Wednesday, September 15, 2010


From Steampunk to Cyberpunk... how far down does the rabbit hole go?

Wikipedia defines Cyberpunk as a fusion between "high tech and low life".
In this genre of sci fi, I want you to think of a combination of the following concepts: fast paced, chrome, jet black, morphing droids and hyper crafts, amidst a corporately dominated and techno-savy world.
Cyberpunk themes are mostly based on earth, and staged in the near future.

Hackers, dominant AIs, and national conglomerates are all tied to this genre. In fact, one of the most popular movie franchises of the past decade falls into this broad category: The Matrix Trilogy.

We all chose the red pill...
The Matrix was a mind blowing blockbuster movie that pushed the envelope far beyond any of its predecessors, in terms of action and suspense. The directors utilized bullet-time camera work to yield amazing 360-degree views for some peculiar scenes and they punctuated the action with a fusion of several well choreographed martial arts fights that had fanboys applauding in the theaters across the world.

As a Cyberpunk movie, The Matrix demonstrated how the setting of such a sci fi feature film could be established in such a way that national governmental bodies such as democratic leaders or hereditary monarchies were completely bypassed as the pinnacles of social authority. There was no President of the United States in this trilogy. There was no Secretary of Defense, enforcing the orders of the national sovereign with extreme vehemence. But instead, the machines were in control, and sentient robotic minds had created a sedating reality so placid and so unperturbed that mankind was oblivious to the fact that they were an enslaved race.

"Unfortunately No one can be Told What the Matrix is..."
In Matrix 1, the path chosen by the movie's protagonist is well known. It is clear from the start of the film that Mr. Anderson is just a drone who lives a near-meaningless life, working from 9 to 5 at a job he really has no passion for. He soon encounters Trinity, and she is seen as a sexy vixen that wears tight black leather attire from head to toe, along with sunshades at all times of the day [this style of clothing is also a key signature of Cyberpunk movies; body-gloves are worn by the main characters, who prefer to adorn themselves in what some would regard as fetish attire - tight spandex/latex suits]. Trinity later introduces Neo to Morpheus, the leader of a dynamic crew aboard a spaceship called the Nebuchadnezzar, and revelations of the true state of humanity begin to flow from the lips of the wise leader. Neo [Mr. Anderson, played by Keanu Reeves] eventually accepts his calling and begins to challenge the hand of fate, believing that he is not The One, but rather he is destined to save a friend. And from there the classic gun-blazing ass-whopping unfolds in the lobby of a towering corporate building, in the movie's magnificent third act.

Morpheus [Laurence Fishburne] and Persephone [Monica Bellucci] are shown below:

 Classic Matrix Reloaded fight scene:

The Matrix 2 and the Matrix 3 continued the strong Cyberpunk legacy, striving deeper into the sci fi world created by the writers. Yet there are various opinions about how well those two subsequent movies were, in terms of content. Regardless of those opinions, there were a lot of futuristic themes exposed in those two movies, such as the battle MECHs, the spacecrafts and the giant tentacle-cluttered robot machines.

Cyberpunk movies are commonly set in near-future environments, where underlying technological themes are highly advanced, despite 21st century environments. But they also will often have light alien species intertwined into the local populace.

Other past Cyberpunk movies worthy of mention are:
The Blade Runner (released back in 1982), which was carefully adapted from Philip K. Dick's book entitled Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

And the second referenced franchise is the one staring a guy who is currently the 38th Governor of California...

...I'LL BE BACK...
The Terminator movie franchise [its flagship film was released back in 1984] was a solid testament to what Cyberpunk is really all about.

In Terminator 1, Sarah Connor was the target of the ruthless killing cyborg.
In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Sarah's teenage son, John Connor was the target; and a new Terminator cyborg [who was one of the coolest villains in sci fi history] comes to exterminate the youth. The original Terminator comes back from the future to stop the bad cyborg, and all hell brakes loose.
In Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, a mature John was the target of an advanced female cyborg, and the original Terminator showed up again to save the life of its maker, John. At the end of this movie, the Artificial Intelligence Network known as Skynet activates several nukes that are unleashed upon the globe from various buried launch silos. And it is the onset of the war between mankind and robot machines.

And In Terminator 4: Salvation.... Arnold doesn't show up... but you have to go rent it cos I won't tell you what happens :D

Yes this sci fi story was set in the near-future of earth, and in T1 movie, the anti-hero [expertly played by a very stoic Arnold Schwarzenegger] presented such a potent resilient image of a villain that fans really couldn't get enough of him... and this appeal led to several merchandise deals for the movie, including toys of the Terminator - who wore tight black leather and sported sunshades, at all times of the day.

In the Terminator 2 movie, the new Terminator robot was designed as a high tech sentient killing machine tangibly sent from the future into the past, with the incisive programed directives to exterminate a certain youth named John Connor. The very fact that machines were able to contrive gadgetry that facilitates time travel illustrates the depth of their understanding and application of quantum physics concepts, and their ability to dissect the space-time continuum so carefully that the exact segment in the past they desired could be targeted and teleported to flawlessly.

Hate to toss rocks at a franchise, but couldn't those damn robots just zoom all the way back to Adam and Eve and kill us off back then?? :D

This really makes you ponder how deep the human mind probes when contemplating the navigational limits within a sci fi world. Guess you just have to go with the flow, and accept whatever limiting bands the creators of the movie/comic/book have set in place.

Check out this cool classics scenes from T2 movie:

In the future dominated by ruthless robots and callous sadistic AIs, John Connor is destined to lead a rebellion that will undoubtedly result in "the fall of the machines". Thus the super-strong Terminator cyborg is sent back in time to literally efface the young American boy [and his mother] before he grows up and later becomes the ingenious mortal savior of the human race. And the battle to alter the future is basically the key focus of the first 3 Terminator movies.


By the way, the evil T-1000 in Terminator 2 [expertly played by Robert Patrick] was a nanotech engineered mimetic poly-alloy cyborg [he was virtually a diabolical liquid-metal assassin] and was capable of consciously changing his body parts in various metallic forms, in order to filter himself through slender apertures, create hefty weapons like giant mallets, or even contrive slender cold blades. He was virtually unstoppable as a ruthless robotic drone. And up to this point in 1991, no other movie villain had been able to perform feats like this. It was definitely ground-breaking stuff, a triumph for the sci fi genre!

Motorcycles are also a mainstay element of Cyberpunk movies... and there are a variety of reasons for this. I shall not delve into all those details, but I assure you, in futuristic planes, it is believed that gas becomes a rare expensive commodity that's as precious as gold. Thus utilizing a Hummer as the vehicle of choice for transiting to work is probably the dumbest thing you could do in such a society.

In T3, the female droid [called T-X] that was sent back to kill John proved to be extremely advanced. Unlike her predecessors, she was slender and sexy, and she could also create peculiar thermal blasters from her hands, almost like transformable weapons that appeared out of her flesh. She could also control other mechanical contraptions flawlessly, per some sort of advanced cogitative robotic interface she made with them.
A TV sci fi series called "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" was launched back in 2008 and ran for about 31 episodes.
And per Hollywood rumors, T5 is yet to come.

If you're a seasoned anime fan, hopefully the Cyberpunk title "Ghost in the Shell SAC" rings a bell... We'll be diving into that world next time.

Also check out the DSNG CHRONICLES sci fi series, currently avaialble at Amazon dot com: