Official FAQ for RoboGeisha: It’s from Japan.
That is all.
Overview: Just when you thought Japanese cyberpunk couldn’t possibly get any stranger (or bloodier), evil genius Noboru Iguchi (Tokyo Gore Police) ups the ante… and bloodshed… with RoboGeisha.
Actually most of the bloodshed is in the unrated version; It was added via CGI for the DVD releases since Iguchi was asked to tone down the violence. But that still doesn’t degrade the overall weirdness, even with a sibling-rivalry storyline the would have worked better as standard-issue melodrama.
The Story: Yoshie (Aya Kiguchi) is a geisha’s attendant with dreams of becoming one herself. Her older sister, Kikue (Hitomi Hasebe), is the geisha who takes delight in keeping Yoshie’s dream unrealized. When the president of Kageno Steel Manufacturing discovers Yoshie’s hidden rage and fighting skills he wants to recruit her to join the Hidden Geishas, an army of cyberneticaly enhanced female assassins being trained to kill “corrupt” Japanese officials so the company can create its ideal world. But when Yoshie is given an assignment to kill a group of people whose family members have been kidnapped to become the Hidden Geishas, she soon discovers the company’s plans to destroy Japan.
As if trying to save Japan wasn’t hard enough, Yoshie is always trying to earn Kikue’s respect since she wasn’t getting any while trying to be a geisha. Yoshie does give Kikue a taste of her own medicine when she was chosen for the Hidden Geishas, until Kikue showed a predilection for killing. The two sisters compete as each wants to destroy the other, even though they show respect and love for each other as the company pushes its agenda forward.
1000 Ways to Die… Give or Take. When dealing with cyborgs and androids, you know someone is going to die. The main question is how? Iguchi manages to come up with some innovative ways…
USELESS FACT: About 70% of Japanese adults are lactose intolerant.
When you see it, you’ll shit… shurikens?
“The fried shrimp! They do NOTHING! I STILL CAN’T UNSEE!!!
Too much blood? Iguchi was asked to tone down the violence for RoboGeisha. He did for the theatrical release, but added it back for the DVDs. An interesting strategy, saving time on re-shoots and money on cleanups, but end result doesn’t really add much… other than blood (check this page that shows the comparison between theatrical and home releases). Even so, what was left in still looks cheesy, and even inappropriate at times, like when the giant shiro robot was stomping through town and stops to smash a couple of buildings that bleed.
Can someone get this poor girl a fresh tampon?
To compare to some other Japanese cyberpunk films, the violence in Tetsuo was more social commentary, while Tokyo Gore Police went for shock value. RoboGeisha’s violence tends to be more cartoonish, like Tom and Jerry with more splatter. Combine that with ass-katanas, lactating demon-cyborgs, and enough blood-cheese to rival Wisconsin and you’ll be ROFLMAO Zedong going ZOMGWTFKMFDMBBQ. That or you’ll just ask yourself…
Conclusion: So far, Japan’s track record for TFWO cyberpunk fare remains intact. RoboGeisha may be the best place to start for those who can’t stomach the more brutal stuff. Definitely shows that cyberpunk can have a sense of humor… a dark, disturbing, sick, twisted sense of humor…
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Japan in the wake of the Sendai earthquake and tsunami and the Fukushima I nuclear plant accidents.
Overview: Not often that a good cyberpunk movie comes down the wires. Lately, the better ones have been coming out of Japan’s anime studios. Technotise could be the latest-and-greatest to come from the land of the rising sun… only it came from Serbia, not Japan, although the anime influence can be seen. While not enough to make those famed anime studios nervous… yet… it already has a live-action remake under development.
A sequel based on the comic (readable here, if you understand Serbian), Technotise looks into a bit of the the life of a college girl as she faces a struggle in Belgrade 2074 that could kill her.
The Story: Edit Stefanović is a psychology major in a Belgrade college. Like most students, Edit has had her successes and failures but mostly failures. Now her professor has given her an ultimatum:
“Pass or GTFO.”
After burying her robotic pet, and a fight with her mother, Edit decides to get a memory chip implant to help her pass the exam. She is also an intern at TDR, a research company that’s been working on a formula that connects all the energies in the world, aka “A direct line to God.” This “formula” can be used to predict the future, but any computer that calculates it becomes sentient before it shuts down. Abel Mustafov discovered the formula before becoming autistic, and when Edit sees a “graph” of the formula, her chip becomes alive and starts wiring itself into her body, making her act weird (like eating large amounts of iron). Now TDR wants Edit and the chip for their future-telling computers, while Edit wants what the chip did to her undone.
Algorithm Absurd. This phrase is used a couple of times to describe what happens to the computers that calculates the formula. Algorithm - like a computer program; A series of finite steps to generate an output from input. Absurd, the ludicrous, insane, irrational. The phrase is simply another way of saying: “That does not compute.” Apparently the computers see the formula like a digital existential crisis, one that says machines are not alive. But Edit’s chip doesn’t suffer the same fate, probably because of their connection to each other, or maybe because of Edit’s study of psychology she was able to “understand” the graph in a way that computers couldn’t so she acted as a “buffer” and the chip was able to process her output.
The next GITS? Like GITS, Technotise uses a variety of animation styles to produce some high quality movie fare. 2D, 3D, vector, and realistic static drawings come together for some of the best eye-candy. But without a good storyline, all you can get from eye-candy is diabetes. Fortunately, Technotise has the storyline to back up the visuals. About the only problem is the language is entirely Serbian with English subtitles so you might miss out on some of the vids.
“I have nothing against plastic but sometimes you have to make out with some real meat.”
Conclusion: With the themes of the search for “God” via science and our continued interconnection of human and machine, we have some excellent cyberpunk fare to even anime fans happy for the next decade or so. This is one animated movie that can go byte-by-byte with GITS. Just get the DVD and see what I mean…
Looking for a good scare this Halloween? Tokyo Gore Police may have what you’re looking for. Be warned: The visuals may be more… “intense” than what most would go for. Let’s say this shit makes your “Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” and “Saw” franchises look like Disney productions.
Overview: Tokyo Gore Police is a “Japanese Cyberpunk” splatter movie created by the producers of “The Machine Girl”. The movie is a remake of the independent movie “Anatomia Extinction”. Currently, a prequel short for the movie is in production.
Plot: In the future, the privatized police, under control of the “Tokyo Police Corporation” has developed an extremely brutal, merciless law and order type way of action.
The whole society developed into a sadistic, pervert society with an obsession of violence.
Ruka is the daughter of a policeman who was assassinated in a very brutal way before the police was privatized. Because Ruka saw the assassination of her father, she was traumatized and developed self harming behavior. After the death of her father, she was adopted and raised by the chief officer of the Police Corporation.
Later, an outbreak of a virus causes the infected people to mutate into bizarre monsters. The virus was created by a mad scientist to take revenge on the death of his father by the police. Later, it’s revealed that the father of the mad scientist is actually the murderer of Ruka’s father and the reason for the assassination was actually a conspiracy within the police, where the chief officer of the new Police Corporation has got a key role.
After most mutants were killed by Ruka, the police start a Purge like action where also seemingly randomly civilians get hunted. Among the murdered civilians is also a close friend of Ruka. Because of this and the involvement of her foster father in the assassination of her biological father, Ruka gets mad and starts mutating, too. She fights the policemen and then encounters her foster father. Her father, who started mutating, too and using injections of the virus to get more powerfull starts fighting against his foster daughter.
The story of the film is full of sick moments and extremely brutal scenes. For example, a mutant is a prostitute who eats her customers. There is also a huge amount of psycho-sexual horror, like in the works of H.R.Giger and most other “Japanese Cyberpunk movies”, but some scenes are more funny than scary.
“Vagina dentata” much?
The movie has got a huge amount of black humorous moments. For example, like in the Robocop movies, in the movie, there are certain fake commercial scenes advertising very sick things or speaking funny warnings. For example, knifes for self cutting are advertised in an extremely sick way and there is a television warning that committing Hara-kiri will result in your death. The chief officer of the police also has got a kind of “Cyborg Dog” who looks like a BDSM Costume.
The depiction of the police in the movie is also the clichéd “ultra violent law and order” policemen type which often appear in Cyberpunk works. The most famous ones are Robocop and Judge Dredd.
I agree with the Review on DVD Times.com , the film definitely reminds on Blade Runner, but it mostly lacks the brilliant atmosphere of Blade Runner. Only the driving scene through the streets of Tokyo and the Bar Scene catch a similar, brilliant atmosphere.
