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Johnny Mnemonic (Blu-ray Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000225273
Added by: Jitendar Canth
Added on: 26/4/2024 16:30
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    Review for Johnny Mnemonic

    4 / 10


    As I was watching the end credits roll on this film, I grabbed my tablet and placed an order for the German Turbine Blu-ray release of Johnny Mnemonic, which is all you really need to know about this 101 Films attempt at Johnny Mnemonic. Of course you might begin by asking why I would buy Johnny Mnemonic twice in short order. For me it’s one of those ‘so bad it’s good’ movies. Also, back in 1995, 4 years before Keanu finally got it right with The Matrix, there weren’t a lot of cyberpunk movies out there. Sure there was Blade Runner, the superlative Strange Days was released the same year as Johnny Mnemonic, and there was a whole lot of Japanese anime inspired by the cyberpunk movement, but this was actually the first William Gibson story to be adapted to the screen, and adapted by the author himself. At the time, I lapped up the visual aesthetic of the film, and overlooked its weaknesses; but nothing dates quicker than CGI, especially the early CGI of the mid-nineties, and much as I had the urge to revisit Johnny Mnemonic, this time I would have to face the faults head on; spoiler alert... I did order the German disc!

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    The future of 2021 is a dystopian vision, where the only secure way to transmit data is within the brains of suitably augmented couriers. Johnny is one such courier, a man who gave up his childhood memories to make room in his brain. He wants those memories back, and for that, he’ll have to do one final lucrative job. But lucrative means dangerous, and he makes the mistake of underestimating just how much data there is. They’re not the usual clients either, a couple of nervous scientists that want to transmit pharmaceutical data from Beijing to Newark. This is information that the company will kill to get back, and the yakuza are hot on Johnny’s tail. And now he has also got to worry about dying of synaptic seepage if time runs out.

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    The Disc

    Johnny Mnemonic gets a 1.85:1 widescreen 1080i 50Hz transfer on this disc, with the choice between DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround and PCM 2.0 Stereo English (although you’ll have to select the stereo track with the remote as there is no menu option for it) with the option of HOH English subtitles. And there we have it, “PAL” speedup on a Blu-ray movie disc. You’d expect 1080p for any movie on Blu-ray but what we have here might just be a rip from British TV, played at the wrong frame rate with higher pitched audio as a result. Also, it’s not the best transfer, soft and prone to what looks like ghosting. Detail levels are passable, but only rarely seem to look HD. Colours are muddy, even with all the neon, and contrast exists, but barely. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say they up-scaled a DVD. And you’ll note that the only CGI is used for the Internet sequences, and are very Lawnmower Man. The audio on the other hand lives up to the HD billing; impressive and resonant with a fair degree of immersion given the film’s stereo origins. Action comes across well, and the music suits the story down to a tee. Dialogue is clear, although sometimes you might wish that it wasn’t.

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    You get one disc in a BD Amaray style case, with a neon reversible sleeve. The disc boots to an animated menu, and you’ll find the following extras on the disc.

    Commentary with Director Robert Longo
    Commentary with Film Critic Rich Johnson

    Short Film: Tomorrow Calling (11:09) 576i 16:9 letterboxed in 4:3 frame, PCM 2.0 English

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    Japanese Director’s Cut of Johnny Mnemonic (103:03) 1.78:1 480i 60Hz, DD 2.0 English

    Featurette (5:24)
    Behind the Scenes (5:03)
    Interviews from the Shoot x6 (11:27)

    Music Video (3:53)
    Trailer (2:19)

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    Protip to 101 Films; if you’re trying to sell a weak 1080i transfer as the best you can get for Johnny Mnemonic; don’t stick the film’s trailer on there in 1080p and with something approaching genuine HD clarity. At least the extended version of the film, SD though it is, plays back at something approaching the correct frame rate.

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    This reminds me of the Umbrella debacle with The Dish, although that was back when studios cared about public opinion, and mistakes like that were rectified. 101 Films release of Johnny Mnemonic has been out for two years at this point, and I guess we’re stuck with importing a half decent option. It is worth looking into importing a better copy than this release. Johnny Mnemonic may not be a great film, but it does have a decent story, and it plays with some thought-provoking cyberpunk concepts. It’s just that it falls flat with the execution. As I said before about films like David Lynch’s Dune, I have a soft spot for movies that aim high and fail spectacularly, far more than for films that play it safe and settle for mediocrity. Johnny Mnemonic really does have ideas above its station, and it still manages to entertain.

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    Of course the first thing is that Johnny Mnemonic has dated when it comes to its technology, although Johnny’s awkward looking VR headset and haptic gloves, which looked cheesy in 1995, now seem remarkably prescient given Apple’s Vision Pro. You can also give the plethora of CRT screens a pass. But they had the Internet in 1995, e-mail was pretty advanced, so the existence of fax machines in their vision of 2021 is even more misplaced than Back to the Future II’s. They also should have used Moore’s Law when it comes to estimating data storage capacities. Johnny’s got 80 GB free space in his brain. He uses a doubler to make it 160 GB (Remember Stacker for Windows?) and gets into trouble when the smugglers load a 320 GB file into his brain. It seems horribly quaint!

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    It turns out that Johnny Mnemonic was a victim of a higher budget. You can hear in the audio commentary that director Robert Longo was looking for a small budget to make his vision of Johnny Mnemonic as a black and white film noir (indeed two years ago, he got to get close to that vision with a new release of Johnny Mnemonic, going back to the original film elements to create a black and white version; available on Blu-ray in the US at the time of writing), but he couldn’t get that money. But he could get ten times that money to make Johnny Mnemonic a studio summer blockbuster, with all the studio interference that comes with it. That explains why so many of the characters speak in exposition in this film, and why we get an info-dump prologue scroll followed by a back-story fill-in opening scene, all added at the behest of the suits.

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    The performances aren’t too hot either, with Keanu in the balsa phase of his career, with some seriously oddball choices as Johnny. This was also when Ice-T seemed to be in every movie, although even when he was disguised as a mutant kangaroo, he was never not Ice-T. And Dolph Lundgren is completely out of place as the Preacher, and once again, you can hear in the commentary how that was another studio mandate. So you have poor performances, some execrable dialogue, and the studios have tried their damndest to make it just another generic sci-fi action movie. But the story moves at a decent pace, the action is good enough, the visual aesthetic tickles my brain in just the right way, and I get jazzed on the cyberpunk concepts the film plays with.

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    Incidentally, if you’re hoping that the Japanese Director’s Cut (from that time when they’d stick the Director’s Cut moniker on anything without actually asking the director to get involved) solves all of the issues of the theatrical release, then you are more hopelessly optimistic than even I. There’s a little bit of added content that might bolster the story, but really this is a case of catering for the Japanese market by adding more Takeshi Kitano scenes to the film. More Takeshi can only be a good thing, and there are some nice extra moments, but you can’t redeem the irredeemable no matter how much you try. At least at 480i the film is at the correct frame rate, the audio correctly pitched, but the image is of lower quality than the equivalent DVD would be, scaled up, and if I had the Region 1 DVD, I could at least watch it in progressive 480p, something I can’t do with the SD version on Blu-ray.

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    Yeah, Johnny Mnemonic is a proper guilty pleasure for me, and I’ll always make time for it. This 101 Films release isn’t the way to watch it though. The extras are nice, particularly that Tomorrow’s Calling short film, a Channel 4 adaptation of a William Gibson story, and the extended version of the film doesn’t hurt. But it’s a rookie error to put the film on the disc in the wrong format

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