Cyberpunk Review: Ready Player Two

Ready Player Two: A solid sequel to Ready Player One

CUTSCENE

Thus is titled the first chapter of Ready Player Two, and aptly put. Ernest Cline’s second book and sequel to Ready Player One (which was also adapted into a movie by Steven Spielberg), Ready Player Two continues the first book with almost no time passing. We find Parzival (Wade Watts) catching us up on what happened immediately after the events of the first novel, and the novel takes its time to get going before a critical event happens that sets the rest of the novel in motion (which happens about a third of the way in).

Ready Player One – Phase9 Entertainment

A Very Fast Read

If you liked the fast-paced nature of Cline’s writing style, then you certainly won’t be disappointed with Ready Player Two. And I think it’s telling that it took me only a week to finish this novel. Although it’s actually 10 pages longer than the previous book (384 pages compared to its original 374 pages), it felt like a much faster read.

Ready Player One»: le grand huit de Steven Spielberg | Télécâble Sat Hebdo

More of the Same Special Sauce

Some people may criticize this novel by saying it’s too much of a repeat of the first novel, or that it’s not different enough. And while I can see those complaints, I personally really enjoyed this novel. After you finally get to the chapter called Level Five and you  finally discover the conflict that needs to be resolved in this book, the entire book speeds up very quickly in a race against time that is even more intense than the previous novel was. That’s perhaps why the novel felt slower than the previous one for the first third, and then much faster for the other two thirds. We find all of the same original characters, like Shoto and Art3mis, are back.

Every Easter Egg in 'Ready Player One'

Another Quest, Another Easter Egg Hunt

This time the quest, which is very similar to the first novel, is the following:

Seek the Seven Shards of the Siren’s Soul…to once again make the Siren Whole.

The seven shards of the siren’s soul is yet another easter egg hunt left posthumously by one of the Gregarious Games’ co-founders, James Halliday. The difference between this one and the 3 keys hunt, however, is that there is no clear prize for obtaining the seven shards. What, or who, is the Siren’s Soul? What happens when someone makes them Siren whole again? This is the original premise of the novel until the aforementioned villian appears and kickstarts the book into high gear with a very short, very urgent, countdown.

For the sake of avoiding spoilers, I won’t add any more than that. Simply remember that if you feel the novel isn’t going anywhere, continue reading until page 134.

I enjoyed this easter egg quest, but not as much as the previous book’s quest, probably because this time around it’s a little less video game-focused, favoring other pop culture references instead. This book focuses a lot on the female character Kira Morrow as well, which was a welcome change of pace.

New Thought-Provoking Technology

For Ready Player One, I talked briefly in this blog post a couple years ago about the educational significance that Ready Player One’s utopian vision of teaching could have on our future education systems. At the time that Ernest Cline published Ready Player One back in 2011, I felt that the technology he described of virtual reality with haptic rigs in the OASIS was pretty futuristic, along with that educational system that went with it. Is the OASIS an improvement for humanity, as people can escape their stark surroundings and live in a happier world, a kinder and less hostile world, as Wade did growing up poor in the stacks? Or is the OASIS a dangerous fantasy world that results in greater isolation of humans and makes them lose touch with what’s important–the real world, and reality in general?

Just like his first novel, Cline describes a new technology that changes the world, for better or for worse, and then describes a utopian vision of what this technology could be used for. This new technology, if you can believe it, makes the VR haptic rig systems look downright Neanderthal by comparison. Cline also takes a much more heavy-handed look at whether this new technology should be used, by having the main characters begin to argue amongst themselves about this issue (it becomes a major point in the story). Unfortunately, Cline more or less answers that question for the reader by the end of the novel, which…I wish he would have left it a little more open-ended, but ultimately I’m not complaining about the ending, which I thought otherwise was great. It’s still epic, and in that way similar to the previous novel.

The new technology also, however, invites further questions about the nature of humanity and that age-old, cyberpunk trope of how human artificial intelligence is, and what rights and considerations (if any) they deserve. While only invitations to questions are presented in the book (Cline decides to just briefly comment on this new tech, saying it’s a new age but deciding not to go any deeper than that) it’s a situation well worth considering. After some time has elapsed I may later post a spoiler-filled post where I can go into these topics in a bit more detail, but I won’t be doing so here as it would understandably completely spoil the novel for those who have yet to read it.