The opening scene, where at first, all is peacefull, but suddenly, Rukas father is killed in a very brutal way was one of the best depictions of the concept of “the Real” by the psychologist Jacques Lacan, a kind of traumatic, unexplainable event suddenly appearing which is threatening the function of the mind, I have ever seen.
Speaking of unexplainable events suddenly appearing which is threatening the function of the mind…
On most parts, the movie is extremely entertaining, but I don’t understand these “police purge” scenes near the end of the movie and to me, these scenes doesn’t really make sense. The story of the movie isn’t very intellectual, but it’s a good satire on the actions of these populist law and order politicians. The story is also more complex than these Japanese Cyberpunk movies starring Dr.Joseph Mengele like Mad Scientists performing cruel experiments.
Conclusion: Tokyo Gore Police is a truly sick brutal movie like most Japanese cyberpunk films. The story is also not very original and is mostly extremely thin. Nevertheless, it’s still an entertaining satire which can’t be taken seriously. Like all “Japanese Cyberpunk movies”, if you have got problems with violence, you won’t like this movie. Most of the horror scenes aren’t as scary as the horror scenes of the movies Yu On and The Ring, although these movies are less brutal.
Overview. Josh Harris, ever hear of him? Me neither… not until I heard of this movie. The “Wharhol of the Web” came up with the ideas of Internet TV (Pseudo.com), statistic gathering, and the basis for many of today’s social networking sites. So why isn’t he mentioned as often as Gates or Jobs? Timing; The Internet wasn’t able to handle the bandwidth needed for his visions. Not until broadband became commonplace for net access. But by then, it was too little, too latte for Harris who left the high-tech scene and expatriated to Africa to avoid creditors.
Indie filmmaker Ondi Timoner spent 10 years with Harris documenting his rise as an Internet entrepreneur, to the Quiet experiment, and his eventual downfall.
Rise of a dot-com kid. Harris arrives in New York City with only a few hundred dollars in his pocket, an a couple of ideas for the Internet in his head. His first venture is JupiterResearch, an Internet research company. In 1993, he envisioned television on the Internet and founded Pseudo.com. Pseudo not only had television (more like early vlogging before anyone heard of vlogging), but associated chat rooms for the shows. When he sold Pseudo, Harris’ net worth was now $80 Billion US. Luckily for him, he got out before the big bubble burst, but he decided to use that money for a “little” experiment…
The experiment: In December 1999, under some buildings in Manhattan, Harris constructed a “bunker” where he would gather 100 people. The people would be living in a commune-type setting with “pod” beds while under constant surveillance, and be subject to “interrogations,” though they would have free meals and a shooting range. The experiment’s aim was simple; To see how these people would behave living in an Orwellian setting. Things start smoothly enough, then went downhill fast. Eventually, after the new millennium, the NY Police and Fire departments shut the experiment down believing the experiment was actually a doomsday cult.
Though that experiment was over, he wanted to test his theory further by moving in with his girlfriend and installing net-cameras in their apartment. An incident that nearly leads to rape causes her to leave, and soon Harris has a mental breakdown. While Harris is considered an artist by some, there are some signs that he may have been insane in the mainframe before the breakdown.
Afraid of clowns? You will be!
The Point of the experiments? It should be obvious now that the technology has caught up to Harris’ ideas what the point is: How much of our privacy will we sacrifice for connecting to others, or for fame itself?
“Everything is free… except the video that we capture of you. THAT we own.”
If you’ve ever encountered targeted ads, you already have seen the tip of the iceberg. Worse yet, the information they gain from what you willingly surrender they can now sell to others. Harris’ “Quiet” experiment was a not-so-quiet warning about where we were headed… rather, where we are now.
Conclusion. Call Josh Harris what you want… visionary, entrepreneur, voyeur, prophet, ca-ca-cuckoo-for-cocoa-puffs… the message he sent with his experiments is only now being realized by a small handful of people. For the rest, they may not realize or even care about how much “exposure” they’re really getting for their 15 minutes. Looking for a treatise on the negative effect of technology? We Live In Public answers that question in no uncertain terms.
