Keanu Reeves' 'Johnny Mnemonic,' The Movie Everyone Crapped On, Was Actually Right
Johnny Mnemonic is a 1995 cyberpunk action/thriller starring Keanu Reeves that you'd be forgiven for not having seen. It was universally panned by critics (it has a 12% on the Tomatometer), with Roger Ebert calling it "one of the great goofy gestures of recent cinema" and saying it is "a movie that doesn't deserve one nanosecond of serious analysis." I, too, cannot stress enough that this is an awful movie. It's like the Matrix on acid if everything took place in Newark. (That's not meant to be a punchline. It seriously takes place in Newark.)
But we return to this movie for two simple reasons. One, Johnny Mnemonic, as seen in the clip below, predicts the state of the Internet, specifically in the year 2021, which happens to be (checks time tracking implant) right now.
Two, it happens to get a shocking amount right. I mean, it also gets a ton of things wrong. Typing something into Google doesn't send your queries racing through a level of Starfox 64 as it looks like it does in the clip above, but we can expect as much from a cyberthriller from an era in which they still used dial-up. What we wouldn't expect is how dead-on Johnny Mnemonic gets with so many other details. Here's the opening crawl:
It's 2021, and the world is facing a deadly pandemic, while corporations are in total control. Sounds a little familiar, right? Also not mentioned here is how much of society is consumed with a virtual internet, similarly to how our actual society is deeply consumed with social media. Now, we don't normally face threats from the Yakuza, at least I haven't so far this morning, and we're not regularly "wet-wiring" chips into our brains. However, neural implants are already a thing used in medicine and will continue to be more prominently used in maybe the near future.
Now, look at some of the other technology in Johnny Mnemonic. Yes, it's dumber than dogshit at first glance. (skip to about 1:20 in the clip below to see what I mean.)
But it's also, at the same time, kinda right! Johnny is using a VR headset, and it works similarly to how a VR headset would today, with the hands floating in space on-screen.
There's more. He has an alarm that wakes him up at the beginning of the film that works similarly to an Amazon Dot device. They even still use fax machines, which seems inexplicable in both their reality and also ours.
I think a lot of film critics owe Johnny Mnemonic an apology, the laser whips notwithstanding. For a movie that "doesn't deserve one nanosecond of serious analysis," it sure offered us a window into our present. At the very least, it set the stage for Keanu being in Cyberpunk 2077.
Top Image: TriStar Pictures