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A Beginner’s Guide to Cyberpunk (Part 4 of 4)

C-3: The Golden age of Cyberpunk

C-3 is the current age that we now find ourselves in, or as I like to call it, the Golden Age of Cyberpunk. Why is it the Golden Age, you ask? Because of the amount of Cyberpunk content that is being published, and the quality of content, really makes one feel that Cyberpunk is now.

The Golden Age started with Tron: Legacy in 2010. In my opinion another breakthrough in special effects, Tron: Legacy was a sequel to the original Disney Tron live-action, which was based off an old videogame. This time featuring Jeff Bridges and Michael Sheen, it also had the legendary Daft Punk composing the musical score, as well as having a cameo in the film itself.

After Tron: Legacy, You will want to watch the Total Recall reboot featuring Colin Farrell, Bryan Cranston, Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel. With great special effects and visuals, this film is heavier on action but a lot lighter on the deeper issues at its source material contained.

Next, following the trend of reboots, watch the Ghost in the Shell live-action adaptation with the controversial casting of Scarlett Johannsen. With an excellent score and amazing visuals, you can decide whether or not the film was better, or worse, than the source material.

After Ghost in the Shell, you will want to watch a sequel to the titular Blade Runner movie, called Blade Runner 2049. Directed by Denis Villeneuve and scored by none other than Hans Zimmer himself, Blade Runner 2049 features Ryan Gosling as the new Blade Runner, while bringing back the legendary Harrison Ford himself. They join a great cast of Dave Bautista, Jared Leto, and Robin Wright, and the visuals are once again incredible.

Next in line in the Cyberpunk list is to read Richard K Morgan’s Altered Carbon before watching the Netflix series from Laeta Kalogridis that premiered on Netflix in February of 2018. Make sure to read the book before watching Season 1, as there are significant differences. Season 2 is current in production, and the novel Altered Carbon is actually book 1 of the Takeshi Kovacs trilogy, which is where the series is drawing a lot of its source material. You will probably want to read books 2 and 3 of the series before seeing further seasons. While Ghost in the Shell the previous year was a reminder that Cyberpunk still existed, it was the return of Blade Runner 2049 combined with this highly successful series that cemented the return of the genre to mainstream again.

This was further cemented by the subsequent live-action adaptation of Ready Player One by none other than Steven Spielberg himself, and is next on your list of Cyberpunk classics. You can’t get more mainstream than Spielberg. Read Ernest Cline’s book before watching the movie, as there are some differences, but both are excellent and Cline was actually a very active part in the creative direction of the film.

Finally, finish the Golden Age by reading the manga and watching the live action adaptation of Alita: Battle Angel from James Cameron. This movie is likely to have sequels follow, and in our opinion has already made a substantial impact on pop culture with its recent success.

There were many Cyberpunk films and works that were released during the Golden Age that are very much worth your time as well, but did not make it to the must-view or must-read list above. They include the live-action reboot of Judge dredd (2012, earlier C-3) as well as Elysium and Chappie by Neil Blomkamp, Anon (a Netflix original with Clive Owen and Amanda Seyfried), and Upgrade.

So, to recap, this is the order I would suggest for C-3:

  1. Tron: Legacy
  2. Total Recall
  3. Ghost in the Shell
  4. Blade Runner 2049
  5. Altered Carbon (Novel and Netflix series)
  6. Ready Player One (Novel and movie)
  7. Alita: Battle Angel (manga and movie)

Some Additional excellent Cyberpunk films:

  1. Judge Dredd
  2. Elysium
  3. Chappie
  4. Anon
  5. Upgrade

I hope this beginner’s guide to Cyberpunk was useful. If you think I left something out, make sure to let me know in the comments below!

A Beginner’s Guide to Cyberpunk (Part 3 of 4)

This post is a continuation of the series called “A Beginner’s Guide to Cyberpunk”. For today’s post, we will be talking about the C-2 Era of Cyberpunk, or the middle decade from 1999 to around 2009. More on why I divided Cyberpunk into these sections can be found in the first post here.