“A strange new era is dawning… an era of revolutionary experiments. Wired torsos, chip-implanted brains, creatures of silicon and steel… welcome to the age of cyborgs and androids. As humans become more machine-like and machines more human, the line between biology and technology is starting to blur. And in the process, we may just be reinventing the future of our species.”
Overview: I was looking for the Jean Claude Van-Dame movie Cyborg when I came across this series. Originally made in 2001, Beyond Human has been on the Internet on tube sites like Hulu, and YouTube (part one of nine, “The Cyborg Revolution,” is above), and on singularity and cyborg sites like The Singularity Symposium. A websearch will lead you to many other sites where the entire series can be viewed online or downloaded (read “torrented”) for offline viewing.
Beyond Human is split into two parts with a total of nine “chapters:” The Cyborg Revolution, Invasion of The Inhuman, The Cyborg Mind, The Age of Androids, How to Design A Humanoid, Emotional Robots, Can A Robot Be A Person, Robot Soccer, and Erasing The Line Between Man and Machine. The first three chapters deal with the possibilities of humans becoming cyborgs, with the rest showing the efforts to make robots more human.
“What about the whole business of them causing cancer? What about the possibility of an immune reaction? I’m not going to stick one of these things in my head until one million other people have.” Haters gotta hate.
The Invasion of The Inhuman chapter may make one second-guess their plans to get brain implants, especially with the comparisons with Tetsuo scenes. This is one of the perils of the advancing cyber-technology; With the technology overwhelm us? Plus the social, ethical, and possibly legal issues raised in the Can A Robot Be A Person chapter shows more potential problems. The final chapter asks “What will happen when robots become commonplace?” Will they be just property, or will they have rights? Will they become cohorts of humans, or their destroyers?
Nine years later, we’re still asking these questions. Obviously, this documentary/series was made to highlight the state-of-the-art at the turn of the 21st century, so it is well past its expiration date. But documentaries like this wasn’t meant to show the current cutting-edge. Instead, I see this as a milestone to show not only how far we’ve come, but how much further we have to go.
Conclusion: Like a time capsule in a backyard or a building’s cornerstone, finding stuff like this a surprisingly fun find. While not meant to be current by any means, it works best as a comparison to where we are.
Overview: I heard about this movie from the Columbia House DVD club, then bought it after reading the description. After doing some research about it and learning about it being released direct to home video, I got to watch it… and found out why it went direct to video. To take some of the best cyberpunk themes, add some major star-power, then squander it on what would have worked better as a television pilot episode only shows that cyberpunk still has Hollywood seeing $$$ despite recent failures like Repo Men.
Just a few years from now, corporations control and observe everything.
Luke Gibson (Gooding) and his pregnant wife get involved in a car accident. She dies on the scene, and he is hospitalized with brain damage (amnesia) and no insurance. The Hope Corporation finances his brain operation, which involves a Psi-Comp implant on his visual lobe. He soon starts having hallucinations, which are commercials that only he can see and hear. But hackers manage to tap into the implant and give him messages which lead him to Keyboard, a former Hope employee turned hacker, who has information that can stop The Hope Corporation’s plans for the implants.
Cyberpunk themes… they got ‘em. There’s little question about this being cyberpunk; It’s practically dripping with cy-punk themes throughout. The Psi-Comp implants can be used to control people, either with persistent commercials or a painful “fail-safe” that can blow your head off, depending on how Hope Co. feels about your finding out about the truth about them. The hackers try to free Luke from Hope’s control over him by using the implant themselves. Hope Co’s. cameras everywhere watching most everything that goes on. There’s even holographic projections of corporate brands above and on cityscapes and landmarks, owing to how corporations had bail out governments due to their failed bailouts. About the only thing missing would be the dystopic atmosphere, though through sound bytes from televisions indicate that the dystopia is financial.
So what could (or did) possibly go wrong? With Hardwired’s abundance of cy-punk themes, it might be hard to imagine that this could not be the next Blade Runner. That might be the big problem: It’s trying to be the next Blade Runner. Not that aspiring to be such a classic is a bad thing, it’s just most cyberpunk movies lately are trying to be Blade Runner, and they try so hard that they ultimately fail to be even a good movie. Let’s try to make a good movie first, then you can try being Blade Runner. Best way to start is to actually do something with those themes. It’s obvious the makers seem to know about what cyberpunk is, but it’s also obvious they don’t know what to do with it all. Maybe they should hang out here for a while…
Are you certain that the one on the left is Punk Blue and not Punk Green?
