Outside the wire is one of the newest futuristic action flicks from Netflix of 2021. Released a mere two weeks into the new year, this sci-fi action thriller stars Damson Idris (Black Mirror) as Lt. Thomas Harp, a drone pilot who makes a difficult call resulting in a reassignment as punishment. There he meets Captain Leo, played by Anthony Mackie (Altered Carbon, Avengers: Age of Ultron) who also was one of the producers for the film. Directed by Mikael Hafstrom, Outside the Wire also stars Pilou Asbaek (Ghost in the Shell, Game of Thrones) as one of its villains . At first glance, this film doesn’t seem to be Cyberpunk at all. But is it? Or is there more to this action movie than meets the eye?
A Military-Focused Plot
When I started watching this movie I had no idea it was actually science fiction, and indeed, it doesn’t really market itself as such. I was gearing up for another gritty hard-as-nails military action film, a bit like Expendables lite. It definitely started off as such, with a firefight resulting in some difficult decisions and consequences that leads our main character, Lt. Thomas Harp, to be reassigned as punishment to Camp Nathaniel, a US base of operations set in the Ukraine, and must report to Mackie’s character, Captain Leo.
All of the story in Outside the Wire takes place with its main characters exclusively military, civilians, refugees, rebels, or humanitarians who deal with the military. However, about 30 minutes in, we suddenly discover that Captain Leo is an incredibly realistic android, a prototype made by the military to resemble humans as closely as possible. We are also casually shown human militia denigrating military robots with gimbals as heads and humanoid forms that allow them for ruthless stone-cold combat.
Science Fiction or Purely Action?
Other than Leo and the military robots, however, there is no other science fiction present in the film at all. A Russian nuclear powerplant that becomes important later in the movie uses old soviet-era tech, and the drones the military use are present-day technology (with their very human operators working much like present-day drone pilots would).
The Ukraine setting feels very Eastern Europe. No neon streets, no dark rain, none of the stereotypical cyberpunk elements. No punk elements at all, really.
Can Androids Be Trusted?
The one thing that doesn’t rule it out of the cyberpunk moniker completely is Mackie’s character, Leo. When Harp meets Leo at Camp Nathaniel, he is quickly apprehensive of Leo’s non-human nature. This leads to some interesting banter between action scenes, as Harp grabbles with what it means that his superior officer is also property of the American Military who should be serving his human creators. The question of whether Harp can trust Leo quickly becomes paramount, and lingers ever present as an unanswered question as the two work together to carry out their mission. The audience is also left wondering if Leo can be trusted, a question which is later answered very bluntly near the end of the film.
Overall Thoughts: A Missed Opportunity
Outside the Wire had a lot of the right ingredients that could have made for an excellent movie. Unfortunately, it seems like these elements are only half-baked, leaving the final product to end up being just another action movie with many of its potentially interesting questions unanswered and its characters undeveloped. While Harp’s character is likeable enough and Leo’s character keeps us guessing his true intentions, we don’t see Harp’s character develop much throughout the film, and Leo’s character ultimately underwhelms. Once his final motives are revealed, they feel uninspired and disappointing, when we look at all the things they could have focused on instead, such as whether robots or androids deserve the same treatment as humans do, which serves as a metaphor for prejudice and racism in so many other science fiction films of its kind. Outside the Wire decides instead to lean on well-choreographed fight scenes and special effects, but without the big budget that most other science fiction films have, the effect is simply underwhelming. Where is the world-building? Why don’t we feel more for Leo’s character than we do? Anthony Mackie definitely could have delivered a more moving performance, if he had been given the script to do so. They should have at least told us if Leo Dreams of Electric Sheep.
Final Verdict: Decidedly Not Cyberpunk
With what at first glance would be the possible makings of a cyberpunk film–a humanlike android, military robots, and a human main character questioning his android partner’s motives, Outside the Wire is definitely not Cyberpunk. There are no real punk or low life elements to speak of, nor are there any megacorporations or oppresive dystopias to speak of in this film. Instead we have a very near to present US military outfit acting in Ukraine and carrying out what amounts to another cold war action film with a subtle whiff of science fiction. However, it was entertaining enough to be worth watching, with decent performances and good action sequences. I would give this film a 6/10.
