Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The Lawnmower Man (1992)

"Virtual reality will grow and grow."

Er... no it won't.

it's an odd beast in hindsight, this film. On the on e hand there's more than a smidgen of Flowers for Algernon in it, putting it in the tradition of Twentieth Century science fiction. On the other hand, well, virtual reality is the most 1992 thing ever. Has anything ever dated as much as virtual reality? I'm reminded of Tomorrow's World and a certain episode of Red Dwarf.

Still, it's quite a good film. Adaptations of Stephen King stories usually are.It isn't just the virtual reality that dates the film, though; it'd (just) recent enough to have CGI, but the hero smokes and the phones look charmingly antique from a 2014 perspective. Still, Jeff Fahey and Pierce Brosnan are quite good, and it's nice to see a Hollywood film with a left-of-centre message, in this case opposition to corporate manipulation of science.

The film is seen from the perspective of Dr. Lawrence Angelo, our viewpoint character and also, interestingly, the moral centre of the film, thus putting the audience in that position too. Jobe is a mentally subnormal and much-bullied man, much like Lenny from Of Mice and Men, whose intelligence is artificially boosted. But so is his hubris. It's a solid script, thematically, and it helps that we first see Jobe as such a sympathetic figure and never quite forget those first impressions with his descent into megalomania.

We also have an abusive father and a manipulative and sadistic priest carrying more than a wisp of Opus Dei about him, both of whom get their respective comeuppances: this is not a film likely to gain Papal approval. And it's interesting seeing the portrayal of Jobe's sexuality; like Lenny in the aforementioned novella, he combines a child's mind with an adult's sexual desires, something which seems fated to end badly. His augmented intelligence averts this fate, however, giving him a sexual awakening which really has to be symbolic both of his ceasing, in a sense, to be a child and of the new world that's been opened to him.

Sadly, corporate greed corrupts him, and leads him to insist that the treatments continue far beyond a level that is wise. Eventually he goes all mad and telekinetic and that, and the film builds to an exciting conclusion, the special effects for which would have looked pretty good at the time, I'm sure. It's a good film, small scale and, by the looks of things, not big budget, but with big, big ideas that really work.

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