Another problem is more “technical,” the operation scene when Luke gets the implant. Inside the operating room, Luke is sitting upright, but a scene through a security cam (assumed to be in the same O.R.) shows him lying down, face up, even though the doctor just finished drilling into the back of Luke’s neck. It’s not like every movie is one-hundred percent accurate, but such noticeable goofs early on can make the rest of the film less believable. Also, the hackers use the chip to send Luke information a la “augmented reality.” His eyes were not replaced with holographic projectors, so we should not be able to see the transmitted data in front of his face. Seeing that stuff as Luke sees it, first-person like, would have worked better.
Conclusion: It’s hard to put Hardwired down because it has a great idea, but some bad implementations may have doomed it to direct-to-video hell and lack of reviews. The only other review called it “cheesy, seriously cheesy.” Plus, the ending practically begs “please let us become a franchise,” though it might serve better as a pilot for some futuristic TV series. Maybe.
So much potential…
It looks like Bruce Willis now has some competition for the most WTF hairpiece.
Overview: I was hoping to see this movie before seeing Repo Men so I could at least see how close to each other they were. While there are some minor similarities (primarily a megacorp, their organ financing, and the use of repo men) the visuals, story-lines, and this being an opera make the two movies vastly different. While Repo Men’s visuals draws more from Blade Runner, Repo! is definitely goth with frequent scenes involving corpses and/or graveyards.
The Story: Geneco becomes the top company when an epidemic of unexplained organ failures sweep the planet. They manage to make organ transplants affordable, but they also manage to get a law passed that allows the organs to be repossessed. Another product Genco makes is Zydrate, a highly addictive pain killer often used by surgery addicts. Geneco is the only legalized source of Zydrate, but a black market exists where grave robbers extract the drug from the brains of corpses.
The current head of Geneco, Rotti Largo (Sorvino), is terminally ill and plans to name his successor at “The Genetic Opera” when popular singer Blind Mag also plans to make her final performance. His three children, the violent Luigi (Mosley), the mask wearing Pavi (Skinny Puppy’s Ogre, FTW), and surgery-and-Zydrate addicted Amber Sweet (Hilton) hope to inherit daddy’s company, but he is disappointed with his kids and has another person in mind: Shilo Wallace.
Pavi (Ogre) gets his game face on. Well, he gets someone’s face on.
Shilo (Vega) is the daughter of Nathan (Head), who is not only trying to find a cure for the blood disease that Shilo inherited from her mother, but is also Geneco’s repo man. He keeps her locked in her room, fearing she might die from the disease while he goes out for repossessions. Shilo sneaks out anyway and in her nightly journeys she meets a grave robber (Zdunich) who introduces her to the Zydrate underground and reveals that Blind Mag, Shilo’s favorite singer, is going to lose her eyes because she will no longer be working with Geneco.
A tangled web. With several different story lines going on at once, it may be hard to follow them with all the singing. They may seem unrelated to each other at first, but thanks to comic-styled flashbacks they show how they are connected to Nathan’s dead wife and the upcoming Genetic Opera.
Speaking of the songs, it’s been reported that there were some 65-75 songs made for the film. Not all of them have been used, but do appear on the various soundtracks (memo to self: find the soundtracks.). Most of them are short, only a minute or two, but often involve at least two cast members singing together with different lyrics. This may add to the confusion of following the stories, but not too much to follow if you pay attention.
Blade Runner or Count Dracula? The distant city scene above may make one think of Blade Runner’s future Los Angeles, but the closer-in scenes is very much goth inspired. The Wallace house could very well be a haunted house (just needs some more cobwebs) while Shilo frequents a graveyard where her mother’s tomb is (side note: Shilo also collects insects). People are often dressed like they’re going to a funeral or an S&M club. There’s an area called “Sanitarium Square,” where a festival is happening before the Opera, that has brightly lit tents amid the darker streets. Not quite the cyberpunk visuals I was expecting, but does make the dark atmosphere… darker.
