“What i have learned in virtual reality makes books obsolete” – Jobe
The original Lawnmower Man, back in 1992, gave us a sense, and a glimpse, of what the future of virtual reality, and the online world, might be like in the future. It also gave Pierce Brosnan a great opportunity to transition from television to movies.
For a while back in the mid 1990s virtual reality seemed to be everywhere and VR booths were very popular at shows and conventions. You could stand in one of those small pod shaped arena devices, pop on some special goggles, hold a joystick in your hand, and, explore the virtual world.
Actually, the whole real virtual reality experience was just a bit rubbish as technology hadn’t developed enough, at the time, to offer the sort of experience we could see in movies.
However, the movie, The Lawnmower Man, let us dream into a fantastical future of virtual reality.
The Lawnmower Man Director’s Cut is a new release, and consists of a two-disc set, from Universal’s cutting edge Indi VISION imprint. Featuring Mamma Mia star, and former 007, Pierce Brosnan, as Dr. Angelo, in one of his early break-through roles, and Jeff Fahey, who is undergoing something of a resurgence in popularity over the last few years, the story follows a research scientist (Brosnan) who helps simple minded lawnmower man Jobe (Fahey) become smarter using virtual reality techniques, and mind enhancing drugs, he has previously researched (with fatal consequences) on chimps. Jobe is kicked around, and mocked, by almost everyone in his home town but takes it largely in his stride until he feels the effects of getting smarter, and wiser.
However, is Jobe developing too much too quickly?
Jobe soon masters the virtual reality world, and gains a hungry passion for learning, quickly, until soon his knowledge exceeds that of Dr. Angelo, and beyond. Can Jobe move to the next level and fully emerge into and reach out from the virtual world? And are the two worlds (physical and virtual) really that distinct and separate?
As the movie opens there is a statement which reads “By the turn of the millennium a technology known as VIRTUAL REALITY will be in widespread use. It will allow you to enter computer generated artificial worlds as unlimited as the imagination itself. Its creators foresee millions of positive users – while others fear it as a new form of mind control…”. We may be a little off in the time line for achieving this form of interactivity in the online world, but massive multiplayer environments are now becoming popular and environments such as Second Life have offered people “another way”. Also, in the movie people climb into PODs and immerse themselves in the online world – these days the PODs have become somewhat smaller to the extent you can carry one around in your pocket, but look around the next time you are on a busy commute. How many people are immersed in the online world using their little Pod?
The movie is still a good watch and feels more contemporary than it should (after all the movie is nearly 20 years old!) – and the Director’s Cut, fleshes out the story further, check it out and experience the future of virtual reality. Special features include deleted scenes, storyboard to film comparison, a 5 minute featurette about virtual reality, and a 4 minute animated montage of the effects.
The package also included the sequel “The Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace”. The Lawnmower Man 2 picks up from the first movie but introduces Dr. Benjamine Trace (Patrick Bergin takes over from Piece Brosnan) – the found of virtual reality who is trying to protect the patent for a Chiron Chip – the powerful communications chip ever designed, however he fails and goes into hiding.
Matt Frewer takes on the role of Jobe, salvaged from the rubble of the destroyed science complex. This is a very loose tenable link as the in the first movie the body of Jobe was sucked dry when he entered through the cyberspace portal and all but a shell remained. However, Jobe is rescued, and put back together (what is left of him) though it looks like his memories have been erased "It’s all empty space inside" he says to the Doctor.
Jonathan Walker, an ambitious business man, gains control of the patent for the Chiron Chip and needs Jobe to build it for him. The scientists and researchers within Walkers institute help Jobe with his rehabilitation and the story skips to a future Earth.
Walker creates a world connected as one, through the Chiron Chip, that he uses for this own gain. However, a young group of hackers, led by (a now more grown up) Peter from the original movie, set about trying to stop his plans. However, cyber Jobe, has world dominating plans of his own and tracks down Peter. Jobe convinces Peter to find Trace (who has given up all traces of technology) so he can help prevent the death of cyberspace.
The sequel was critically panned however it’s really not that bad if you consider it is a much lower budget sequel although it relies more on green screening rather than the computer generated virtual reality effects of the original movie. The techno-babble is fun to listen to, for example:
"Pretty neat huh?"
"See how they were able to bypass the capability protection registers?"
"What did he do here?"
"That’s where Jobe merged the nano-matching hardware."
"He couldn’t have, there is no trans-matrix."
The Lawnmower Man Director’s Cut will be released as a two-disc set, complete with bonus features including Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace on 25 October 2010 courtesy of Universal’s cutting edge indi VISION imprint.