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Cinophile: Johnny Mnemonic

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It’s probably the best Keanu Reeves sci-fi movie ever made. Sure, he’s certainly been in BETTER sci-fi adventures. But did those have brain data smuggling, body modification, gesture-based Internet, psychic dolphins and sizzling nail ornaments? Maybe this is what Neo actually did before the machines took over and plugged everyone in…

Johnny Mnemonic

Even today people stew over it. Earlier this year Wired wrote about Johnny Mnemonic – and the comments section became a collective effort at disappointment and anger. Being the first movie adaptation of cyberpunk godfather William Gibson’s work, it disappointed a lot of people. The movie also had a chance of reviving cyperpunk in film: when it comes to ‘pure’ cyberpunk, Johnny Mnemonic is what comes to mind after Blade Runner – that should say enough about the genre’s anemic state. So audiences were let down hard.

Johnny Mnemonic

Where Johnny Mnemonic falls flat is numerous, but the most critical element is its B-movie overtones. It’s just kinda cheesy and at times rather cheap. Maybe we can blame the director’s inexperience: not everyone has Ridley Scott’s touch. Yet if you treat Johnny Mnemonic like a cheap roadhouse burger, it is bursting with unhealthy greatness. People smuggle data in their heads to avoid hackers, to get online you have to wear gloves and personal security can be provided by a thumb-mounted laser whip.

Johnny Mnemonic

Blade Runner revealed a great cyberpunk world, but Johnny Mnemonic connected a lot of the dots. There is no doubt why it bombed – the movie starts off well and progressively crawls towards direct-to-DVD territory. You know it’s in trouble when Ice-T arrives wearing goggles and face paint. But despite all that it’s still one of the more remarkable science fiction films ever made – especially eighteen years after its release: cyber-warfare, ever-present technology and Johnny not have enough storage capacity are all things we can relate to today. And the timeline is just eight years away from now – so maybe it will be a Johnny Mnemonic future after all…

Cinophile is a weekly feature showcasing films that are strange, brilliant, bizarre and explains why we love the movies.

Last Updated: October 7, 2013

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