Conclusion: To be honest, Repo! wasn’t quite what I expected. It felt more goth than actual cyberpunk, so much so that I’m tempted to tag this as “not cyberpunk.” Then again, with goth style being closely related to cyberpunk lately it can almost be expected. In this case, it helped rather than hurt, as it made the operatic aspects more intense. Repo! is a bit of a bloody mind bender, but certainly worth watching… and listening to.
“It’s like whatever path we choose in this life, this generation has been set up to extinguish itself.” - Christian
Overview: One of several DVDs I have that I’ve been trying to get to reviewing (this one for Quiet Earth, better late than never I suppose), The Gene Generation follows the path taken by Ultraviolet and the live-action Aeon Flux with a gun-totting, leather clad femme fatale working for the government or some group-entity to bring law and order or some justice to a dystopic future. This time around, Bai Ling is carrying the guns, and if you’ve ever seen her photos on the nets, you’ll definitely love her guns.
The rest of the movie, maybe not so much. Not exactly Ghost in the Shell/Matrix/Blade Runner quality level, but certainly a better way to waste 90 minutes of free time. Plus you’ll get to hear aggrotech act Combichrist when they were at their peak with ditties like this:
The Story: Olympia, Washington, US: Hayden Technologies creates the Transcoder, a glove-like device that manipulates DNA to heal… or kill. A Transcoder accident pollutes Olympia, forcing authorities to construct a “wall” around the city to insure that the pollutant does not leave, but the people want to.
To leave, people need to undergo DNA screening to insure that they are not contaminated. This gives rise to the practice of “DNA hacking:” Using a clone of the transcoder and a sample of a clean person’s DNA, a hacker could re-sequence to clean his own DNA, while the “donor” was killed of due to genetic mutation. The government hires assassins to take out the hackers.
Michele is an assassin who is trying to save money from her jobs to get out of Olympia. Unfortunately, her efforts are hindered by her own brother, Jackie, whose drinking and gambling has forced him to take the money in order to pay off a brutal loan shark. Desperate for money, Jackie breaks into Christian’s apartment and takes the transcoder, unaware of what it is. Michele must now track down the transcoder, save her brother from the loan shark, and protect Christian from those looking for him and the transcoder.
Tentacle porn much? When I first announced that I was going to review this movie, I was told that it wasn’t and easy watch. Being a cyberpunk movie, I knew that certain aspects would be a potential turn-off. There is blood… lots of blood flowed throughout, but that was expected. What wasn’t expected was how the transcoder killed people: The target’s DNA was mutated to create tentacles that erupted from within, bursting out of the mouth, ears, nose, and wherever there was a break in the skin. What has been seen…
Fortunately, all the blood, sweat, and city grime makes Michele take showers frequently:
Definitely worth an extra star in my book.
On the downside, a sex scene between Michele and Christian is intermixed with Jackie being beaten by Randall’s henchmen. Do not want.
Conclusion: Difficult to watch, they said. Well, not TOO difficult for me, even with the tentacle violence. Hopefully you’re not too squeamish about tentacles. At least Bai Ling’s eye-candy makes it worthwhile. The rest is on par with Ultraviolet and Aeon Flux (2005), so those who love kick-ass babes will definitely get a kick out of Gene Generation.
Pearry told me that: “This one will be very dark. A hyper realistic / shooting documentary style and lots and lots of body modifications. We’re shooting it mad max style, set in the badlands… outside the cities.” Shooting will start in March with a completion date of September.
By my estimates, that means release will be around the first half of 2011. Stay tuned for future news as they develop…
Overview: After reading the graphic novels, I thought I was ready for the movie. Unfortunately, Hollywood decided to “tweak” certain elements until there’s little left resembling the books. Not that ink-on-single-colors would work for a live-action film, but they could have left the action in Georgia instead of moving it to Boston, and leaving Greer (Harvey, not John) as a city detective as opposed to an FBI agent. While some “tweaking” might not have hurt, totally deviating from the books doesn’t. This could probably be traced to the trio of Mostow, Ferris, and Brancato, who were also behind the train-wreck of Terminator 3.
The good news is the message remained intact.
The Story: In a near future (no exact year given), humans spend all their time at home jacked into stem-chairs while piloting their surrogates, robotic avatars that interact in the real world now abandoned by humanity.
