Lawnmower Man, a 90s Cautionary Tale of VR, Comes to Actual VR

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Recently, we assessed the predictions of various old sci-flicks that were set in the then-distant future of 2017. While we may not have gladiatorial matches on cable or city-sized prisons (yet), one bit of futurism that’s certainly become prevalent today is, of course, consumer-grade VR. Though, while Google Cardboard and the Oculus Rift might be putting visors in the hands of techies, VR still isn’t quite as… fearsome as Hollywood told us it’d be in the mid 90s.

Remember Lawnmower Man? Very loosely based on a Stephen King short story, the cyber-thriller followed Pierce Brosnan’s ill-advised experiment to turn his neighbor, a mentally-handicapped gardener, into a super genius through the information overload of cutting-edge VR. Here’s a vintage trailer to refresh your memory.

Jaunt, a VR content distributor, just announced at the Sundance festival that it’s acquired the rights to Lawnmower Man, along with four other properties it’ll also be developing into narrative series. Fans will have to watch the reboot with their glasses on, presumably dropping right into the middle of this Promethean horror story. Presumably the link-up won’t be transforming them into overnight-supergeniuses with god complexes, though.

While we’re thinking back on the original, it’s fun to reflect on how even the nascent notion of VR captured Hollywood’s imagination for a solid stretch in the mid 90s. Take these oldies as time capsules–relics of those days between Tron and the Matrix– and it’s clear that people were anxious-unto-fearful about VR back then. To wit, Lawnmower Man‘s sequel, Beyond Cyberspace, enlisted none other than Max Headroom to show Jobe as a Satanic figure ruling over a hellish cyberspace.

The first Lawnmower Man‘s director, Brett Leonard, re-visited the subject a couple years later with Virtuosity, pitting Denzel Washington’s cyborg cop off against Russell Crowe’s sentient murder simulator. Here’s its absolutely 90s VHS trailer.

And we could never forget the “hack the Gibson!” scene from Hackers, wherein the internet itself is depicted as a virtual reality filled with neon pillars and holographic Virtruvian Men.

Does the prospect of meeting Jobe face-to-face in the virtual world terrify you in all the right ways? What other old franchises would work well in VR? Share your thoughts in the talkback.

Image Credits: New Line Cinema

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