I can’t wait to get my lawn mowed.
People always ask me why I watch such bad movies. One, I love to laugh, and shoddy filmmaking almost always makes me laugh. Two, I like the feeling of having made it through something really grueling that most other people wouldn’t subject themselves to. And three, so I can tell everyone how bad the movie was and force them to listen to me describe the plot.
I do discriminate. There’s only certain kinds of bad movies I like to watch. Basically anything within the genres of sci-fi, fantasy, and action. Of course, disaster movies are a combination of all three and hence why I adore them so much. But I’ll generally watch any movie that looks deliciously bad in any of those genres.
So it came to pass that I ended up watching The Lawnmower Man, formerly Stephen King’s Lawnmower Man, Friday night. This movie is written by Brett Leonard and Gimel Everett and is loosely based on a Stephen King short story of the same name. And by loosely I mean so far off that Stephen King sued the studio to have his name removed from the film and won. All signs point to quality with this one.
As with all early 90s computer-oriented movies, the opening credits are set to a bit more complicated version of 3D Pipes combined with Mystify. Grids everywhere, as it should be. Everything futuristic involves a grid of some sort. After we’ve been good and introduced to the virtual reality world, we end up in some secret government lab where they’re training chimps to be super smart cold-blooded killers. There’s an argument over this between our pacifist Virtual Dr. Frankenstein, Pierce Brosnan, and a bald guy who wants him to step up the aggression training on the chimps. Of course Brosnan strenuously objects to that because he just wants to work on the intelligence enhancing potential with this virtual reality tech that he’s created, not turn it into a weapon. However, they are financed by some collective called “The Shop” so I don’t know what he thought he was signing up for when he accepted that grant. Anyway, the chimp ends up escaping in the night and mowing down a bunch of humans because the aggression training wasn’t something or other. Naturally you think about moving on to human trials after something like that happens.
Jeff Fahey plays Jobe, the titular lawnmower man, who is supposed to be mentally challenged and is often mistreated by those around him because of his intelligence. Pierce asks him if he wants to be smarter so people won’t take advantage of him. Pierce then proceeds to take advantage of him by making him promise not to tell anyone what he’s doing (like they’re not going to notice the obvious increase in intellectual capacity) and he’ll make him smarter. Now I’m realizing this script has been written since the late 60s, when it was Charly. They just threw in a bunch of grids and a crazy Da Vinci man ball thing that Jobe spins around in. I think you can guess that the problem arises when Jobe gets smarter than his creator and of course, is tainted with some of that aggression programming by the bald guy who wanted Pierce to use it on the chimps.
We get lots of shots with people in Virtual Reality, (which was apparently supposed to have taken over our lives by the millenium, just so you know) you know, more grids, metallic rainbow liquid backgrounds and Terminator 2 liquid metal avatars. Jobe becomes telepathic, telekinetic, telewhathaveyou, he’s got it all and is able to manipulate Real Reality and kill people in all new and poorly animated ways. Pierce wants to end the training, but, predictably, Jobe isn’t down with that and proceeds to tie him up and head down to their facility to mate with the mainframe and become full virtual.
Pierce gets free and goes down to the facility to stop Jobe, but for some reason he tries to stop him in Virtual Reality and ends up getting clowned because Jobe is way better at that than he is. Jobe then becomes totally virtual — his atoms get sucked up into the Da Vinci ball thing — and promptly gets himself clowned because he has no control over Real Reality any more and clever Pierce has blocked all the outgoing ports so he’s stuck in the mainframe (which reminds me of another bad movie, Ghost in the Machine). He’s really angry about this because, as he explained to Pierce as he was tying him up, he wants to take over every network in the world and make all the phones all over the world ring at once to announce his ascension, and that port-blocking crap is not part of the plan he outlined for him. Pierce and some other characters I never mentioned planted some bombs in the facility, so Jobe’s supposed to be unable to get out of hardware so he’ll get blown up with the facility. But wouldn’t you know it, Jobe finds an open port at the last minute, and is transferring himself as the place blows. The suspense is eating me up.
How Pierce decided this disaster means his intelligence work is okay as long as he doesn’t use the aggression programming, I don’t know. There’s no lesson learned here. As the movie closes, the phone rings. And then the phone in the other room starts ringing, and then a bunch more, and then you get where I’m going, that phone ringing worldwide thing is happening so we’re led to believe Jobe made it. Just in time for Not at All Stephen King’s The Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace.