The Hollywood Action Star has been a Staple of Cyberpunk Movies for Almost 30 Years
Keanu Reeves, the internet’s boyfriend that just can’t wait to meet your parents, has become the new talk of the town. Now that the John Wick franchise has made its way into cinematic greatness and his selfless good deeds have become the stuff of legend, the actor seems to be stuck on everyone’s minds.
And how can he not, he’s just so cool.
When news broke at E3 2019 that Reeves would be a part of the highly anticipated Cyberpunks 2077 by CD Projekt Red, gamers rejoiced. But the news isn’t the first time Reeves has dipped his binary toe into the digital pool. Throughout his own filmography, he has become the poster boy for cyberpunk in film. Even though it is not every movie or even that often, his interest in the genre helps push the movement forward to the spotlight. It’s a neon spotlight, but a spot light nonetheless.
As we all know, Johnny Mnemonic is full-tilt cyberpunk. Brighter than Blade Runner, the movie got wrapped in the “got to have a video game if you are going to sell the movie” type of film that was prevalent in the 90s. Reeves plays the title character, a courier for digital information to big and safe to send via “The Net” ( remember, 90s). His brain implant allows for a whopping 80 gigabyte storage so long as you don’t mind the trauma and memory loss that comes with it. Action ensues.
Based on the William Gibson short story that later appeared in Burning Chrome, this was Reeves after Point Break and Speed. He was no longer the doting stoner type of Ted “Theodore” Logan. It was time for the actor to prove himself. Johnny Mnemonic didn’t do well and Reeves had to take a little more time to become a Hollywood darling.
The Matrix Series
Okay, we have to talk about The Matrix. I’ll get fired if I don’t. Not the first of Reeves’ movies to transcend the zeitgeist, The Matrix series introduced many film goers to a lot of the principles and ideas you find in cyberpunk. High tech designs, slick look and a base philosophy informing all decisions and motives. The first one showcased Reeves somber approach to acting and kick started his love for martial arts. Even The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions were not as well received, the first Matrix paved the way for how action movies were made and seen in the 21st century.
A Scanner Darkly
Under appreciated in its time, the Richard Linklater film based on a the novel by Phillip K. Dick has become a cult classic. A Scanner Darkly was shot to look like a trippy animated feature, but the process was actually reversed. The movie was shot digitally and then animators drew over every shot in post production to create a drugged-out look that bends towards neo-future without diving to deep. It works to make the film more believable to the viewer by introducing a crazy idea and concept without the need for too much suspension of disbelief.
In the not to distant future (pick either X-men or MST3K to reference here), roughly 20% of the US population is addicted to a special new drug requiring the government to get way more Big Brother with their investigation. Reeves character, while undercover for The Man, becomes addicted to the nasty narcotic.
A Scanner Darkly also lends towards an early influence on cyberpunk, the noir detective story. We all know Harrison Ford was doing Humphrey Bogart in Blade Runner, and that influence can be seen throughout all things cyberpunk, whether it’s books, films and video games. It’s like how westerns influenced samurai movies that influenced westerns.
Not a big hit for Reeves, but still explored the idea of what it is to be human, whether the human is artificially made or not. This idea is resonated throughout most of cyberpunk media. In Replicas, Reeves plays a neuroscientist determined to bring his family back after they are killed in a car crash. Add a dash of futuro-tech and a big helmet he wears during science stuff, and you have a movie that is technically cyberpunk but not all together well planned out. It wasn’t well received by critics and moviegoers alike, but you can still add one to the win column for the cyberpunk subgenre.
Our blessed hero emerged on the stage of E3 silhouetted like a messianic gangster. The much-anticipated announcement revealed the release date for Cyberpunk 2077, and revealed Reeve’s role as Johnny Silverhand, a fan-favorite from the Cyberpunk canon.
A while back, the guys from CD Projekt Red approached me and asked me to be a part of their new project, Cyberpunk 2077, They were going on and on about how they created this vast, open world with a branching storyline. How you would be able to customize your character through in-game choices. And it’s not something I knew before, but was excited by. And I am always drawn to fascinating stories.
Yeah dude, we can tell.