We are lucky that the end of the year brings us two weeks of holidays, for Christmas and New Year’s, where we can sit down and take a minute to reflect on what the year has brought us. My last Year in Review, for 2019, described the many things that we got to enjoy in the year, along with looking ahead to the future of what 2020 was meant to have in store for us (boy, were we in for a BIG SURPRISE with that one!) While different from 2019 in many ways, 2020 has been a great year for the genre of Cyberpunk in general. On the first few days of 2020 I wrote the following:
“So what does the future hold for Cyberpunk? Something very exciting indeed. Just look at all the great content, announcements and surprises we got from 2019! So while it’s impossible to say what surprise announcements or content we will get, what we can do is predict things that are already in the pipeline and have been announced:
1. Altered Carbon: Season 2 should arrive to Netflix in February 2020, which will start off our year right
2. Cyberpunk 2077 will be released in April, which should really kick the Cyberpunk genre into front and center of pop culture, especially considering it’s in the name of the game itself.
3. Matrix 4 isn’t expected until 2021, but 2020 will bring with it more and more production and casting updates, as well as hopefully story clues, so the production of Matrix 4 will be very fun to watch. Production should begin in February as well.
4. While not exactly Cyberpunk, Denis Villeneuve did an excellent job with Cyberpunk 2049, so his adaption of the science-fiction classic DUNE will be very exciting to see. There may be some cyberpunk elements present, but it should be a mostly science fiction tale.”
Well, Altered Carbon: Season 2 was good, but it didn’t live up to the first season sadly, and then the series itself was cancelled.
Cyberpunk 2077 wasn’t released in April, or September, or November, but finally in December, and while it did well on the PC and next-gen consoles, it had so many game-breaking bugs in the old-gen consoles many gamers demanded refunds and others considered the release a monumental failure.
Matrix 4 is still set for 2021, but instead of a May release date, or an April 2022 release date due to covid, its newest release date is for December 22nd, 2021.
As for Dune, its release was pushed back from December 18th, 2020 to October 1st, 2021. We were able to get a glimpse of the trailer, which looks amazing, but it’s still a long way away.
Meanwhile, we got a lot of other Cyberpunk media in 2020. So come join me, won’t you, as we take a walk down memory lane and look at all the Cyberpunk media that came out in 2020.
February 27th: Altered Carbon Season 2
Cyberpunk in 2020 started off the year with Altered Carbon Season 2, releasing February 27th on Netflix. Compared to Season 1, I noted how the second season felt very toned down, with less torture, violence, and gore. Unlike the source material (Broken angels and Woken Furies, books 2 and 3 in the Takeshi Kovacs Trilogy, respectively) the Netflix series decided to pursue a love story between Takeshi and Quell, for better or for worse. There’s also a lot less gratuitous sex than in the books, a stronger focus on family ties, and generally a lot of missed opportunities with the changes they chose compared to the books. The result is a more wholesome, safe season that probably had a smaller budget but also didn’t wow the audience in any way, and as a result led to the unfortunate cancelling of the series (partly also because of how darn expensive the series was).
February and March: Matrix 4 begins shooting, and the lockdowns begin
Project Ice Cream, AKA Matrix 4, began shooting in February and we were treated to some incredible stunt scenes over skyscrapers and explosions along the city streets in Alameda and San Francisco, California, which I reported in my Matrix 4: 2020 updates post in March. Fortunately, Matrix 4 was able to wrap up all of its primary US shooting before March rolled around. The team were later able to continue shooting in Babelsberg, Germany, although under significantly different conditions
The end of February was the final normal month as we knew it. We had no idea at the time, but we were about to be hit by the world-changing pandemic known as COVID-19, which would affect media releases, travel, result in thousands of deaths and billions of people affected and forced to rethink their daily habits. The entire world, almost every country, had to learn how to confine, lockdown, or quarantine, an event I discussed in my April post on how dystopian it felt in real time.
