogue issues, as a whole, Revolutions was a terrific ending an absolutely terrific trilogy.

     

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    Fragile Machine

    July 2, 2006

    Movie Review By: SFAM

    Year: 2005

    Directed by: Ben Steele

    Written by: Darren Dugan, John Pinckney, & Ben Steele

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Very High

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Very High

    Key Cast Members:

  • Leda Nea: Xi
  • Goho, Mary Nea: Molly Pinckney
  • Rating: 9 out of 10


    Fragile Machine screen capture

     

    Fragile Machine – a Cyberpunk Operetta: If there was ever such a thing as a cyberpunk operetta, Fragile Machine is it. Fragile Machine is an indie anime film short created by a very small organization of talented artists called Aoineko. Fragile Machine’s narrative is largely told through haunting Chinese and English vocals set to a rhythmic, keyboard-laden techno beat (you can hear the main track by clicking on the aoineko link above). The combination of mind-expanding surreal android images with Aoineko’s music provides an intensely immersive experience – one which slowly envelopes your senses until you are a participant on Leda Nea’s journey. Fragile Machine is divided into six distinct chapters, and is narrated by a small android girl named Goho.

     

    Fragile Machine screen capture

     

    The Story: Leda Nea, a lead scientist heading up android firm, Göln Remedios’ Project Zero, is distraught over the death of her daughter, Mary. She no longer is interested in living, and decides to sign away her rights to be become a test subject for Project Zero. Leda Nea agrees to have her consciousness inserted into an android body, but the experiment goes horribly wrong, and Nea’s consciousness is permanently trapped in the android. A year goes by and Leda Nea becomes Göln Remedios’ primary work. Leda Nea has lost all sense of her former life, but still realizes she is trapped in a antiseptic prison – one which she desperately wants to escape.

     

    Fragile Machine screen capture

     

    Eventually Leda Nea finds a way to trick her captors by using some of the android shells as decoys. Allthough still pursued by Göln Remedios’ droids, she escapes to the woods, and, surrounded by nature, begins to remember her humanity. In doing so, Leda Nea remembers that she hates herself and her very existence, and finally begins to remember the daughter she has lost. She continues to be pursued by Göln Remedios’ drones, but instead of getting captured she throws herself into a lake, and thus destroys her android body. At this point, her soul frees itself from its android host and embarks on an entirely new journey – one which could potentially provide Leda Nea salvation by connecting her back with that which she lost. While the ending chapter is visually astounding, I can’t go further without giving away the rest of the story.

     

    Fragile Machine screen capture

     

    A Post-modern Narrative: One one level, Fragile Machine appears to be a straightforward narrative in that it is explicitly divided into six chapters. Yet in watching this film, it becomes clear that the narrative is anything but straightforward. To understand the story, the viewer must pay close attention to the symbols, lyrics Goho’s commentaries, and the various visual indicators sprinkled throughout the film. While lasting just over 30 minutes, those interested in understanding the message will definitely benefit from giving Fragile Machine multiple viewings. The third time through, I found myself freezing the screen on a number of images in order to understand their significance. The story summary above is the result of watching Fragile Machine a number of times prior to piecing this all together. For instance, only very late in the film do you find out that Leda Nea is project manager of Project Zero, and is thus, responsible for her own destruction.

     

    Fragile Machine screen capture

     

    The Visuals: Even if you don’t care to spend time understanding the rich story and symbolism, Fragile Machine’s android visuals alone are well worth the cost of the DVD. Fragile Machine comes at man-machine integration and android creation and destruction from such a myriad of directions that it leaves the viewer in a state of wonderment. Through the film, color palettes are linked with the various symbols portrayed in Fragile Machine. Visual Homages are paid to a myriad of sources including Blade Runner, Metropolis, Ghost in the Shell and Planet of the Apes.

