CNET is celebrating its 25th anniversary with articles remembering the 1990s — including that moment “when Hollywood finally noticed the web,” calling it “a flawed but fun snapshot of the moment the internet took over the world…”
“Twenty-five years ago, cinema met cyberspace in a riot of funky fashion, cool music and surveillance paranoia.
It began in May 1995 with the release of Johnny Mnemonic, a delirious sci-fi action dystopia matching Keanu Reeves with seminal cyberpunk author William Gibson. In July, Sandra Bullock had her identity erased in conspiracy thriller The Net. In August, Denzel Washington pursued Russell Crowe’s computer-generated serial killer in Virtuosity, and in September Angelina Jolie found her breakthrough role in anarchic adventure Hackers. In October, Kathryn Bigelow served up dystopian thriller Strange Days. It’s hard to know what’s most dated about these mid-’90s curios: the primitive-looking effects, the funky fashions or the clunky technology depicted on screen. But now, 25 years later, they’ve proved prescient in their concerns about surveillance, corporate power and the corruption of what seemed to be an excitingly democratic new age…
Most tellingly, Johnny Mnemonic and the other tech-focused films of 1995 all express fears around the misuse of surveillance in a connected world. The Net updates the paranoia of ’70s thrillers The Conversation and The Anderson Tapes, and each movie features an unholy alliance of avaricious corporate bad guys and authoritarian law enforcement. Or as Matthew Lillard’s character puts it in Hackers, “Orwell is here and livin’ large!”
But the whistleblowing heroes of Hackers, The Net and Johnny Mnemonic use their skills to subvert and unpick the establishment’s grip on technology. Hackers in particular radiates an infectious idealism as the diverse crew of anarchic youngsters rollerblade rings around the greedy suits and clueless cops, “snooping onto them as they snoop onto us”. The movie highlights technology’s potential to be a tool for wrongdoing and a democratic, open medium where you can be who you want to be…
Sadly, 1995’s wave of technology-themed movies have one other thing in common. They all bombed.
CNET’s reporter gets new quotes from the director of Hackers — as well as one of that film’s then-15-year-old technical advisors, Nicholas Jareck. “For all its exaggerations,” he says, “it does a decent job of showing the hacker spirit — those kids were tinkerers, experimenting, reveling in their ability to figure something out. It’s a celebration of human ingenuity.” Johnny Mnemonic. “Speaking on the phone from New York, Longo’s memories are peppered with entertaining asides about who was ‘evil,’ ‘a dick,’ ‘an idiot’ or ‘a fucking idiot.'”
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