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Cyberpunk 2020: A Year in Review for Cyberpunk

 

A Time to Look Back

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

A medical staff member sprays disinfectant at a residential area in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province on March 11, 2020. (Photo by STR / AFP) / China OUT (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

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 2wire 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.

Cyberpunk Media to Look out for in 2021

Dune

While not exactly cyberpunk, Frank Herbert’s Dune is a science fiction classic and a lot of sci-fi has drawn inspiration from his spice world of Arrakis and the fear-inspiring worms that live there. Considering how great Denis Villeneuve did with Blade Runner 2049, I’m really excited to see this come out next year. It’s also starring a great ensemble cast like  Timothée ChalametRebecca FergusonOscar IsaacJosh BrolinStellan SkarsgårdDave Bautista, Zendaya, Jason Momoa, and Javier Bardem.

Matrix 4

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.

Edgerunners

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.

Cyberpunk and Coronavirus: A Dystopian Global Pandemic Happening In Real Time

Coronavirus: Symptoms, death rate, where it came from, and other ...

Police Decontamination team in Bozhou, China

Living in a Present-day Dystopia with Cyberpunk Tones

What a time to be alive. No literally, people around the world are dying from COVID-19, so if we are alive right now, we are lucky. Although honestly, life is a gift, so any day we are alive should be counted as lucky.

But something truly remarkable is happening right now. All around the world, we are experiencing a collective feeling and thought process. 2.6 billion (now 3.9 billion) humans are in isolation right now, representing 1/3 of humanity (it is now half of humanity). Think about that. Almost one third of humanity, provided they have the resources, are coming together through the internet, online virtual classrooms and meetings while practicing isolation.

A New Era of Confinement from COVID-19

Welcome to the new era. Of Confinement, social distancing, online communities, and virtual classrooms and meetings. In this new, dare I say, dystopian Cyberpunk world, we have drones decontaminating empty streets.

Drone in UAE decontaminating the streets (Reddit)

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

As people stay at home, and simply going outside presents a health risk, humanity is finding new and ingenious ways to get work done in safe ways. Like using this cyberpunk-looking UV machine to speed-decontaminate hospital rooms .

Hospital tests UV light to clean rooms – illumiPure ...

Source: Illumipure.com

Returning to a New Normal

In China, where the Coronavirus is getting more under control as the number of cases levels off and drops, workers are returning to work under a new “normal”–with distancing measures in place, like this picture a local Chinese plant shows.

Source: Wired.com

Drones!

Drones have already been, I would say, cyberpunk enough–it’s a relatively new trend, but something that has been growing a lot already in 2019. They can do cool things like debris removal on power lines with flamethrowers, or shoot fireworks at annoyingly loud neighbors.

Probably one of the coolest jobs ever.

What can’t they do?

But now with the Coronavirus, drones are a cool, futuristic, yet practical way to get work done remotely. Like walking your dog! Because dogs are immune to Coronavirus, so why not walk them with your drone?

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This pup in Cyprus seems to enjoy the idea.

It’s so surreal

The entire world is going into lockdown, and many might think this new, different, crazy world of confinement feels more like a dream than reality. In fact, it’s even been shown as a dream before, like in that scene at the beginning of Vanilla Sky where Tom Cruise finds himself in downtown Times Square, except all the streets everywhere is completely deserted, before he wakes up and realizes he was just dreaming. But now that wouldn’t seem like such a far-fetched dream, now, would it? Who else has ever in their lifetime experienced anything like this before?

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It’s a world where seeing images like this isn’t so odd or uncommon anymore. Which, for cyberpunk fans, is kinda cool, no?