March: Altered Carbon: Resleeved and Bloodshot
After Altered Carbon Season 2 came out, we were treated to a Netflix animated film called Altered Carbon: Resleeved. Released on March 19th, the story had fairly good voice actors and story, if you could get past the unusual animation style. It was only 1 hour 14 minutes in duration, so it was pretty short, but had some awesome ninja action scenes. More on our review of Altered Carbon: Resleeved can be found here.
Meanwhile, Bloodshot was meant to be released in theaters, (and maybe it was in some places) but due to the pandemic it was mostly moved to pay on demand. I just recently posted my review and thoughts of this recent quasi-cyberpunk film with Vin Diesel here.
April: The first podcast and the beginning of our Is This Cyberpunk? Series
In April we had our first podcast of the year, an exciting hour-long talk with friend to the blog Lazarus over at NeoMatrixology. In it we discuss the Cyberpunk genre, our first impressions viewing the Matrix for the first time, and many other things.
We also had the first of what would be many different posts in a series called Is This Cyberpunk? where I look at media that could be considered Cyberpunk and offer my thoughts of why or why not they would be considered in the genre. This year we looked at the following movies: The Wolverine, Big Hero 6, Batman Beyond, and Tomorrowland.
April: Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045
Also coming out in April was the next animated Cyberpunk work on Netflix, Ghost in the Shell SAC_2045. Released April 23rd, it comprised 12 20-minute episodes to create a fast-paced, interesting series that decidedly does not finish at the end of its run, suggesting a season 2 was always in the works. Although great parts action and cyber-sleuthing, I noted that it might take a minute to get past the unusual 3D CG animation. Check out my full review of the series here.
June: The beginning of Night City Wire episodes
Night City Wire was a series of what would become 5 promotional short videos to advertise the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077, This provided a great opportunity for fans of Cyberpunk to get excited together about what would be available to do in the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 title. When we got it in June it was supposed to come out in September, before it eventually got delayed to November and then finally to December 10th. I personally had a lot of fun tuning into my favorite Cyberpunk content creator on YouTube and seeing their reactions and joining in the chat as thousands of similar fans all watched the wires drop simultaneously. You can check out my breakdown of wire 1, wire 2, wire 3 and wires 4-5 plus the special on the blog.
October: World Cyberpunk Day
October 10th, 2020 (or 10.10.2020) was World Cyberpunk Day. Designed to be a free fun #hashtag celebration of all things cyberpunk, it was also meant to promote lesser known Cyberpunk content creators. For my own post of World Cyberpunk Day, I took the opportunity to celebrate all my favorite Cyberpunk media, including both well-known and lesser known content. You can check out all my favorite Cyberpunk picks in all the different categories here.
November: Ready Player Two
On November 24th, Ready Player Two, the sequel to the acclaimed Ready Player Novel, was published By Ernest Cline. After loving the first novel and going to see the film adaptation by Steven Spielberg last year, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this book. It was a fast-paced page-turner and I finished it in about a week or two, and I highly recommend it. You can check out my full review for the book here.
December: Cyberpunk 2077 finally releases
On December 10th, the fateful day finally arrived. I remember waiting until 2am to download the game, waiting an hour using my slow internet to download the game, and then finally being able to create my character and playing the first 20 minutes of the game (the introduction) before crashing. Unfortunately, despite having downloaded the game previously when I pre-ordered the game, I like thousands of others around the world like me took a really long time in downloading the final pieces in order to make the game playable.
Once I finally was able to play the game…I wish I could say it went swimmingly. Unfortunately, I had a couple bugs that really bothered me during the introduction (like bushes appearing in frames when they were supposed to be outside far away but otherwise, I didn’t have any problems playing the game (although I played on the lowest graphics settings due to the old nature of my gaming laptop). Others, however, weren’t so forgiving with the game, and had much worse bugs. So bad, in fact, that Sony pulled it from their online store, and CD Projekt Red lost millions when they had to offer refunds for the game, sparking disgruntled developers pushing back on management claiming their timelines to get the game out were unrealistic, and even resulting in lawsuits from investors. Nonetheless, I had a great time playing Cyberpunk 2077. I have since finished one of the game’s main storylines, but I still have much more to play. I published an initial review of the game with my first impressions as one of my last posts of 2020 here.
Interviewing the Cyberpunk Community at Cyberpunk Matrix:
Finally, throughout the year, I was able to interview all kinds of great Cyberpunk content creators and see how they got into the genre, as well as what they love about Cyberpunk. Starting with Bradley B, founder of the incredible Cyberpunk website http://www.cyberpunks.com, I later was able to interview all four most popular YouTube Cyberpunk content creators: Madqueen, The Neon Arcade, Last Known Meal, and Triple S League. They also have a mutual community podcast which I often joined on occasion every other Sunday during 2020 as we all mutually waited for Cyberpunk 2077 to release and shared the latest info and hopes for the game.
Obviously what we are most excited for here at Cyberpunk Matrix, and indeed a lot of the inspiration why I created this website in the first place, is the return to the world of The Matrix with Matrix 4. Now that Lana Wachowski and the production team was able to wrap in Germany, it seems like the biggest work in producing Matrix 4 is done. Now comes the step of adding the music, edits, and all the other post production work, before marketing and getting Matrix 4 ready for their release date of December 22nd, 2021. Hopefully that release date won’t be pushed back yet again.
While all we know about this standalone series from Netflix set in Night City is that it will come out in 2022, hopefully there may be some news about its production to come out in 2021. Similarly, I am looking forward to any and all Cyberpunk 2077 DLC that comes out in 2021 that adds to the already very rich world that CD Projekt Red has created.
Thoughts and Expectations for Cyberpunk in 2021
2020 has been a difficult year for most of humanity. Fortunately I never contracted the virus this year, but I know many friends and family members that did, and it certainly wasn’t easy. We changed out habits, lifestyles, values, perspective on life, because of the virus–it really was a pandemic that will change human history as we know it, developing in front of our eyes in real time. But with all these vaccines rolling out for 2021, the year looks very promising. And with the vaccines will hopefully come a new stability, a new normal that will allow travel and production on all our favorite media to resume again. After 8 long years, Cyberpunk 2077 finally was released, and although its release definitely wasn’t perfect, the stories in Cyberpunk 2077 will now be in the forefront of our modern culture’s mind, with society knowing exactly what a cyberpunk world looks like and what kind of cyberpunks they might encounter in such a world if they played the videogame. Ready Player Two will probably be coming out with Steven Spielberg producing at least, and I wouldn’t be surprised if CD Projekt Red learns from their mistakes and creates another Cyberpunk title, or at the very least more DLC to add to the night city, if what they’ve done with The Witcher 3 is any indication. So goodbye 2020, for all its challenges and change, and welcome 2021. As Panam says, cheers — here’s to what’s yet to come.
A Superhero Almost-Cyberpunk Film You Probably Missed Earlier this Year
Bloodshot is the latest quasi-Cyberpunk film based on the comic book superhero from the comic book series of the same name from Valiant Comics. Directed by David S. F. Wilson in his directorial debut, it was produced by Neal Moritz and Vin Diesel (Fast & Furious). Bloodshot was meant to be the first installment in a series of films set in a Valiant Comics shared cinematic universe, but after the pandemic put everyone’s plans on hold it’s anybody’s guess whether this will be the first part of a series of films.
This is a slick action-focused flick starring Vin Diesel as Marine Raymond “Ray” Garrison who is reborn by a team of scientists with nanotechnology after he almost dies trying to prevent his wife from being murdered. The nanites allow him to become somewhat of a superhuman, with enhanced strength, senses, and healing factor. Originally amnesiac after the operation, his memories start to come back to him as he trains with fellow super-soldiers, until he breaks out of the R&D facility to find the man that killed his wife. Yet nothing is as it seems as he begins a journey to regain his memory and rediscover an unclear past.
