Viking Night: The Lawnmower Man
By Bruce Hall
April 7, 2015
I think the worst part about living in the 21st Century is the lack of atomic jet cars. If you go back to the 1950s and 60s, everyone thought that by 2015, we’d all be wearing aluminum foil clothes, eating our food in pill form, and driving around in atomic jet cars. We laugh now at our primitive ancestors and their ridiculous vision of the future. But if you think about it, one minute you’re in the 1930s, toodling around in wooden steam powered cars, twirling your old-timey moustache and eating onion sandwiches (or whatever people did in the 1930s). Fifteen years later, you’re blowing up entire cities, eating TV dinners and sending monkeys into space.
Who could blame you if you assumed that by the turn of the century, everything would be made of lasers?
And then you’ve got the 1990s. The computer explosion of the 1980s gave way to the internet and cell phones and grunge music and 1-900 psychic hotlines. It was a wondrous time to be alive, and for a brief window, the possibilities seemed endless. This is probably why someone decided that virtual reality was going to be the Next Big Thing. In the case of The Lawnmower Man, this technology involved wearing a 10-pound pair of goggles with a set of bulky gloves while sitting in a weird gyroscopic chair. Apparently you could simulate flying, falling or even fucking - all while never really losing the sensation that you were just sitting in a weird gyroscopic chair, wearing a 10-pound pair of goggles and a set of bulky gloves.
Basically, the makers of The Lawnmower Man couldn’t have known that the virtual reality craze would eventually kind of just go away, simply because it’s not nearly as cool as it looks in the movies.
But in 1992, writer/director Brett Leonard - best known for making this movie and a handful of music videos - was convinced that "VR" would soon be so ubiquitous that we all needed to be warned about the dangers of overindulgence. So sure was he that he felt it necessary to appropriate the title to a Stephen King story which (surprise!) had nothing whatsoever to do with computers at all. But hey, if you're willing to steal from Stephen King, what reason is there NOT to start screaming about the end of the world? The Lawnmower Man proclaims right on the title card that virtual reality is coming, and it’s going to take over your life. From the start, Pierce Brosnan is tossing around hokey made up computer jargon, bloviating about how great it’s going to be when we’re all locked in our basements expanding our minds with this amazing technology instead of just using it to watch porn.
The future 007 has the misfortune to be playing Dr. Lawrence Angelo, a supposedly brilliant computer scientist working for a shadowy corporation I will call EvilCorp. They have hired him to use a combination of powerful drugs and virtual reality to train chimpanzees to murder everything they see. It works so well that one of the super-chimps escapes, kills one of the guards (“shot in the face by a chimp” it said on his tombstone), and nearly escapes the facility. Angelo is outraged, blaming the Corporation’s insistence on training the chimps for aggression instead of intellectual enlightenment. Angelo seeks to use his experiments for the good of humanity. But of course, EvilCorp just wants to use it as a weapon. And probably for porn.