Eerie Emptiness thanks to COVID-19

All of a sudden, big usually-busy public squares are completely empty of humans. Mother nature is reclaiming its rightful claim on the world. Just look at the beautiful, eerily desolate pictures around the world from this Atlantic article:

Washington DC

San Francisco

Disneyworld, Florida

Paris

Pisa, Italy

The Brooklyn Bridge

A Mall in Richmond, California

Rue de Rivoli in Paris

London’s Eye from Westminster Bridge

Notre-Dame, Paris

Hangzhou, China

Going Virtual

The entirety of humanity has had to adapt due to the Coronavirus, as everything moves online. One of the starkest examples of this are the schools and universities around the world who have had to suddenly switch to online and virtual classes. Above is a science teacher live-streaming to her students using her phone and a tripod.

International Affairs Editor Rageh Omaar on a video call with people who are in a lockdown across the world.

Zoom!

One online platform that has seen a huge growth in users has been the online meeting software zoom. Millions of people around the world are now using this platform for school or work, and are adjusting to their new virtual reality. I personally have started using this for work as well myself.

One cool thing I learned about Zoom is that for video, you can add a virtual background including a video of a beach by the sea with palm trees.

Zoom virtual background

Just the Beginning of Virtual

This led me to think about Deepfakes, and what would happen if people started working online constantly using deepfakes. If that were the case, someone could actively mask their identity or pretend they were continuously someone else. Pretty Cyberpunk, no?

The Truth About Deepfakes: Legal Expert Weighs In on ...

What if we deepfakes were used with Zoom? Source: dreadcentral.com

A New Normal with Masks Protecting from Coronavirus

As different regulations are passed, everyday people wearing masks is quickly becoming the norm. For some cultures like in Japan or China, masks might have been already somewhat ubiquitous, but to see them in places like New York City or Paris is incredibly new and surreal.

Manhattan lawyer gives wife, son, daughter and neighbor ...

Times Square

A person wearing a full-face mask in King's Cross underground station

King Cross Station

 

The Effect of COVID-19 on the Cyberpunk Genre

 

COVID-19 has affected virtually every single industry there is because of how incredibly global its effect is. The Cyberpunk genre is no different, and has had both its pros and cons as a result of the virus.

Recognizing the Negative of Coronavirus on Cyberpunk

Let’s start with the negative first, before going with the positive. As the saying goes, you gotta take the bad with the good.

Juan Gimenez dies from COVID-19 complications

One sad result was the death of Juan Gimenez, an acclaimed comic book artist who happened to draw one of my favorite, and maybe the most iconic, illustration of Case and Molly Millions from the Cyberpunk classic Neuromancer. Juan, you will be sorely missed. May you rest in peace.

Matrix 4 delayed

Another unfortunate result of COVID-19 is the delays of major Hollywood productions, including in particular Matrix 4. Variety has reported that production of Matrix 4 may have to be delayed until at least mid-may. This may affect the release date of May 21st, 2021, but since it’s far out enough, it may be possible that it won’t be pushed back too much. John Wick 4 will also probably be delayed, so we’ll see if Keanu Reeves day will still be a thing, but as I mentioned before, I doubt both will end up releasing on the same day.

MATRIX 4 KEANU REEVES AVEC SON RÔLE DE NEO - DIGITALE A

Source: Digitalanime.dz

Seeing the Positive from Cyberpunk during COVID-19

One positive bit of news, however, is how communities are giving back and providing help. Two major companies giving back are CD Projekt Red and Tesla.

tesla cybertruck cyberpunk 2077

CD Projekt Red gives back

Career offers - CD PROJEKT RED

CD Projekt Red, which is of course the major Video Game Production company behind the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077, agreed to donate $950,000 to help fight the disease. “In these hard times, every help counts…We would also like to thank the entire medical service and everyone involved in the fight against the virus. Risking your own health, you fight for ours every day – your hard work is our inspiration.”

Tesla promises ventilators

https://www.economist.com/sites/default/files/20200201_WBP504.jpg

Tesla is doing its part by doing its best to start cranking out desperately-needed ventilators. Elon Musk announced last week that Tesla’s New York Gigafactory would be re-opening to start producing these ventilators as soon as possible.