Overall Verdict: 8.5/10

I really enjoyed this novel. To say it was a page-turner would be an understatement. With fun dialogue, relatable characters, loads of references, an interesting story, and thought-provoking technology when its implications are considered, there’s a lot to love. However, there were parts of the novel where it dragged, and others where I felt myself losing interest (especially in parts of the quests) where I either wasn’t familiar with the material, or the quest felt trivial when framed against the backdrop of what was at stake, and the urgency of their quest with the clock running out. I also felt like the characters themselves didn’t grow much and could have had a bit more development–one character’s actions and motivations in particular. Finally, if you really like John Hughes movies, Prince, and the Lord of the Rings universe, you will particularly like this book.

Questioning Reality: Revisiting The Thirteenth Floor | Filmotomy

Final note: favorite Cyberpunk line in the book

My favorite Cyberpunk line by far in the book surprised me as early as page 4. It’s actually not just a line, but an entire paragraph. Here it is in its entirety below, and if you’re a Cyberpunk fan like I am, then it’s a great reference and also perhaps a reminder that, oh yea, I should probably watch those again.

“According to the interactive building directory on my phone, the thirteenth floor was where the GSS archives were located.

Of course Halliday had put them there. In one of his favorite TV shows, Mad Headroom, Network 23’s hidden research-and-development lab was located on the thirteenth floor.

And The Thirteenth Floor was also the title of an old sci-fi film about virtual reality, released in 1999, right on the heels of both The Matrix and eXistenZ.” –Wade Watts

 

Cyberpunk Review: Count Zero by William Gibson

Cyberpunk Review: Count Zero

Well, I finally finished it.

Count Zero by William Gibson is book two in the Sprawl trilogy, three loosely connected books sharing the same universe. Count Zero is a sequel to the titular Neuromancer and is followed by Mona Lisa Overdrive.

I felt like Count Zero went over my head a bit, but also, it felt like the kind of book that you really need to pay attention to in order to understand and consequently enjoy, and if you have a busy life or a short attention span like I do, then maybe it isn’t for you. The main difference between Count Zero and Neuromancer is that instead of following one main character, there are three separate main characters, with seemingly disconnected plotlines that eventually weave together at the very end (and I mean very end).

New Cyberpunk Characters

Bobby Newmark (Count Zero)

Bobby is a young aspiring console cowboy, wanting to prove his worth when he quickly finds himself in over his head when he’s given a biosoft chip to evaluate that almost kills him when he jacks into cyberspace. His story is a more standard Cyberpunk tale that we are perhaps more familiar with after Neuromancer.

Marly Krushkova

Marly is a has-been art gallery curator in Paris who suffered a small scandal when she unwittingly sold a very expensive piece of art that ended up being a fake. She ends up being hired by a wealthy arts patron to uncover the creator of “art-boxes”, and is given an unlimited line of credit to do so. Her story is more of an unraveling mystery, in a film-noir style.

Turner

Turner is an ex-mercenary who is brought back from retirement to help organize the defection of a high-value employee who wants to leave his current mega-corporation and join another. His story is more action-packed than the other two.

Story

And what is the book about? Well, these three characters and their own private missions and life paths, I guess. When the biosoft chip bobby is given almost kills him, he ends up on the run from those who want to take the chip for themselves, while trying to get the chip into the hands of whomever can make Bobby safe again.

As for Marly, she is given the opportunity of a lifetime–an almost no-strings attached unlimited credit line to help a wealthy benefactor find the creator of certain works of art-boxes. Unfortunately, this wealthy benefactor is also known for his egotistical, nefarious ways.

Finally, Turner’s multi-layered mission ends up going completely differently than planned, as an unexpected attack and surprise pieces come into play. We largely follow Turner as he adapts to the ever-changing conditions of his misson, as he tries to stay alive.

Cyberpunk Dialogues and Descriptions

Gibson once again showcases his brilliant skill at painting an image of these characters with his knack for dialogue. This time around I felt his descriptions were even better than before, with a little less dialogue compared to Neuromancer. The three settings are Japan, the US, and France, but the characters eventually move around a bit.

“And, for an instant, she stared directly into those soft blue eyes and knew, with an instinctive mammalian certainty, that the exceedingly rich were no longer even remotely human.”–Marly Krushkova

Critique

The problem I had with this novel is that Gibson likes writing as if we understand what he’s talking about (my same small issue with Neuromancer), and part of his appeal is figuring out what indeed he’s talking about and recognizing the puzzle pieces he carefully lays out for us. If you don’t get those puzzle pieces, or you simply don’t want to play the game, then you may lose interest in this novel, as I did. While Marly’s narrative had very few moving pieces and was very easy to follow, the other two, Turner and Bobby’s narratives, often had enough characters coming and going that I had a difficult time following what was going on. I also felt like I missed a lot of these references and allusions, which led me to being confused a lot of the time.

Lack of Connection

My biggest problem with the story, however, is that there is no clear goal that the three characters are working towards. It was easy for me to put this book down because at the end of the day, I simply didn’t care if these characters lived or died, and that’s usually a problem when reading a book. There was no connection built between me and these characters, and while they eventually do have a little character development by the end of the story to make them interesting, it wasn’t enough to keep me hooked.

Final Verdict: 6/10

Because of its great descriptions, dialogue, and the subtle hints that are very enjoyable to catch, this novel may delight some. However, for me, it was slow, confusing, and without any clear end goal to want me to keep reading and lacked a clear connection with the characters I was reading about. Nonetheless, as a second novel in the sprawl trilogy, and if you are a fan of William Gibson, I can definitely recommend this book.

Cyberpunk 2077 Updates: Night City Wire

Cyberpunk 2077 Updates: Night City Wire Episodes 4, 5, & the Special Episode

Although here at Cyberpunk Matrix I wrote up individual posts for Night City Wire’s episodes 1, 2, and 3, for this final post and because I’ve been so busy, I decided to create one big mega-post for Night City Wire combining episode 4 which came out October 15th, episode 5 which just came out on November 19th (when Cyberpunk 2077 was supposed to be released before it was delayed a third and –hopefully final–time to December 10th), as well as the surprise special episode that dropped on YouTube and Twitch without warning on Tuesday, November 17th. Let’s jump right in.

Cyberpunk 2077: Night City Wire Episode 4

This episode contained a look at some of the vehicles available for driving in Night City, including some behind the scenes of how they were created and a collaboration with Keanu Reeves’ co-owned company Arch Motorcycles (yes, Keanu Reeves loves motorcycles so much he helped start his own company that custom makes them, for more check out our bio for Keanu Reeves where we go into detail about that here.) Then the episode covers four different fashion styles that you can see in Night City, before finally showing the cosplay contest winners (they really went all out!) Oh and they also mention Cyberpunk 2077 is available for Stadia, but I doubt that is relevant for many people.

Cyberpunk 2077 Vehicles

  • Economy class: Affordable with no frills, this class includes tiny cars from Makigai that were shown to be able to fit driving up stairs and along sidewalks. Probably not what it was intended for…or was it?
  • Executive: Designed to impress, this class of car generally are long, fancy, and sometimes has even six wheels.
  • Heavy Duty: This class includes “trucks and tanks” for when you don’t mind taking a while to get to your location, as long as it’s bulletproof. And can probably smash through everything in its way.
  • Sport: Much like sports cars in real life, these seem to prioritize speed, are generally 2-seaters, and seem very expensive.
  • Hypercar: Combining the size and power of a sports car with the armor of a tank or truck, Hypercars seem to have the best of both worlds. These will be undoubtedly even more expensive than your basic sport car.

Johnny Silverhand’s car: A special car that you’ll find in the game as well is Johnny Silverhand’s car, which is a 911 Porsche from 1977.

Arch Motorcycles: Keanu Reeves and Gard Hollinger are the co-founders, and they partnered with Cyberpunk 2077 to do the audio recording for the motorcycles found in Night City.