     

    Fragile Machine screen capture

     

    Animation Issues: While the artwork in Fragile Machine is intensely creative, the CG movement is definitely subpar when compared to some of the larger budget works. When Leda Nea is running, or the puppet narrator, Goho, is talking, the quality of the animation negatively affects the immersion. Depending on how you come to see Fragile Machine, this might be enough to turn you away from this incredible picture (perhaps this accounts for the insanely low score on IMDB). However, I would argue that the animation is only a minor knock in an otherwise perfect film short. In looking at the immensely small crew involved in making Fragile Machine, they pretty much nailed all aspects of this film that didn’t require massive CG animation engines. The post-modern story, the artwork and the music are all par excellence.

     

    Fragile Machine screen capture

     

    Interpreting Fragile Machine: Fragile Machine is visually and symbolically rich enough that the viewer can extract a number of fascinating thoughts. However, the larger point that Fragile Machine traces is a common cyberpunk theme – the idea that humans, in its pursuit of technology believes they will become omnipotent, with power over life and death itself. Yet in pursuing this course, we end up losing that which defines us – our humanity. Eventually, this pursuit of the taboo ends up destroying our very society. In a wonderful review of Fragile Machine, Jens points out that the corporation developing the androids, Göln Remedios, is visually similar to the Tower of Babel – both are stretching to the heavens in order to become God’s equal.

     

    Fragile Machine screen capture

     

    When we find out that Leda Nea is in fact the Lead for Project Zero, the emphathy shifts from a rather simplistic view Göln Remedios’ evil CEO figure being responsible to a far richer view. Leda Nea, in losing her daughter has lost her humanity, and thus no longer feels compelled to remain “human.” Her decent into subverting humanity starts well before she is captured in an android body. It begins with her work to build project zero – a project which at it core attempts to extract humanity and incarcerate it within a machine host. One almost wonders if Leda Nea initiated Project Zero in response to her daughter’s death. While the evil CEO is clearly interested in using Leda Nea as a tool in attaining virtual Godhood, it is Leda Nea who chooses to become the virtual fallen angel (as depicted by her red hue much of the time during her android descent). But ultimately, Fragile Machine becomes a story of redemption, as Leda Nea’s lost daughter, as represented by the elephant doll, becomes her guide towards finding ultimate salvation.

     

    Fragile Machine screen capture

     

    If an Android had a soul, what would happen to it when it dies? One of the more interesting questions Fragile Machine raises is the idea that if an android had a soul, what would happen when it dies? In pursuing this thought, Fragile Machine operates in the same territory as Ghost in the Shell, in which a human soul is essentially trapped within an android body. But the thought it raises can easily be taken farther than this: as we move ever closer towards sentient machines, what exactly becomes the difference between machines and humans? If machines become sentient, could they not also develop a soul? And if so, can this soul exist in some fashion even after its host has died?

     

    Fragile Machine screen capture

     

    What Does a Human Mask Represent? Similar to f8, Fragile Machine uses a mask of a human-looking face to represent the attainment of humanity. Only in this case, the mask represents humanity’s technology enabled drive to create post-humanity – androids in our own image. Interestingly, this interpretation masks when viewing the last chapter of Fragile Machine leads to an interesting conclusion about the pursuit of post-humans. One wonders whether it is possible to pursue sentient androids in a way that does not explicitly challenge God’s (or nature’s) sacred role over life and death. Fragile Machine almost seems to be advocating an evolutionary, emergent approach over an overt, dominating, dehumanizing approach.

     

    Fragile Machine screen capture

     

    The Bottom Line: Rarely do we encounter a film so creative in its development, where the sounds and visuals are inexorably linked in expressing such an interesting story. While the animation isn’t on par with larger scale productions, the songs and visuals more than make up for it. In totality, Fragile Machine conveys a complex, multi-layered story that is rich in symbols and ideas. This is truly a piece of cyberpunk art not to be missed. The DVD was out of print but is available again (see in the comments section for details). Give it a try if you’re looking for something different.

     

    Spoiler Alert! Page 2 has more screencaps, but some relate to the ending –>>

     

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    Full Metal Yakuza

    May 14, 2006

    Movie Review By: SFAM

    Year: 1997

    Directed by: Takashi Miike

    Written by: Itaru Era (screenplay), Hiroki Yamaguchi (story)

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Medium

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Low

    Key Cast Members:

  • Kensuke Hagane: Tsuyoshi Ujiki
  • Rating: 5 out of 10


    Full Metal Yuzuka screen capture

     

    Overview: Full Metal Yakuza is simultaneously a campy low-budget Robocop Rip-off done with gangsters and an exercise in a mild form of extreme Japanese cinema. Director Takeshi Mike (best known for Ichi the Killer, but also did Andoromedia) does his trademark extreme blood spatters, and includes lots of head chopping, gun fighting, and a torture-rape-suicide scene thrown in for good measure. You won’t get any big picture thoughts out of this flick, but you might want to tune in for the crazy action and visuals.

     

    Full Metal Yuzuka screen capture

     

    The Story: Kensuke Hagane (Tsuyoshi Ujiki) is a slacker junior gangster who doesn’t show a lot of potential. In his mind, he wants to be a Yakuza – a tough guy with a code that’s feared by all. Unfortunately, he just doesn’t have what it takes. He sucks at fighting, enforcement, and worse – he even sucks at love making. He idolizes the older Tousa, a gangster tough guy extraordinaire that has a detailed dragon tattooed on his back. After Tousa gets taken prisoner for 7 years, Hagane perseveres to become an enforcer. Unfortunately, when released, the Yakuza gang betrays Tousa and shoots him down – Kensuke gets killed in the crossfire.

     

    Full Metal Yuzuka screen capture

     

    Then the weirdness begins – Hagane wakes up in a strange lab, and finds out that his head has been removed from his body and is now attached to a cyborg body, partially made up with Tousa’s remains. He has Tousa’s heart, hands, feet, tattooed back, and most importantly, his very large “member.” An insane genius scientist ((TETSUO’s Tomorowo Taguchi), for reasons never explained, has brought him back to life, but before Hagane agrees to work with the scientist, he must take revenge on those who killed him and Tousa.

     

    Full Metal Yakuza screen capture

     

    Hagane goes all out, killing his way to the top, but eventually stops due to the pleading of his former friend. Along the way, he also finds Tousa’s mistress (Shoko Nakahara), and falls in love with her. Things go horribly wrong when she is taken prisoner. Hagane now has to finish what he started.

     

    Full Metal Yakuza screen capture

     

    Yes, He’s a Cyborg, But…: Nothing in this movie should be taken too seriously, especially the cyborg aspects of this. Kensuke eats bullets and other assorted metals for energy, but apparently doesn’t even need to grind his teeth to chew them. His body is fully metal, but apparently he’s had an extra large dick grafted on as well. He does weird chants in order to temporarily turn off his emotions (apparently, this trips a jump switch of some kind). I could go on, but nothing in this depiction of cyborgs is intended to be anything other than the creation of a setting.

     

    Full Metal Yakuza screen capture

     

    The Visuals: Full Metal Yakuza gives us a number of trademark Takeshi Mike shots, including massive screaming, gratuitous blood spurts shooting in all directions, torture and rape, and a variety of surreal action scenes. From a cyberpunk standpoint, the interesting visuals take place when Hagane is first transformed into a cyborg. In many ways, they resemble a lighter version of Android from Notre Dame’s visuals.

     

    Full Metal Yuzuka screen capture

     

    The Bottom Line: Full Metal Yakuza is interesting in that it was apparently made for a very low budget. There is enough here in terms of strange, extreme cyberpunk visuals that many might really enjoy this flick. Just don’t be expecting too much from the story. There are whole sets of scenes that go absolutely no where (the female cyborg chick, for instance), and many more that strain the bounds of coherence. But if you’re interested in watching a campy, extreme Japanese, non-sensical cyberpunk flick, you might want to give Full Metal Yakuza a try.

     

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    This post has been filed under Man-machine Interface, 5 Star Rated Movies, B Cyberpunk Cinema, Cyberpunk movies from 1990 – 1999 by SFAM.

    f8

    January 22, 2006

    Movie Review By: SFAM

    Year: 2001

    Directed by: Jason Wen

    Written by: Howard & Jason Wen

    IMDB Reference

    Length: 13 minutes

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

    Rating: 7 out of 10


    screen capture

    Overview: f8 is a truly wonderful 13 minute film short that captures almost all the key elements of cyberpunk without using any dialogue! f8 was well received in many of the 2001 best animated film short awards (including the Hollywood Film Festival, the Jury Award, and others). The 3D graphics, while not as high quality as might be found in a large budget movie, are more than adequate. Wen’s selection of viewpoints, lighting decisions, movement and shadows are able to emphasize the best qualities of the 3D animation.

     

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    f8 centers on a nameless lead character in a strange futuristic society who wants to gain individuality. He lives in an oppressive, metropolis-like controlling society, where your fate and role is predetermined. But an underground has developed where individuality appears to be the key for admission. The plot follows the plight of our protagonist who attempts to steal a “face,” and thus, will have the ability to express an individual personality.

     

    screen capture

     

    Unfortunately I cannot divulge too much more of the plot for fear of spoiling it. You can get this movie at Best Buy for about 10 bucks – even though its only 13 minutes, I think its worth it. You get 5 commentaries, and truly, the story is interesting enough that you’ll watch it more than a few times. But instead of a plot, here’s some more screen captures of it – these should give you an idea of f8’s visual splendor. Like many cyberpunk films, one color tends to dominate f8 – in this case, yellow is the predominate color.

     

    screen capture

    The faces are quite striking in f8 – more so even when you finally get to see their bodies!

     

    screen capture

    Talk about a  Noirish looking building! This has all sorts of high tech, ominous vibes…

     

    screen capture

    f8 has some fantastic visuals for a 13 minute film short.

     

    screen capture

    For some reason, this scene really reminds my of the scene in Nausicaä where she is walking through the field of gold tentacles.

     

    ~See movies similar to this one~

    <span class=”iTitle”>Overview: </span>f8 is a truly wonderful 13 minute film short that captures almost all the key elements of cyberpunk without using any dialogue! f8 was well received in many of the 2001 best animated film short awards (including the Hollywood Film Festival, the Jury Award, and others). The 3D graphics, while not as high quality as might be found in a large budget movie, are more than adequate. Wen’s selection of viewpoints, lighting decisions, movement and shadows are able to emphasize the best qualities of the 3D animation.
    <p>&nbsp; </p>
    <p align=”center”><img src=”/images/f811.jpg” alt=”screen capture” /> </p>
    <p>&nbsp; </p>
    f8 centers on a nameless lead character in a strange futuristic society who wants to gain individuality. He lives in an oppressive, metropolis-like controlling society, where your fate and role is predetermined. But an underground has developed where individuality appears to be the key for admission. The plot follows the plight of our protagonist who attempts to steal a “face,” and thus, will have the ability to express an individual personality.
    <p>&nbsp; </p>
    <p align=”center”><img src=”/images/f807.jpg” alt=”screen capture” /> </p>
    <p>&nbsp; </p>
    Unfortunately I cannot divulge too much more of the plot for fear of spoiling it. You can get this movie at Best Buy for about 10 bucks – even though its only 13 minutes, I think its worth it. You get 5 commentaries, and truly, the story is interesting enough that you’ll watch it more than a few times. But instead of a plot, here’s some more screen captures of it – these should give you an idea of f8’s visual splendor. Like many cyberpunk films, one color tends to dominate f8 – in this case, yellow is the predominate color.
    <p>&nbsp; </p>
    <p align=”center”><img src=”/images/f810.jpg” alt=”screen capture” /> </p>
    <div class=”quote”>The faces are quite striking in f8 – more so even when you finally get to see their bodies!</div>
    <p>&nbsp; </p>
    <p align=”center”><img src=”/images/f804.jpg” alt=”screen capture” /> </p>
    <div class=”quote”>Talk about a&nbsp; <i>Noir</i>ish looking building! This has all sorts of high tech, ominous vibes…</div>
    <p>&nbsp; </p>
    <p align=”center”><img src=”/images/f809.jpg” alt=”screen capture” /> </p>
    <div class=”quote”>f8 has some fantastic visuals for a 13 minute film short.</div>
    <p>&nbsp; </p>
    <p align=”center”><img src=”/images/f806.jpg” alt=”screen capture” /> </p>
    <div class=”quote”>For some reason, this scene really reminds my of the scene in <a href=”https://www.www.imdb.com/title/tt0087544/”>Nausicaä</a> where she is walking through the field of gold tentacles.</div>
    <p>&nbsp; </p>

    This post has been filed under Man-machine Interface, Security-Surveillance State, Short Film, 7 Star Movies, Animes, Alien Movies, Awesome Cyberpunk Visuals, Good low-budget movies, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 – 2009 by SFAM.

    Akira

    January 16, 2006

    Year: 1988

    Directed by: Katsuhiro Ôtomo

    Written by: Katsuhiro Ôtomo (comic), Izô Hashimoto

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

    Key Cast Members:

  • Tetsuo Shima: Nozomu Sasaki (voice)
  • Shôtarô Kaneda: Mitsuo Iwata (voice)
  • Kei: Mami Koyama (voice)
  • Rating: 8 out of 10


    screen capture

     

    Overview: Many consider Akira to be the start of modern Japanese anime. In comparing Akira with Appleseed (also from 1988), I tend to agree. Appleseed represents high quality earlier anime, whereas Akira is truly something different both in tone and style. Akira definitely strays to the “punk” side of cyberpunk, but has full clashes with the corporate control element and technology run amok.

    screen capturescreen capture

     

    Akira’s story centers around Tetsuo, a member of a biker gang in the year 2019. Along come a group of military scientist types who look to stretch the boundaries of human capability by engaging tetsuo in experiments. Unfortunately for them, the experiments prove far too successful to the point that the develop an all-powerful monster that rages out of control.

    screen capture

     

    The Bottom Line: Akira has terrific adult visuals and a great sound track. As a personal preference though, I wasn’t as thrilled with the later half of the movie. Some love it, I didn’t nearly as much. There seems to be a debate where people either love this or Ghost in the Shell (guess which one I love?). It almost seemed DragonballZ-like, but again, this is also personal preference. Regardless, Akira is a true giant of anime and should be considered required watching for anyone who wants to learn more about cyberpunk or anime.

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    Tags: cyberpunk movie review anime

    <img src=”/images/akira41.jpg” alt=”screen capture” /><img src=”/images/akira36.jpg” alt=”screen capture” />
    <p>&nbsp; </p>
    Akira’s story centers around Tetsuo, a member of a biker gang in the year 2019. Along come a group of military scientist types who look to stretch the boundaries of human capability by engaging tetsuo in experiments. Unfortunately for them, the experiments prove far too successful to the point that the develop an all-powerful monster that rages out of control.

    <img src=”/images/akira0122.jpg” alt=”screen capture” />
    <p>&nbsp; </p>

    <span class=”iTitle”>The Bottom Line:</span> Akira has terrific adult visuals and a great sound track. As a personal preference though, I wasn’t as thrilled with the later half of the movie. Some love it, I didn’t nearly as much. There seems to be a debate where people either love this or Ghost in the Shell (guess which one I love?). It almost seemed DragonballZ-like, but again, this is also personal preference. Regardless, Akira is a true giant of anime and should be considered required watching for anyone who wants to learn more about cyberpunk or anime.cyberpunk movie review anime

    This post has been filed under Man-machine Interface, Dystopic Future Movies, 8 Star Movies, Animes, Awesome Cyberpunk Visuals, Cyberpunk movies from 1980-1989 by SFAM.

    Natural City

    January 16, 2006

    Year: 2003

    Directed by: Byung-chun Min

    Written by: Byung-chun Min

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Very High

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Very High

    Key Cast Members:

  • R: Ji-tae Yu
  • Ria: Rin Seo
  • Cyon: Jae-un Lee
  • Rating: 9 out of 10


    Natural City screen capture

     

    Overview: Natural City is a high priced attempt by the Korean movie industry to break into the Scifi Genre. The quality of the effects in Natural City clearly shine, both in the absolutely terrific set pieces, the painted backgrounds and the very realistic future setting. This is a cyberpunk movie to its core, with every possible aspect of cyberpunkness oozing from every pore of this movie. We get cyborgs, genetically engineered and cybernetically enhanced people, dominating corporations, theft and greed, seedy underground people and scenes, information access issues, and MASSIVE cyberpunk style. But truly, the reason Natural City rates this high is the absolutely wonderful cyborg character study in exploring issues of humanity.

     

    Natural City screen capture

     

    The Setting: Natural City as a title is 180 degrees from what you get in a setting – nothing is real here. In this dystopian setting, genetic engineering and cyborg development have become an accepted way of life. Pretty much everyone in this city lives a miserable existence, in fact, its expected that life is pain. Vacations are taken in the equivalent of a Star Trek Holodeck type machine. The ultimate dream of everyone in this city is to become rich enough to retire to a floating hotel called Muyoga (see the picture immediately below), which advertises that it can erase your current memory and place you in a “virtual” life of your own choosing. This is extremely interesting, especially when compared to Oshii’s Avalon, in which one view of the the “ultimate” life is one where you are in a simulated reality of your own mind even though your body is a slobbering mess in the “real” world.

     

    Natural City screen capture

     

    In Natural City, Cyborgs perform a myriad of societal functions – everything from entertainment and dancing, to restaurant helpers to working on the police force. To perform all these functions effectively, Cyborgs have a degree of self-awareness. This causes significant complications when their expiration date nears, as they know what it means to “expire.” While some of the characteristics seem vaguely familiar to another far more famous cyberpunk movie (cyborgs with expiration dates, for instance), the story itself is radically different.

     

    Natural City screen capture

     

    The Story: Natural City centers on the internal struggles of a highly talented cop named “R.” He is tasked with finding and capturing renegade cyborgs, but ends up falling in love with a cyborg dancer named Ria who’s expiration date is only 3 days off. The movie centers on R’s compromising his principles and dealing with the cyborg underworld in a vain attempt to find a way to save his Ria. He finds a shady cyborg doctor who promises that if he finds a person with the right genetic match, he can inject part of their brain cells into Ria, which will save her. The doctor finds such a match in a street girl named Cyon.

     

    Natural City screen capture

     

    Complicating matters, R’s best friend Croy, who is also his boss and fellow police detective, has discovered his duplicity. During a raid to capture some renegade warrior cyborgs, Croy notices that R is not shooting them in the head (which kills them be wiping out their AI chip), but is instead going back later and collecting the AI chips to sell for money. Croy tracks R back to the shady doctor. Worse, one of the warrior cyborgs who escaped is also after Cyon for reasons that become all too apparent as the movie unwinds.

    Natural City screen capture

     

    The Look: Natural City’s atmosphere is a grimy, lived-in futuristic environment. In some of the police scenes, Natural City comes across like a live-action Jin Roh movie (Jin Roh is definitely an influence for the action visuals). The high-quality and very original Scifi set pieces and occasional CG fits wonderfully, and along with the artistic backgrounds add up to a very immersive experience. The surround sound is not stunning, but is certainly decent and doesn’t detract from the experience. On top of this we get some wonderfully symbolic visuals, such as when Cyon sits atop a stone eagle statue, dreaming of life on the virtual hotel.