Final Thoughts

It looks like for the next couple months, COVID-19 is here to stay. How will the world look post-coronavirus? Will it spur the entire world to becoming more virtual, more online, and using more drones? Is this a jump forward towards a Cyberpunk future? I certainly think so, or at least, it will move things along more quickly. Finally, what do you think about coronavirus and COVID-19? Are there any more connections between Cyberpunk and the Coronavirus that I didn’t mention? Make sure to let me know in the comments below.

Interview: Simon Herzog and the Cyberpunk Protests in Hong Kong

The Fugitive Offenders Amendment Bill

On April 3rd, 2019, Hong Kong lawmakers were given a pretty straightforward extradition bill called the Fugitive Offenders Amendment bill. In response to a legal issue, the bill would have allowed extradition of suspected offenders from Hong Kong to mainland China under very specific conditions, and on a case-by-case basis.

A “Special Administrative Region”

While Hong Kong technically belongs to China, it is considered a “special administrative region” of China with its own set of laws, currency, and government with a strong pro-democracy, pro-independence movement. While this status is set to end ominously in 2047, many residents of Hong Kong are afraid of mainland China trying to end it early. This extradition bill could have allowed that to happen, because if Hong Kong residents are extradited through dubious claims to mainland China, they could then be made to disappear, and then who knows what would happen to them.

DSC06735

Cyberpunk Protests in Hong Kong

Thus, the uprising began, and although the bill was later rescinded, protests have been going strong since April with many of them feeling very cyberpunk in nature due to the use of gas masks, bows and arrows, umbrellas, face masks, flashlights and lasers to avoid CCTV detection.

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In order to experience this firsthand and get a better understanding of the massive Cyberpunk protests in Hong Kong, my friend Simon Herzog decided to go there himself, where he spoke with locals and snapped some photos of everything he witnessed. He agreed to an interview with Cyberpunk Matrix to share some of his thoughts below.

Simon Herzog in Shades

Hi Simon. Thanks for agreeing to this interview. Can you tell us a bit about who you are and what you do?

I translate between different disciplines and help bridge cultural and human differences through entrepreneurshipart, and design. I spend most of my time organizing or teaching workshops in innovation and problem-solving methodologies like design thinking and service design, helping organizations create more human-centric products and services. Other than that, I use photography and video for storytelling and have side projects like designing and making an ultralight backpacking tent from scratch.

Gibson Quote Street

Art by Benjamin Last

Why do you like Cyberpunk? What does it mean to you?

Like a lot of science fiction, cyberpunk casts a light on the worlds we have already built. I appreciate its stories for the resourcefulness of its characters in the face of overwhelming forces such as corporations, governments, or technology itself. It allows me to vicariously experience an extreme version of the adaptability, preparedness, and pragmatism I take so much pleasure and pride in in my own life. On top of that, I love the aesthetic and the sense of anarchy and possibility, and the sense of meritocracy that comes from an unyielding environment where skill is everything.

DSC06696

The aesthetic is definitely pretty cool. And what brought you to Hong Kong recently?

I had been following the protests since their beginnings in March, and it felt right away like something important was happening. It’s difficult from afar to form a balanced opinion and to understand what is really happening when there’s social upheaval like this and both sides have a vested interest in presenting their side favorably, and I wanted to be in a place where the news is happening and talk to people on the ground. Also, I saw some of the resourcefulness and anarchic creativity that marks the characters in cyberpunk stories in the protesters, and was curious to see it for myself. When I had some business in Kuala Lumpur in December I decided to extend my trip and stop by Hong Kong for a few days.

DSC06773

Can you explain what is happening in Hong Kong?