Beginning C-2: The Matrix 

C-2 begins with my personal favorite cyberpunk movie of all time, and indeed the movie that started my love for the genre itself, The Matrix. Now, I won’t go into how incredibly influential The Matrix was (for that, you can read about it in detail here) but needless to say, when The Matrix was released in 1999, it marked the beginning of a new era: the C-2 era. Along with other movies such as the Star Wars Prequel trilogy, special effects took a leap forward in this era, and as a result, movies were much better for it (although one could argue some movies went to far with their special effects, as the movie industry had to learn how to use the new technology in moderation). Some Cyberpunk fans say only The original Matrix is worth watching, but I am of the mind that the Matrix Trilogy is excellent, and although most would say the first and second were much better than the third, all three should be watched in succession for the cathartic conclusion and to see the path of the One from beginning to end.

After you watch the Matrix trilogy, you should also watch the Animatrix. This is a combination of short stories told in anime and CGI format, all tied together with the unifying theme of being about the Matrix. It’s great to be able to see different inspirations and artistic styles, and the content is excellent as well.

Novel: Snowcrash

Once you do that, it’s time to move onto a literary piece. Technically coming out in 1992, Snowcrash by Neal Stephenson helped revive the Cyberpunk movement that had started with Blade Runner and Neuromancer, and would be highly influential not only to the genre but to Science Fiction in general. Some also would consider it a satire of Cyberpunk itself, which is one of the reasons why I put it in the C-2 era. After winning several Sci-Fi literary awards in 1993 and 1994, Snowcrash helped popularize the term “avatar” that later would be used to describe the playable characters in video games.

Philip K Dick Adaptations: Minority Report and A Scanner Darkly

After reading Snowcrash and watching the Matrix trilogy, you will want to continue to a couple other successful Phillip K Dick adaptations, such as Minority Report for some more hard-hitting existential questions alongside a good dose of action, and A Scanner Darkly for a real head-trip.

I, Robot

Next, try out I, Robot, which was loosely adapted from the book of the same name from legendary science fiction writer Isaac Aasimov. Lighter on the existential questioning, this movie was an excellent mix of special effects, futuristic technology, action, and fun dialogue from a smart-mouth detective played by Will Smith.

Equilibrium

I would also recommend the excellent Equilibrium. Despite being light on high-tech and heavier on dystopian, this film featuring Christian Bale and Sean Bean has drug-abusing themes and a totalitarian government that checks most of the boxes on a cyberpunk list. It also has some great action sequences, such as its gun-kata fighting style, and is also visually very elegant.

Finally, if you’re dying for extra content, you could check out the anime series of Ghost in the Shell, called Stand Alone Complex, as well as the series Battlestar Galactica. The latter is definitely more like Star Trek than Cyberpunk, but it does have existential questions of identity and features robot vs. human themes.

This wraps up the C-2 era before the world would see another leap forward in special effects and general quality of its content, with C-3: The golden age.

Recap

So, to recap, this is the order I would suggest for C-2:

  1. The Matrix
  2. Matrix Reloaded
  3. Matrix Revolutions
  4. The Animatrix
  5. Snowcrash (novel)
  6. I, Robot (film)
  7. Minority Report (short story and film)
  8. A Scanner Darkly (novel and film)
  9. Equilibrium

A Beginner’s Guide to Cyberpunk (Part 2 of 4)

This post is a continuation of the series called “A Beginner’s Guide to Cyberpunk”. For today’s post, we will be talking about the C-1 Era of Cyberpunk, or the early first two decades. More on why I divided Cyberpunk into these sections can be found in the first post here.

The C-1 Era

The first era covers the birth of Cyberpunk, which began with Neuromancer and Blade Runner, as I mentioned in Part 1. Neuromancer is currently only in book format, although a movie production of the book has been in the works for decades. Perhaps with the revival of the Cyberpunk genre, producers will finally get around to making it happen. As for Blade Runner, a sequel was just released in 2017, but I will be covering that in the C-3 era.

