I read it few times on forum and social media: what cyberpunk films are out there ? Without getting crazy about the definition of cyberpunk, the answer is not many: it was mainly a literary phenomenon, the milestones of Gibson, Sterling, Stephenson, Cadigan were never transposed on the big screen.
Johnny Mnemonic fits the bill: it’s inspired by the short story by William Gibson, but it’s not a good film. Strange Days, Ghost in the Shell, Blade Runner by Ridley Scott, a tech-noir which incidentally influenced everybody’s visual expectation about cyberpunk, the British series Max Headroom. Stretch the definition a bit, bite your nails and you can include Shin’ya Tsukamoto Tetsuo and 964 Pinocchio.
By the time Y2k stroke and the millennium bug failed to destroy the whole informatical system, cyberpunk was already over.
The short summer of cyberpunk also bore a strange fruit, an Italian film with international ambition. I’m not sure if it’s even remembered beyond Italy, it was poorly received and crushed by the Fifth Element big budget.
Enter NIRVANA, the spaghetti Matrix of 1997 by Gabriele Salvatores. A strange little visionary film which sided with the cyber subculture, showing a multi-cultural future where entertainment is one of the biggest industries, people sell their organs for money, the poor live underground and of course you can jack yourself into the net.
3 days before Christmas, the game designer Jimi (an anemic Christopher Lambert) still did not deliver his new game. He’s heartbroken and his copy was infected by a virus, which made the main character (Diego Abatantuono) sentient. The Okosama Star wants the game, now! Or the customers will start painting the walls with ape shit! The character wants Jimi to delete the game. Jimi want to find out what happened to his ex-girlfriend. Jimi will go on a quest, following a trail of clues which will prompt a tour of the suburbs, parallel to the one of the in-game character.
It’s mystical, it’s rebellious, it’s cyberpunk, it’s NIRVANA: the new game by Jimy Dean, set in the suburbs of the sprawl. Straight into your heads. Produced by Okosama Star Games.
Oh, and it’s a Xmas movie with snow instead of the usual rain. And it gets the counter-culture right.
Some of the stuff in the film is quite good, so I will catalogue it for future reference. Contains SPOILERS SPOILERS.
ADVENTURE FORMAT AS FILMED: Linear, railroady investigation. exploration (4 different areas + the Nirvana game world), some combat, chases, cyberspace diving. The party depicted in the film uses more smart than guts to solve the adventure, resorting to combat only as a last chance.
In the second instalment of this post I will try to create a sandbox out of it.
OUTLINE/ BREADCRUMBS TRAIL:
- Jimi finds out that the main character of his video game, Solo, gained consciousness and wants to be deleted (QUEST 1)
He also wants to find out what happened to his ex-girlfriend Lisa (QUEST 1).
- His only clue is the name of a low-life named Joystick who lives in Marrakesh.
- He meets Joystick in MARRAKESH, they steal a van to get to the SKYWAYS where they meet NAIMA, a hacker friend of Joystick.
- Together with Naima they go to the underground suburb BOMBAY CITY where they retrieve the memory of Lisa which, with questionable taste, is then implanted into Naima.
- Together they launch an assault to the Okosama Star, Jimi jacks into the cyberspace and battle against the DEVILS (ICE) to delete Nirvana.
- Jimi manage to syphon out credits from a Okosama Starr bank account into Joystick and Naima pockets. Joystick and Naima flee.
- Jimi stay behind for a final chat with Solo. He erase Nirvana. The film ends with Okosama’s guards entering the room.
PCS (MOVIE AS FILMED).
For the film as written I would use Call of Cthulhu 7E for two reasons:Nirvana is an investigation where information gathering is more important than how to put the info together (so no Gumshoe), good chase rules, minimal combat. I guess Cyberpunk 2020/RED is also good. The cyberspace sequence lacks specific mechanics and can be solved without special rules, 0 SAN = brain is fried.
OKOSAMA Star videogame programmer. SKILLS: lots of credits, mostly clueless good guy. He’s probably the best in developing games but he doesn’t do much in the real world, except whining about lost love (50%) and falling in love. Fight VS domotics: 50%. If it was my character I’d kill it by farming and re-roll.
QUESTS: delete the program Nirvana from Okosama Star database. Learn the truth about what happened to Lisa.
FIXER, former Angel, a down and out rogue in debt with seemingly everybody (Disadvantage). Streetwise 75%,
ITEMS: B/W eye-set (30% failure, 50% in high humidity conditions). Sold his eyes for some credits, the cameras are failing him.
Enjoys psychedelic video drugs. CONTACTS: Knows everybody (owes money to 50% of them)
QUESTS: Buy new eyes before getting blind. Fuck the system is a bonus.
HACKER. she’s cool, has blue hair and a cerebral data port..
Coolest backstory: She has no memories of her own because they were erased by ICE while breaking into a database. It helps her to better understand machines. Interface: 100%. Can use and repair anything containing a motherboard.
Owns a self-driving van with state of the art hacking equipment and recreational drugs. She’s the only hacker who did not sell out to corporations
OBJECTIVES: Fuck the system, KARMA YOGA (Do something seemingly impossible at the best of your capabilities)
SOLO: the Nirvana videogame main character. Can you imagine what it means to be the main character of a shit videogame?”
LISA. Jimi’s ex girlfriend, encountered in frequent flashbacks. Boring flashbacks. She’s dead but left her memories in a cerebral chip.
DR.RAUSCHENBERG: Ripperdoc, live and work in Marrakesh (illegal clinic). Has all kind of black market contacts.
RED ROVER: “I’d do anything to keep living down-town!” Taxi Driver, fixer with contacts in the city centre (he won’t get into Marrakesh. Can find some excellent liquid Marijuana.
GURU: Lives in Bombay city
OKOSAMA STARR PSYCHOLOGISTS: needs to bring Jimi back on track and deliver the game. He is neurally connected to a Thai psycopath by Jimi and Joystick.
D6 random encounters
1 Paranoia vendor “I sell paranoia! Also used. Look at this one, it did not let me sleep all night!”
2 Red Rover “I can find anything for you!” The taxi driver, only found downtown
3 Elegant guy – Southern Italian accent, strange jacket. Tend to be around whenever people are shooting, gets invariably killed.
4 Organ Harvesters – stalks the party from a distance, waiting for somebody to get injured or die to collect the organs. Harmless but unnerving.
6 The Joker – the face of the drug bulletin in Marrakesh. Knowledgeable about all kind of drugs and their effects.
THE ROOM, THE CENTRE, MARRAKESH, BOMBAY CITY, THE SKYWAYS (le sopraelevate), CYBERSPACE.
The videogame Nirvana presents different areas: the starting room, Maria’s house, Chinatown, the outskirts (only reachable by car).
The film starts in Jimi’s room, in the Agglomerato (sprawl) downtown. It’s Milan.
In part 2 I will cover technology and fashion in Nirvana.