The introduction of a controversial extradition law that would have allowed mainland China access to people arrested in Hong Kong and Taiwan triggered severe resistance from a large portion of Hong Kongers who see themselves as a quasi-sovereign nation and are eager to preserve their relative independence from China for as long as possible. The Chinese government is keen to begin assimilating Hong Kong into its authoritarian system even before the official end of the “one country, two systems” arrangement in 2047, and in a way the protesters are trying to delay or prevent this most likely inevitable outcome. From the initial rejection of the extradition law the protests have evolved as a largely leaderless movement to include five demands, ranging from an independent investigation into police brutality to universal suffrage in deciding the government of Hong Kong. The government has been relatively unyielding, other than withdrawing the extradition bill, and clashes have steadily escalated over the past several months.

DSC06750

Interesting. And what happened when you went there?

I have some friends in Hong Kong and I had relied on one of them in particular to invite me to some protester Telegram groups in the weeks before my arrival. That’s how I found out about what was happening that weekend, and I went to a small rally on Saturday and a gigantic one with over 800,000 people on Sunday, December 8th. This march was one of the few that had received official approval from the government, which is likely why so many people attended and it did not result in significant clashes. Still, as the masses of people were churning through the streets and reached the official end of the marching route, the overwhelming momentum of the crowd pushed it past the finish line, unable or unwilling to disperse, and into a large riot police blockade. The police had lined up across an entire wide avenue in full riot gear, trucks with water cannons behind them, and they were holding up the yellow flag warning protesters to not approach any further. The police use a color-coded system of flags to announce their increasingly severe response – from a passive warning to a vague threat of force to tear gas to live fire. That day, things didn’t escalate to real violence, and I didn’t end up having to use the gas mask or any of the emergency gear I’d brought. At the front lines, some provocateurs had dismantled street barriers and were wielding steel bars they had pulled from those barriers as weapons, but most other front-liners, though visibly prepared to fight, repeatedly pushed the line back and away from the police in order to avoid a confrontation.

DSC06830

What do you think will come next for the city?

I had a chance to speak to people with a range of opinions on the protests, from young people that had been actively a part of them since the beginning, were in the streets every weekend, and boycotted pro-Chinese businesses, to professionals who were concerned with or disapproved of the methods of some of the protesters and were discontent with the disruptions the movement had caused. At its core, the issue is about Hong Kong’s quasi-sovereignty and its relationship with China, and even many moderate Hong Kongers have gotten used to and value the special privileges of living in a state with some of the features of Western democracies such as freedom of expression. Virtually everyone under 30 in Hong Kong now identifies as Hong Kongers rather than Chinese, a record figure. There is also a class dimension to the protests; many wealthier professionals rely heavily on business with China for their income and therefore tend to be more pro-Chinese as a group. Still, the recent elections represented a strong vote of confidence from the general population in favor of the protests. I believe they will continue for some time, but I do not expect either major concessions from the government – since showing weakness would embolden other dissidents and separatists – nor, hopefully, a major escalation of force. Eventually, I anticipate that some minor concessions will be made and that the protests will eventually lose steam.

Last, but not least, why do you think Hong Kong is one of the most Cyberpunk cities in the world?

There are certain places in the world – Dubai, Hong Kong, Chongqing – where the reality is already stranger than fiction. Hong Kong has the look that defined a lot of the greatest cyberpunk aesthetics, such as Ghost in the Shell and Blade Runner. Few other cities have both the verticality and the claustrophobia of Hong Kong, where millions are crammed into a finite space, and buildings grow as tall as they can while apartments are as small as humanly possible. Hong Kong was also until 1993 home to the Kowloon Walled City, easily the most cyberpunk place to have ever existed, and also the densest human settlement in history. For readers of this blog not familiar with it, it’s very worth researching.

Kowloon Walled City

The Kowloon Walled City

Thanks for answering our questions here at Cyberpunk Matrix, Simon!

To see or learn more from Simon Herzog, you can contact him via his website here or follow him on his instagram.

Photos courtesy of Simon Herzog

2019: A Year in Review for Cyberpunk

breathtaking

A Time to Look Back

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 2018, described how I learned about and became obsessed with the genre of Cyberpunk. While different from 2018 in that I now know what the term means, 2019 has been a year of incredible growth for me personally and for the genre of Cyberpunk in general. On the first few days of 2019 I wrote the following:

I wonder what 2019 will bring, but one thing I know for sure is that my love for everything Cyberpunk will continue. I will carry on consuming and writing about cyberpunk media, starting off with this new year with watching the newly released Bandersnatch episode of Black Mirror, and then hopefully from watching Replicas and then Battle Angel: Alita. I’m also excited to read the newest addition to my cyberpunk library, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, as well as learning more about Philip K Dick–his life, his writing, and his philosophy.

Bandersnatch ended up being a creative new way to watch a series, but the ideas that came with it proved insufficient to warrant writing a review yet.

Replicas ended up being good, but it took me a lot longer to watch it than I expected. Alita: Battle Angel was amazing, as expected, but Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom was so boring in the first 30 pages or so that I couldn’t even finish it. So that was a little disappointing.

So Many Great Surprises!

Nonetheless, I was happily surprised by a myriad of interesting new Cyberpunk releases that 2019 brought, many of which were things I could have never in my wildest dreams predicted (like Keanu being in Cyberpunk 2077 or Matrix 4 being announced!)

So now, dear reader, let’s take a look at each month and what cyberpunk news or media production was released.

Replicas

January 2019: Replicas

The year started off lightly with the indie production of Replicas, released on January 11th in the US and featuring Cyberpunk legend Keanu Reeves, who plays a neuroscientist who tries to bring his family back to life via digitizing their consciousness into clone bodies. The movie was pretty good! More of a solving-a-series-of-problems thriller a la Da Vinci Code than action or horror film. I definitely recommend seeing it though, if you haven’t already. You can check out my more in-depth review of it here. The film got very little press coverage or mention, and I think was mostly ignored by the general public due to funding. The cyberpunk genre still hadn’t grown into its own at this point.

alita battle angel release

February 2019: Alita: Battle Angel

February 2019 came with the long-awaited GUNNM anime adaptation called Alita: Battle Angel. This movie did pretty well at the box office, and put the Cyberpunk genre back in the spotlight for the general public with its high production value and marketing. Released on Valentine’s Day, February 14th, the movie did an amazing job displaying both Motorball and Parkour in its film, while giving an overall palatable romance between the cyborg Alita and human Hugo.

Love Death and Robots

March, 2019: Love, Death & Robots

As the picture above describes, this was a NSFW (Not Suitable For Work) animated Anthology series of short stories all related loosely to the themes of Love, Death, and Robots. While some stories showed just science-fiction, and others showed just fantasy (like vampires and werewolves), there were a total of six clearly Cyberpunk episodes in this Anthology. They were Sonnie’s Edge, The Witness, Suits, Beyond the Aquila Rift, Zima Blue, and Blind Spot. For my favorites and a more in-depth review of each episode, you can check it out here. This Anthology was very interesting because it made clear, in my mind at least, the different kinds of Cyberpunk sub-genres that exist: Action, Horror, and Mystery/Drama.

Uyghur photo

April: Organ-Harvesting and the horrors of the Uyghurs

After seeing a report of this on CNN and then later on the news, I shared the horrors of what sound like basically concentration camps for ethnic Uyghurs who are being targeted by the Chinese government. Very dystopian indeed. This story, sadly, is still developing.