So you’ve watched Blade Runner and then read Neuromancer. What next? You’ll want to read Phillip K. Dick‘s Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep, as your second Cyberpunk novel and an introduction into the very influential works of PKD, whose novels include The Man in the High Castle, A Scanner Darkly, We Can Remember it for you Wholesale, The Minority Report, and Adjustment Team (all of which were adapted or inspired films or tv series). PKD was a prolific writer with a dark and intriguing life, such as having paranormal experiences, five wives, drug abuse and a suicide attempt. His work often included his own life experiences and featured themes such as monopolistic corporations, authoritarian regimes, alternate universes, and altered states of consciousness. In 2005 Time named one of his novels, Ubik, as one of the 100 greatest novels published since 1923. In fact, the field of science fiction now has a pretty prestigious Phillip K. Dick award, funded by his trust fund and the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society.

After this? Another movie, this time an anime movie called Akira. This movie inspired a lot of future cyberpunk media, including The Matrix, and its visual style is on par with the C-1 era. In fact, Akira was fairly advanced for the anime of the time, and set a new standard for what anime could do. It stands the test of time pretty well, I would say, but also I think I should warn you: Akira is not only cyberpunk, but what we call “bio-punk” as well. Biopunk is like cyberpunk but instead of mixing futuristic technology with punk elements, there is biological manipulations of bodies present (whether engineered or alien by origin).

Akira then would be a good segue into Total Recall, which also has biopunk elements in its cyberpunk style. Total Recall is a gory, over the top, and silly cyberpunk movie based on PKD’s We Can Remember It For You Wholesale featuring none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yes, you heard right. The Terminator star is a big Cyberpunk style. But is that really surprising?

Anyways, after watching Total Recall, you’ll also want to watch Robocop. Robocop is also over the top gory and dramatic, directed by the same Paul Verhoeven, but without the biopunk elements. While Total Recall focuses more on reality and altered states of consciousness, Robocop focuses more on the distinction of identity between human and robot/AI. If you like action and funny one-liners, and can stand the 90s style gore, I think you might enjoy both movies, as they stand the test of time as well.

For another influential movie still in the C-1 era, I would strongly recommend watching Johnny Mnemonic–if you can get through the entire movie. Sadly, unlike the two Verhoeven films I mentioned above, this one did not age well at all. Starring Keanu Reeves as the titular Mnemonic, this movie is based on a short story by William Gibson of the same name. While based on a solid premise (Johnny is a data courrier, using his own brain as a vault to ferry information in the black market) this film is heavily based on virtual reality, something that relies heavily on special effects that might have been decent in the 90s but by our standards today are terribly outdated. Still, if you can get through it all, read Gibson’s excellent short story and see how the two compare. Also of note is that Molly Millions, the second main character from Neuromancer, is present both in the film and in Gibson’s short story.

Finally, to see virtual reality mixed with film noir, finish on a strong note with another amazing anime film: Ghost in the Shell. Released in 1995, this film still comes from the C-1 era, but has also had multiple series come from it in the C-2 era as well as a live-action remake in the C-3 era.

Once you get through all that, you’ve completed the C-1 era! If you want even more, some honorable mentions would be Hackers and Strange days. You may also want to consider the original Tron, Terminator, Lawnmower Man, and Judge Dredd.

So to recap, this is the order I would suggest:

  1. Blade Runner
  2. Neuromancer
  3. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep
  4. Akira
  5. Total Recall
  6. Robocop
  7. Johnny Mnemonic
  8. Ghost in the Shell

Seen any of the movies above? What did you think?

Agree/disagree with the ranking? Comment below!