Two surrogates are destroyed by a mag-pulse type weapon. The destruction kills the operators, one of whom is the son of the surrogate’s inventor. FBI agent Greer searches for the weapon and is lead to the walled “Dread Nation” where his surrogate is destroyed by the anti-surrogate group. He continues without it as he probes deeper into a conspiracy that involves the military, Virtual Self Inc., the company behind the surrogate phenomenon, and the surrogate inventor, Dr. Cantor.
William Shatner, you are not.
What else went wrong? Another problem, other than the deviation from the books, is the look of the movie. Other than scenes showing the stem-chairs and a couple of scenes showing the “central control” of the surrogate grid, it is virtually impossible to tell if it is 2053 or 2009. Having live actors playing the robotic roles only adds to the confusion, though there were times where they not only looked like robots, but acted like robots. That was a surprisingly interesting touch.
… And the message? You can hear just as the movie starts: Does living life through a surrogate mean you’re actually living? Does being a robot make you less of a human? Have you been so plugged into your surrogate that you can’t unplug? And once you are unplugged… then what?
Those kind of questions about humanity being (over)connected to technology are what cyberpunk writers and fans have been asking since William Gibson’s first draft of Neuromancer.
Conclusion: If you’ve already read the books, the movie may only disappoint you with how far off it is. Bruce Willis fans and fans of action films may get a kick out Surrogates. Cyberpunk fans should find the message familiar, though you would be better off with the books.
“Holy father, I pray that you keep Jonathan Mostow, Michael Ferris, and John D. Brancato from ever making another cyberpunk movie, lest they cause the universe to collapse on itself.”
“We had such potential. Such promise. But we squandered our gifts. And so, 9, I am creating you. Our world is ending. Life must go on. “
Overview: Tim Burton sees Shane Acker’s short and helps to make it a feature length move about 9 robotic rag dolls, a.k.a. the “stitchpunks,” who are left to fight the machines that exterminated humanity. Together, the stitchpunks must find a way to pull the plug on the nightmare creations (without John Connor’s help) that have turned their attention to the them.
The story of 9 may not be the most complex, but the straight-forward approach does work with the CGI effects, though the backstory of how the world got into the sorry shape it is in helps makes the doll’s fight more relevant.
The Story: In an unnamed country, a scientist creates the B.R.A.I.N., an AI that was supposed to help humanity. But the country’s chancellor forces the scientist to install the B.R.A.I.N. in a fabrication machine, which is used to create machines of war. The machine rebels and launches a massive war that exterminates humanity. The scientist, the last human left, creates the 9 “stitchpunks” (Acker’s name for the rag doll-bots) and infuses them with a “life force.” When 9 is complete, the scientist dies, leaving it to find the other stitchpunks in their quest to stop the machines.
A stitchpunk in time saves… 1 through 8. The other stitchpunks he finds are: #1 - the “leader” of the group, who shows much cynicism regarding 9’s plans to rescue #2, the inventor of the group who gets captured early on.
Numbers 3 and 4 are twins who hide out in a library. Through them, we learn of the machine’s war against humanity.
5 is a journeyman who was trained by 2. He is missing an eye due an attack during the war.
6 can probably be best described as an “artist” whose paintings are clues about the machines.
7 is the only female in the group. An agile warrior who wears a bird’s skull as a helmet.
8 is a big but dumb brute who acts as 1’s bodyguard. He give a slight clue that the stitchpunks may be robotic when he uses a magnet near his head like a mind-altering drug.
But, is it cyberpunk? Some might question if 9 is cyberpunk enough to review here, but from what I’ve seen (and from the definition on this site), there’s enough to make it cyberpunk; The negative impact of technology (the machine revolt), the man-machine fusion (the scientist transferring his life force to the stitchpunks), the underground (stitchpunks), and the visual style (the post-apocalypse scene and darkness occasionally punctured by light). The only things missing are the access to information and the control over society, though the machine threat could cover the control aspect. Can this be called steampunk? Possibly, though no signs of steam-power is immediately seen. Can this be called “stitchpunk?” Only the doll-bots should be called that.
Conclusion: Those looking for a deep storyline are going to be disappointed. Those who prefer bleeding-edge eye-candy will have a ball with 9. Those looking for a good cyberpunk movie, this should hold you… until Surrogates hits the screens next week.