Pokemon Detective Pikachu

May: Pokemon: Detective Pikachu

Despite probably not officially Cyberpunk, I shared my views on how Pokemon Detective Pikachu had some decidedly Cyberpunk themes in it. It was also an all-around fun movie to watch, especially with Ryan Reynolds voicing Pikachu.

cyberpunk 2077 keanu

June: Cyberpunk 2077 Trailer with the legendary reveal of Keanu Reeves as Johnny Silverhand

This is the moment where internet fandom went into overdrive. At E3 fans first heard Keanu Reeve’s voice, then saw his digital likeness come on screen during Cyberpunk 2077’s newest official cinematic trailer for their video game due to be released in April of next year. Few will forget the moment when Keanu himself then comes onto the stage to announce the game’s release date, and that fateful fan who yelled “you’re breathtaking!” to which Keanu responds “no, YOU’re breathtaking! You’re ALL breathtaking!” This, along with John Wick 3, officially hailed the beginning of what some are calling the Keanussance. August’s big announcement didn’t help in this regard.

July: …I’ve got nothing.

Keanu and Carrie Anne

August: Matrix 4 announced

This was perhaps the one biggest announcement that I couldn’t have even ever imagined happening in my lifetime. Matrix 4 was officially announced, with many of the actors from the original trilogy returning, including Carrie Anne-Moss and Keanu Reeves himself. Since the original announcement I have been following any further updates as we have been getting them, such as concept artists, hopes and predictions, and October and December updates.

cyberpunk 2077 deep dive video

September: New Gameplay Trailer for Cyberpunk 2077

September brought us a new video of the gameplay we could expect in Cyberpunk 2077, including a deep dive into the locations, classes, and factions we could expect from the videogame. Which class will you be?

Terminator Dark Fate Poster

October: Terminator: Dark Fate

Retconning the sequels after T-2 and intended to be a reboot of the franchise, James Cameron returned to produce this sequel, creating a movie that was pretty good in my opinion but lacked any significant wow-factor. It performed alright in the box office, but not well enough to jumpstart the franchise again. Will this be the last Terminator film we will ever see? Time will tell.

cybertruck

November: Tesla’s Cybertruck

The much-teased Cybertruck was finally introduced by Elon Musk, in a manner that was probably meant to be a big trending epic reveal but ended up being a bit of an embarrassment for Elon as the supposedly bulletproof and shatterproof windows of the Cybertruck broke (twice!) during the live demonstration in the unveiling. Oops! “We’ll fix it in post” Elon tried to nonchalantly say, but the damage was (literally) already done. Nonetheless, it still turned heads and didn’t stop multiple preorders from being submitted, promising that this truck will be the newest hot item to hit the roads. Whether the trend will last, no one knows, but it was worth noting how mainstream Cyberpunk has become considering how similar the visuals and fonts were for the Cybertruck and the Cyberpunk 2077 video game. Elon is clearly a fan.

NeoSkies photo for Alex

December: Expanding the community: Interviewing and collaborating with NeoSkies

The most recent development from the last couple of months is more of a personal development which has been discovering and interacting with other Cyberpunk fans who enjoy the genre and like creating content as much as I do. One such fan has been NeoSkies. It’s been great to follow NeoSkies’ content production online with Instagram, Twitter, etc. and to engage in her surveys and discussions with the Cyberpunk Community around the world. We’re not alone! It was also similarly great for me to have the opportunity to interview NeoSkies on her process and inspiration, as well.

Looking to the Future

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.

Altered-Carbon-Season-2

  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.

So what new Cyberpunk media are you looking forward to seeing/reading/playing in 2020? Let us know in the comments below!

Why Tesla’s CyberTruck Matters

A Unique Unveiling

cybertruck

On November 21st, Elon Musk finally unveiled the long-teased and eagerly anticipated Cybertruck. The unveiling was livestreamed with great fanfare, featuring Elon and his team introducing all the different features of this truck that looks quite unlike any other truck you may have seen before.

…And with the unique design came the ridiculing on the internet. “Finally every kid will be able to draw a realistic truck” noted one commentator on Youtube. Others compared the design of the truck to everything from the Pokemon Polygon to the original video game version of Lara Croft’s breasts.

But not everyone poked fun. Some hailed the design as taken straight from a sci-fi film, which indeed was probably where a lot of the inspiration for the design came from.