Dr. Harting explaining to Ray about how Nanites are, like, the best thing ever.
In addition to Vin Diesel in the titular role, we have Guy Pearce (Iron Man 3) playing lead scientist Dr. Emil Harting in charge of bringing Ray back to life. As he did in Iron Man 3, Pearce delivers another excellent performance of being serious, intelligent, ambitious, and dangerous all at the same time. Apparently Jared Leto had been considered for the role, which would have been another Cyberpunk film for him to star in (Blade Runner 2049), but ultimately the role went to Diesel as I guess they wanted the film to be more action-focused.
KT and Ray bonding over some shots.
Also cast are Sam Heughan (Outlander) as a fellow enhanced soldier and rival, Eida Gonzalez as KT, another fellow enhanced soldier sympathetic to Ray, Talulah Riley (Pride & Prejudice, Inception) as Ray’s wife, Lamorne Morris (New Girl) as computer programmer Wilfred Wigans, and Toby Kebbell (Fantasic 4, Black Mirror) as one of the villains.
Of all the members of the cast, the only other cast member that stood out for me in his performance was Morris’ character Wigans. We only meet him halfway through the film but he provides such a fun refreshing dose of comedic relief that it really lightens up an otherwise incredibly somber movie that, up until that point, felt like it took itself too seriously.
A Slow Beginning
The beginning is pretty lacklust at first–we have the soldier hero with his stunning wife (Gina, played by Talulah Riley, providing pretty clear exposition for what’s to come). This eventually leads to a emotionally intense torture scene that really sets into motion the entire film.
This film has a smattering of high-tech elements. Noteworthy are Guy Pearce’s Cybernetic hand, along with the other slightly augmented super-soldiers. One has bionic legs, which is pretty common to see, but another has a bionic chestplate that serves as his eyes and yet another has a bionic breathing apparatus that that was a novel idea for me to see. Dr. Harting calls it laryngotrachyal reconstruction with a clavical-mounted respirator (which means she can breathe through her chest). Other later tech includes bionical arms and portable drones with cameras that create live 3D video feed delivered straight inside a soldier’s helmet to create a bird’s eye view on the go.
The tech that gives Bloodshot his superpower is the nanites that course through his bloodstream, giving him super strength and health regeneration. What I wasn’t expecting is that as an additional bonus they gave him the ability to both access the internet and be accessed by the internet at the same time. This allowed him to download skills and schematics much like Neo did to learn Kung Fu or Trinity did to learn how to fly a helicopter. It also allowed him to access information on the internet much like RoboCop might do to access outstanding warrants for arrest or where people are located.
Reality Construction Using Altered Memories
At 46 minutes in we are given the twist that was perhaps somewhat ruined in the trailer, which, if you haven’t seen yet, I won’t spoil for you. What I will mention about this is I really liked the virtual spaces that feature briefly in the film, as well as the questioning-reality moments from questioning if memories or real or not that was so well covered in movies like Total Recall elsewhere in the Cyberpunk genre. “It’s like what you think is real sometimes ain’t” explains a very colloquial Wigans.
Slow-Motion Over-The-Top Action scenes
One of the first action sequences we are offered is a scene in a tunnel with a flour truck that has spilled all its flour on the ground, and a convoy with military henchmen are using flares to defend themselves against an oncoming Bloodshot. Later action sequences involve more augmented soldiers in a Parkour-style chase scene including drones, a facility breakout scene, and later an epic battle near the end of the film (which is pretty much always to be expected for any major action film).
Heavy-Handed CGI use
There are moments when the use of CGI felt a big heavy-handed, almost like the movie had suddenly turned into a video game cut scene. I’m not sure if it was their intention to do this or they just really wanted super-cool action scenes, but for me it took me out of the moment in the movie a bit.
Bloodshot takes old familiar concepts and repackages them with some nice updated special effects, making for a good action film, but the lack of compelling characters, lackluster plot, and absence of any deep new ideas work against this film. Although I enjoyed the film, if I had to pinpoint where exactly this film miss-stepped, it would be lack of connection between the audience and the main character Ray. The entire film is based on the premise that we, the audience, should connect with him on a certain level and certainly care if he dies or not. It’s almost an assumption that we should based on how everyone else acts around Ray, but it simply didn’t deliver. Vin Diesel is a great action actor, but his strengths aren’t in conveying emotion, and unfortunately that was the missing element in this film.
Final Verdict: 7/10
If you’re looking for characters to connect with or a really interesting story, this movie might not fit the bill. But if you’re looking for an action film with a bit of a Cyberpunk twist, then this is a pretty good film. So if you want to spend a few hours with some fun action sequences and a high-production value, then Bloodshot is a film not to be missed!
What does Tomorrowland have to do with Cyberpunk? A lot, in fact.
What is Cyberpunk, anyways?
High Tech. Low Life. Such is the TL:DR definition of what Cyberpunk is. While many may argue and debate on what exactly Cyberpunk is (for more of such fun, contentious discussions, check out my “Is This Cyberpunk?” series), most would agree that a major theme in a proper Cyberpunk film is an element of a dystopian society that the medium is set in.
Ghost in the Shell. Blade Runner. Alita: Battle Angel. The Matrix. All of these classics have dystopian societies or worlds in one way or another, some more than others.
So if Cyberpunk is dystopian, what would the opposite be, and would having a clear example of the opposite of Cyberpunk help us in our journey of figuring out what Cyberpunk means once and for all?
While dystopia describes the low life aspect, futuristic technology describes the high tech aspect.
So what does Cyberpunk have to do with Tomorrowland?
And this is what brings me to a little film produced by Disney called Tomorrowland.
Tomorrowland was a 2015 film directed and co-written by Brad Bird, inspired by the futuristic-themed Tomorrowland found in Disneyland, as well as the progressive cultural movements of the Space Age. EPCOT in Disneyworld, along with Walt Disney’s conceptual visions of a planned future community, were also a major inspiration for the film.
The result was a high production value, visually beautiful film that is a lot deeper after a closer look, but also a film that was woefully underappreciated in the box office and garnered what I found to be very critical reviews.
Coming Back to Why Cyberpunk is Important
Here at Cyberpunk Matrix I am of the belief that Cyberpunk is a genre that we need in the present, to make sense of new exciting but dangerous technology being developed now and how it could be misused without the proper moral considerations in the future, especially on a societal level.
While Cyberpunk is always reminding how technology could be misused, there is a lot of good that technology could bring if it is actually used correctly.
Tomorrowland is one of the clearest examples of what technology could build for us as a society, if applied correctly. Tomorrowland is an aspiration that paints a beautiful picture of what could be. That’s important to keep in mind when it’s easy to be constantly in fear, especially nowadays, of what bad could be as well. And this duality, of utopia and dystopia, of warning and vision, is important to take notice of.
Tomorrowland: Optimism vs. Pessimism
Also if you look at Tomorrowland, it isn’t all a fancy happy utopia where everything is good. You might think it would be that, and certainly the video presents it as such with the main character Casey touching the Tomorrowland Pin and getting a vision of another utopian future society. But once she meets Frank Walker, the disillusioned, sarcastic ex-inventor, she gets a cold dose of reality that the audience (at least, the adults in the audience) is all too familiar with. His cynicism even goes so far as to affect her, as well, despite her original optimism (something she points out in the beginning of the film).
What is interesting is the story itself, and the message it delivers underneath.
Unfortunately, to properly unpack the importance of Tomorrowland as viewed through the lens of Cyberpunk, I’m going to have to reveal some major spoilers. As spoiling as you can get, really. So if you haven’t watched this film, and want to, please do before you read the rest of this. This is your last chance to turn back. You’ve been warned!
Tomorrowland and Armageddon: Self-Fulfilling Prophesies Depending on Perspective
Casey is crushed when she learns that their current predicted future is not the utopian world she saw through the pin, but rather that the world will end soon through nuclear holocaust.
But what is the cause of this doomsday end? A self-fulfilling prophecy.
The film explains that they not only discovered a new particle called tachyons, but that once they were able to harness this particle to observe near past and future, they were able to glimpse their doomed future. But the simple act of observing their future created a negativity loop that in effect created a self-fulfilling prophecy. By having a collective world believe that the world would end soon, it changed their actions due to their negative mindsets, and what they feared thus was becoming reality.
We can see some effect that observing particles has on what the particle does itself with experiments already conducted in physics in science, such as with Schrodinger or Wheeler. So while obviously tachyons as represented in the film is fiction, Is the general idea of affecting our future by observing it really so far fetched?
With this reasoning in mind, their solution to the problem then does not seem so far-fetched either. By creating a compelling enough vision of the future, and sharing it with enough people, they were effectively able to create a new future for themselves by injecting positivity of thought, which in turn affects their actual actions.
The Importance of Positivity, Negativity, Warnings and Dreams
Walt Disney had a dream: What the world could be like. It’s why he created EPCOT: The Experimental People Community of Tomorrow. He goes into length explaining his vision of what it would be like before he passed away in this video below. It’s also great to see the source material this film is derived from.
Despite what many may say about Disney and its monopolistic, conglomerate interests, I think Walt had something here. What’s to keep the dystopian dark futures at bay, when we have so many of them warning us how our world could one day become if we’re not ruined? That’s why Cyberpunk is so important, to give us those clear examples of how we don’t want our future to turn up as (although obviously some aspects, like neon lights, flying cars and cyber-enhancements, would be pretty cool).
Cyberpunk and Tomorrowland: A Yin and Yang of Light and Dark
But what’s the counterpoint to Cyberpunk, to those dystopian dark futures? I believe that we need a light to complement the dark, a yin and yang, if we are to truly navigate our future effectively, And Walt Disney tried to create that optimistic, positive vision of the future. That’s also why I think Tomorrowland is so brilliant. If you go beyond the glossy special effects and feel-good kid-focused story that Disney loves to sell us, we see the values that are implicitly important to us–or at least should be.
Values of being positive, and not letting our cynicism get the best of us, like it did with Frank when he had a device that showed him the apocalypse at 100% probability. How could he not lose hope in a situation like that? Until someone came along and changed that probability, changed that dark vision of the future by showing him, and as many people as possible eventually, what the future could look like.
Keeping our Compass True to Navigate a Dark Future
It’s also why that last scene in the end is so great. The pins represent hope. They represent a bright future, positivity, and inspiration for good. That idea can come from anywhere in the world–investors for good technology, technology that helps mankind instead of hurting it, could come from any source in any country.
So in conclusion, what I’m saying here is that we need Disney’s positivity. We need light, and hope, to balance out the dark and depressing warning signs that Cyberpunk provides us. Because only by having a balance of both signs can we keep our compass true for the best possible future for all of humanity.
Judge Dredd is a Cyberpunk action film from 2012 that was written and produced by Alex Garland, and directed by Pete Travis. Based on the comic strip Judge Dredd, Karl Urban stars as a judge in the law enforcement system where police are judge, jury, and executioners all in one.
Set in a vast, dystopian metropolis called Mega-City One, Dredd and his apprentice partner Judge Anderson are called to a 200-story megabuilding to deal with its local drug ring and their leader, Ma-Ma.