     

    Natural City screen capture

     

    The Colors: Like most cyberpunk movies, Natural City uses one dominating color palette for the majority of the scenes. Blue is the color of choice, but varies from ultra-light to dark and dense blues. The lighter scenes usually depict high-tech human aspirations, whereas the darker scenes are left for massive action shots and for shots depicting the destruction of humanity, such as the gritty cyborg replacement lab. Every so often, we also get some really nice oranges and browns, but these colors are usually used more as chapter transitions.

     

    Natural City screen capture

     

    The Action: Natural City is a character exploration first, but the action and effects are on display, and in high quality. The action involves both slo-mo and high speed camera shots, along with LOTS and LOTS of blood and gore. The ending especially is somewhat of a gorefest, which is weird to see in a movie that is mostly a drama in nature. Also, near the end of the movie, we get treated to an evil, but ultra-hot cyborg warrior chick in skin tight lycra who engages in some major ass-kicking (see above for a pic of HER ass while kicking someone!). Talk about a plus! While we’re on the subject, we also get treated to some cute asian cyborg boobies at the beginning of Natural City – definitely a nice way to start the pic! (although, when you understand what the beginning boobie scene signifies it sorta takes away the fun).

     

    Natural City screen capture

     

    The Pacing: As I mentioned earlier, this IS a Korean movie. My wife is Korean, so I’m somewhat used to the pacing we see here. From reading a few reviews, Natural City has been panned for being way too slow and plodding in the middle. All I can say is, “Welcome to Korean Cinema.” This is really a case where story telling is just different there. For a Korean, this movie is not at all slow, but has rather standard pacing, which means we get REAL in-depth and repeated scenes with the purpose of mood and detailed character study. Most important for Koreans is to be able to identify with the emotion and mood the characters are experiencing. Natural City takes the time to do this with all the main characters.

     

    Natural City screen capture

     

    The characters really build in believability and engagement as the story progresses. At the beginning, R appears quite shallow, as does his friend and the street girl Cyon. By the end, all three, and especially Ria, his cyborg lover grow to be characters you really empathize with. The motivations for all become clear, including their virtues and flaws. The ending is also a rather “normal” Korean dramatic love story ending, which is to say, one very different from how an American film might end. Its not a feel-good movie, but then again, few Korean dramas are.

     

    Natural City screen capture

     

    For me, the highlight of Natural City centered on Ria, the cyborg. To me, Ria captures the cyborg struggle for humanity better than any character in all cyberpunk movies save one scene (the Blade Runner’ sRoy Batty “I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe” soliloquy, of course). While I didn’t catch this the first time through, the very beginning of the movie is told from Ria’s perspective, and then really, the last third of the movie centers on Ria (minus the action sub-plots). There are a few scenes that make it clear she “knows” what’s happening to her. She is programmed to be a dancer, but as she reaches her expiration date, she no longer can do this well. In one scene, Cyon shows her the “1 day” notice that arrives in the “Fifth Element” style mail slot. As her “time” approaches, you really do get the feeling of the Rutger Hauer speech at the end of Blade Runner, although Ria conveys this sentiment more broadly over a number of scenes and images. I want to go into this further, but this starts coming off as a spoiler, so I’ve added a more elaborative discussion of Ria’s motivations (spoilers) after the screencaps on Page 2.

     

    Natural City screen capture

     

    The Bottom Line: If you like cyberpunk films, the visuals alone make this a MUST SEE. If you like character studies in science fiction settings, you probably also want to see this. I truly LOVE Natural City, but be warned, the pacing is different from what you might expect. This is a Korean movie, and certainly plays like one. Also, be warned – like Wonderful Days, the ending has standard Korean Melodrama type stuff. While some might argue this doesn’t belong in the top 10, for me there’s no doubt that it does. The action and visuals are great, but Ria’s story clearly forces it there if nothing else.

     

    Page 2: More Screen Caps and Ria’s Motivations Discussion (Spoiler)–>>

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    Tags: cyberpunk movie review

    This post has been filed under Man-machine Interface, Awesome Cyberpunk Themes, 9 Star Movies, Awesome Cyberpunk Visuals, Android Movies, VR Movies, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 – 2009 by SFAM.