Cyberpunk 2077 Fashion

This episode also clearly outlined 4 unique fashion styles prevalent in Night City. They are Kitsch, Entropism, Neomilitarism, and Neokitsch.

  • Kitsch: Neon hair, illuminated tattoos, and chrome. Style over Substance. 
  • Entropism: Necessity over style. “Get the job done no matter how it looks.”
  • Neomilitarism: Deadly elegance without ostentation. This is corporate, militaristic fashion. Substance over Style. 
  • Neokitsch: Celebrities and Braindance stars choose this fashion style. Style and Substance. A return to kitsch from Neomilitarism, but repurposed.

Cyberpunk 2077 Cosplay winners

The winners of the Cyberpunk 2077 cosplay contest are shown above. Although not shown in Episode 4 of Night City Wire, CD Projekt Red later uploaded a 20 minute video showing the contest finale. You can check it out below:

3rd Place went to Larry Hastings as Royce

2nd place went to Anna Ormeli as Lizzy Wizzy

And finally, 1st place went to Tingilya as Dum Dum

To see the entire Night City Wire Episode 4 from Cyberpunk 2077, check out the video below:

Cyberpunk 2077: Night City Wire — The Special Episode

This episode could also be called the Xbox One X and Xbox Series X Special, as the entire episode was only 10 minutes long and showcased exclusive new gameplay from Cyberpunk 2077 in order to demonstrate how it looked running on the new Xbox consoles, the Xbox One X and the Xbox Series X. Personally I didn’t see much of a difference between the two different consoles, but it could be due to a variety of factors like my slow internet or computer screen resolution.

The gameplay footage contains parts of quests that reveal a bit without revealing or spoiling the quests themselves. A lot of the gameplay features driving around at night in Night City, which simply looks gorgeous. I can’t wait to walk or drive around this neon metropolis. One cool thing was seeing Keanu Reeves as Johnny Silverhand as an NPC that appears in the game. You talk with him briefly during the mission while going up an elevator.

You can check out the special episode and see if you notice any big differences here:

Cyberpunk 2077: Night City Wire Episode 5

Night City Wire Episode 5 featured an in-depth look into Johnny Silverhand, the process of making the original soundtrack for the game, and finished with the last and final gameplay trailer for Cyberpunk 2077. It also briefly mentioned a digital goodies reward system for players, as well as a new cutting-edge technology that maps facial movements to audio in order to better sync characters to the 10 different original languages available for Cyberpunk 2077. It was a pretty good episode.

Cyberpunk 2077: Johnny Silverhand

The main attraction for Night City Wire Episode 5 was going into the making of Rocker Boy Johnny Silverhand, played in the game by Keanu Reeves. Irreverent, crass, rude, but also kinda funny, Johnny Silverhand died a long time ago but was known as a famous rocker who wanted to stick it to the system. In the game he now only exists as a digital consciousness on a data chip that somehow found its way into V’s head–the main playable character, AKA you.

Cyberpunk 2077: Behind the Scenes with Keanu Reeves

They share not only how they chose Keanu Reeves to play Silverhand, but also the process of motion capture that Reeves went through to bring this character to life, along with a huge range of emotions and actions Reeves had to act out. Apparently they had considered all kinds of people to play Johnny, including actual rock stars, and even creating him digitally, before they settled on Reeves for his Hollywood fame, talent, and charm that he brings to the character and the game. And I think we can all agree with that.

Cyberpunk 2077: Original Soundtrack Score

Paul Leonard-Morgan teamed up with Marcin Przybykowicz and P.T. Adamczyk to create what looks like will be an incredible score. We learn that the composers wanted to take Cyberpunk music out of the 80s and give it a 90s flare by taking elements of rave, IDM, and Industrial to fit the story. They wanted to stick to electronic as much as possible, which is why you’ll be able to hear so much analog synths in the score. They also shared that pretty much all of their quests have their own custom score–which would be A LOT, if you think about it. It adds up to 7.5 hours of music apparently.

And that’s not including all the different bands and genre-bending tracks you can find, as well as the radio channels available in the game too.

Cyberpunk 2077 & JALI: A Revolutionary new videogame lip-sync tech

For a language enthusiast such as myself, the short but sweet section about JALI was super interesting. JALI is “a suite of tools and services that result in a high quality facial performance on characters that is automatically generated on a face based on an audio dialogue from a voice actor.” So what this means basically is that for all 10 VO languages that can be chosen to play Cyberpunk 2077 (English, Brazilian Portuguese, French, Russian, Polish, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese) every single character will have their lips and facial features match what is actually being said and expressed. Which is absolutely incredible in my view. This makes me seriously want to play the game in a target language–imagine learning Italian or Russian while playing Cyberpunk 2077! Because along with the VO you can also have your subtitles of choice.

Cyberpunk 2077 Final Gameplay Trailer

Last, but not least, the final episode of Night City Wire included the final latest gameplay trailer which revealed a few new fun details. It provided the clearest, most succinct bit of exposition to prepare players for the game who might not know anything about the lore or setting that came beforehand. Here it is:

The year is 2077. An economic crisis culminating in nuclear conflict has left America in pieces. With most of the continent degenerating into lawless warzones, people from all over have converged on the already overcrowded Night City, one of the world’s last great megalopolises. A hub amassing the best in resources and know-how, and home to manufacturers of cutting-edge technologies, Night City continues to offer the promise of a civilized future. But in the city streets, a merciless struggle for power rages. Gangs, corporate agents, hustlers, religious cultists, politicians and all manner of criminals strive to outplay one another. Ordinary people get caught in the crossfire. In this world, consumed by never-ending conflict, sometimes only an outsider will get the job done. And that’s you, an urban mercenary, a cyber-enhanced gun for hire. As a mercenary, you swear no allegiance. You’ve chosen the outlaw life, and trust that your abilities will carry you up Night City’s ruthless underground social ladder. To thrive as a merc, you need the right combination of gear, skills, and reputation. With the money you earn, you can turn yourself into a living weapon, buying guns and enhancements in the hundreds. As you roam the city streets, you gain the experience you need to upgrade abilities and acquire perks. Combine the right skills and gear to create a gunslinger with inhuman reflexes, a stealthy netrunner with command of all surrounding tech, or practically anyone in between.

In Cyberpunk 2077, you steal a prototype biochip that can set you up for life. When its sealed container is ruptured, the only way to prevent the biochip from failing is to slot it in to your  head. It turns out it contains the digitized soul of Johnny Silverhand, a dead rockerboy with violence on his mind. He’s out for revenge, aims to bring down the megacorp that made the chip. What is in your head can shift the balance of power in Night City. The high and mighty will do anything they can to get their hands on it. The choices you make will shape your story and determine how events unfold. But not everything in Night City is a matter of life and death. Sometimes it’s about style, choosing your look, your ride, your past time, who’s at your side. Choosing how to spend your dirty money.

Cyberpunk 2077 Final Thoughts

From the music, to the voice and motion capture actors, to the gameplay, environment, and immersive yet complex storyline, Cyberpunk 2077 looks like it’s going to be one fun hell of a ride, and a giant step forward for the Cyberpunk genre as a whole. The amount of care and detail CD Projekt Red have put into this project is staggering, and provided there aren’t any additional delays, I can’t wait to get my hands on this game when it comes out December 10th. But what do you think? Are you as excited to play this game as I am, or are you less excited? Let me know in the comments below.

You can check out episode 5, as well as all past episodes on the Cyberpunk 2077 YouTube channel, and my thoughts of the episodes here on Cyberpunk Matrix.

Is Tomorrowland the Opposite of Cyberpunk? Exploring the Duality of Dystopia and Utopia

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.

Warning: spoilers.

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).

Balancing Act: How Yin Yang Promotes Harmony and Balance ‹ Pepperdine Graphic

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.

 

 

Review: Dredd (2012)–Gritty Cyberpunk Action

Dredd

Dredd (2012): Gritty Cyberpunk Action

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.

Megacity one Dredd

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. 

Dredd lawmaster bike

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 cleanup

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 dredd

“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.

Slo-mo Dredd

It can be used either to enjoy the simple things, like a bubble bath…

Slow mo action Dredd

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. 

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