The ridicule was then made worse when one of Elon’s team threw a metal ball at the car’s windows to prove how durable and shatterproof they were. Instead the ball cracked the glass at its impact point. So they did it again with the second window, sure it wouldn’t happen again. But it did.

This made for a somewhat awkward rest of the presentation, with Elon standing in front of his brand new Cybertruck with cracked windows trying to continue selling the thing as if nothing had happened.

Elon Cybertruck awkward

“We can fix that in post” Musk joked, as he tried to move past the incident. He later tweeted his team doing the exact same thing in a test behind closed doors, showing the windows doing what they were supposed to and repelling the metal ball effortlessly. It was clearly a humbling experience.

The Inspiration

Musk told Vox journalist Kara Swisher in an interview last year that the car would be “a really futuristic-like cyberpunk, ‘Blade Runner’ pickup truck”. Thus the name, and I would imagine, the appreciation for the Cyberpunk genre.

Apparently the appreciation is mutual. Blade Runner’s art director Syd Mead apparently told Business Insider that the Cybertruck was “stylistically breathtaking”, for which Musk was later thanked him for on twitter.

Musk also stated that part of the influence for the design was taken from the Lotus Esprit S1 car, which turned into a submarine for James Bond in The Spy That Loved Me.

Sci-fi and Cyberpunk fans felt that the car was reminiscent to many classic sci-fi films such as Total Recall, Back to the Future, and Blade Runner of course.

Cyberpunk 2077 Rumors

But sci-fi fans may have something else on the horizon to get even more excited about. There are rumors that the Cybertruck may be featured as a playable vehicle in Cyberpunk 2077.

A fan posted the picture below to Reddit of what that may look like, and as you can see, it fits right in.

tesla cybertruck cyberpunk 2077

In fact, Screenrant made the connection immediately. “[Elon Musk] unveiled [the truck] with a name which suggests the inventor is very, very hyped for CD Projekt Red’s next game. Luckily, it may not be too late in the development cycle of Cyberpunk 2077 for the game to add in Cybertruck as some sort of additional promotional content, should they choose to do so. After all, Musk is undeniably practically begging for it with that font choice.”

How close are the fonts? Well, you be the judge. Below is the Cybetruck font.

Cybertruck font

And this is the Cyberpunk 2077 font.

Cyberpunk 2077 logo

…Screenrant may have a point.

Why this all matters

I discovered Cyberpunk in January 2018, but I have always loved the Cyberpunk genre–I just never knew it. With my favorite movie of all time being The Matrix, and then feeling enraptured by films such as Ghost in the Shell, Minority Report, I, Robot, or Blade Runner 2049, it’s always been a genre that was an interest of mine. However, for a long time this genre was rather niche. Despite the Matrix trilogy bringing the genre out of the shadows for a brief period, it wasn’t enough to keep it mainstream, and thus it fell back out of the limelight until 2017 and 2018 which was considered by some to be a re-birth of the genre. This was a result of Blade Runner 2049 and Ghost in the Shell coming out the same year, followed soon thereafter by Ready Player One, a Steven Spielberg film. We also saw Upgrade, and TV series like Altered Carbon and Black Mirror coming out around the same time, and it was this combination that finally helped Cyberpunk stay in the mainstream spotlight to some extent.

The Cybertruck is proof Cyberpunk is becoming mainstream

Now, with Cyberpunk 2077, I am convinced that Cyberpunk is experiencing a rebirth of the genre. People are becoming more excited than ever about Cyberpunk, and the Cybertruck–a competitor to the Ford F-150 in the car industry, of all places–is one of the many places that Cyberpunk is becoming relevant. With the rising use of drones and the increasing ability of autonomous robots, I believe that Cyberpunk will continue becoming more popular, not less, and the Cybertruck is clear proof of this. Its home was in the books, movies, and tv series, but it is now expanding into delivery drones for Amazon, Mules and Bomb Squad Robots for the military, and now trucks in the car industry.

Cyberpunk is now.