A Beginner’s Guide to Cyberpunk (Part 1 of 4)

A Beginner’s Guide to Cyberpunk

The intention of this article is not to rehash the origins of cyberpunk, or what the word means. To do that, I would direct you to our excellent What Is Cyberpunk? Article in the menu. However, After discovering the Cyberpunk term, I was eager to go to a beginner’s guide to figure out what media I should read first. I was disappointed to find I could not find such a beginner’s guide, which is what led me to publishing this post.

This article is meant to guide you and give suggestions on what media to consume first, second, third, and so on in their different forms to begin your Cyberpunk adventure.

First off, it’s important to determine what kind of media you prefer, and to make sure you are aware of all the different forms of media in which Cyberpunk manifests itself. The main ones are TV shows, Movies, Books and Graphic Novels/Comics, and Video Games. So keep in mind which ones you prefer, hopefully a combination of all the above.

Next, to not get lost and start at the beginning of your adventure, I recommend breaking it down to three separate eras of Cyberpunk.

See, you basically have 3 different eras of Cyberpunk media which should really be consumed separately.

Why, you ask? Because media invariably is a product of the times from which it comes. Different time periods come with different fads, concerns, and economic, political, and social trends. So to consume them out of order, when each piece had wildly different styles and focuses, would just be plain confusing.

So what are the 3 different eras exactly?

C-1 would be from the 1980s to end 1990s, starting with Blade Runner in 1982 and Neuromancer in 1984 and ending with, but not including, The Matrix in 1999.

Then you have Neo-Cyberpunk (pun intended) with C-2 starting with the Matrix in 1999 and ending with media from the late 2000s. Finally,  C-3 would be 2010 until now, starting with Tron: Legacy up until today.

“All paths must have a first step. All stories have a beginning.”

In terms of getting to know the genre itself, I would recommend reading Neuromancer and watching Ridley Scott’s 1982 Blade runner. This will be a good introduction into the genre, since these two pieces of work are considered the founding material for the whole genre. However, although there are countless die-hard Blade Runner and Neuromancer fans, these works may not be for everyone. Neuromancer is definitely hard to read and follow if you are unfamiliar with cyberpunk lingo (which I’m assuming you are if you’re reading this guide) and even if you are, it’s still quite challenging. The dialogue is what shines in Gibson’s novels with stylistic genius, but half of the time spent reading it, you probably won’t understand what’s happening. I would actually recommend reading a brief synopsis of the story as you’re reading along, so you don’t get lost. That’s what I did.

Unless if you like getting lost. Then by all means, go right ahead.

The issue I had with Blade Runner is that it’s slow, it’s long, and I personally didn’t like the discordant chords prevalent in the movie’s soundtrack by Vangelis. Tell any cyberpunk fan you don’t like the soundtrack and they’ll probably tell you it’s heresy, though. But perhaps I fit right along in the punk elements of fighting the powers that be to tell me that I have to like Blade Runner or its soundtrack. So there.

After trying out your first movie and first book, I would recommend moving on to the book that inspired the movie blade runner, called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. For the next movie, there are a couple different paths you could take. You could either take your time and go through the most important movies from the older days until now, easing into the more modern movies, or you could jump straight to the most iconic cyberpunk films, which will definitely feel very different in style and special effects but will get you to the classics faster.

I would also recommend a parallel/intertwined track of anime movies/tv series. Anime can present the genre in a way that basic movies can’t, and the genre has been heavily affected by the medium.

If you want to take your time, however, I would recommend a duo of Paul Verhoeven movies: Total Recall and Robocop. These 2 over the top, gory, and silly movies have a lot of underlying cyberpunk themes, and they also lay the groundwork for more cyberpunk media that would come later.

For anime, you will want to start by watching the anime movie Akira, which was a big inspiration for some of the elements in The Matrix and other big cyberpunk films later on. Ironically, Akira is set in 2019, so this year is a great year to start. So is Blade Runner.

I’ll be posting more details of what to check out in each era soon, so follow along, and let me know your thoughts on any of this content as well!