Setting the Cyberpunk scene for Dredd (2012)
The movie begins with a classic line from the wonderfully gruff voice by Urban:
“America is an irradiated wasteland. Within it lies a city. Outside the boundary walls, a desert. A cursed earth. Inside the walls, a cursed city, stretching from Boston to Washington D.C. An unbroken concrete landscape. 800 million people living in the ruin of the old world and the mega structures of the new one. Mega blocks. Mega highways. Mega City One. Convulsing. Choking. Breaking under its own weight. Citizens in fear of the street. The gun. The gang. Only one thing fighting for order in the chaos: the men and women of the Hall of Justice. Juries. Executioners. Judges.”
Generally I hate exposition like this at the beginning of a movie, but this one gets a pass from me just because Urban’s voice is that good. We are immediately afterwards treated to some classic cyberpunk scenes of the new normal of the future, megastructures with megablocks and giant mazes of superhighways. Unfortunately, this is all that we will see in the movie of the rest of the city.
A Cyberpunk Highway Chase in Dredd (2012)
Any great action Cyberpunk film has a high-speed motorway chase and Judge Dredd delivers right out of the gate. This was one of my favorite scenes, to see Dredd on his motorbike pursuing three felons in a van speeding along one of the highways.
In a subsequent scene we see a criminal run away through a mall, with fresh bodies lying dead on the floor scattered throughout. This struck me as subtly communicating to the viewer how life here is very cheap indeed. This is reinforced when we later see in the same setting a few cleaning robots come out to clear the blood and mess while a PDA cheerfully announces that “the mall will be reopened again in 30 minutes.” Commerce!
Dredd (2012)’s main dystopian setting: Peach Trees
This introduction eventually leads the story to the mega-structure of “Peach Trees”, where the rest of the movie takes place. The main antagonist, Ma-Ma, is introduced early on when she has a couple rival gang members skinned alive and thrown over the railing. She controls the entire complex, and the inequality and desperation is visible.
“Homeless junkie, will debase self for credits” shows the desperation of peach trees. The rookie reading the stats of the crime and unemployment levels in the building add to it.
Dredd (2012)’s Special Effects: Slow Motion
One aspect of this film that sets it apart from other Cyberpunk films in its genre is the incredible slow-motion scenes when people inhale a drug called Slo-Mo. It gives us a true impression of what it must be like to be on the drug, while at the same time giving it a distinctly artistic feel to the film. I personally loved it.
It can be used either to enjoy the simple things, like a bubble bath…
Or enhance action scenes from unsuspecting guards who also happened to be using the drug. Heh.
Positive Elements of Dredd (2012)
Another thing this movie did very well is sustain the suspense. There is a good balance between guns blazing and quiet moments where the audience waits.
The music in this film is incredible. Hard rock, heavy hitting, it’s actually done by Paul Leonard-Morgan–one of his more electronic and industrial tracks I’ve heard from him.
Finally, Karl Urban’s gruff voice and cool attitude personifies Dredd perfectly. He was a great choice to be cast in this role and does an excellent job.
Negative Elements of Dredd (2012)
There was a small element of supernatural where the rookie has a psychic ability as a result of a certain mutant strain that she possesses. I felt that adding the “mutant” aspect to the movie really wasn’t necessary, but it also didn’t detract from the film itself either.
Upon first viewing I was disappointed that the film took place almost exclusively in Peach Trees, and that it seemed like more of an action Rambo-style cat and mouse movie than anything else. They had such great scenes in the mall, overviews of the megacity, there was a lot of potential here. Nonetheless, upon a second viewing, there’s a lot more here than meets the eye, and if you go into the film knowing that it all takes place within Peach Trees, you might not be disappointed as I was.
Dredd (2012) Final Verdict: 9/10
I thoroughly enjoyed Dredd, and it’s a film you can watch over and over again, for the characters, the music, the incredible set design and costumes, and the over-the-top action sequences. The end is somewhat predictable, but still very much badass, with some surprises that are sprinkled within. I also greatly enjoyed seeing how well the rookie was able to take care of herself–this isn’t another damsel in distress movie. Despite the fact that it all takes place in the same location, if you take this movie for what it is–a Cyberpunk action flick–you definitely won’t be disappointed. I highly recommend seeing Dredd if you haven’t already.