Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Lawnmower Man 2

“I’m still a little unclear as to how all this fits together,” asks one of the characters in this dire sequel. Unfortunately it’s not a question that I, despite having watched the film, will be able to provide any enlightenment on.

Now I will confess it’s not unusual for me to preface reviews with the observation that the plot makes no sense. However, with Lawnmower Man 2 we are working in a different order of magnitude. We are talking cryptic incomprehensibility. The film’s subtitle is ‘Beyond Cyberspace‘. It should perhaps have been ‘Beyond all sense‘.

From the fragments we are intermittently offered by writer/director Farhad Mann I was able to discern the following.

Jobe (Matt Frewer), the simple gardener who was turned into a genius courtesy of a mad scientist, is revived - explanation impossible - following his death at the end of the first film. Jobe is put to work by the head of sinister corporation to create a chip which will allow the company to control the world’s computers.

Meanwhile some street kids who are also computer hackers stumble on what Jobe is up to. They seek out Benjamin Trace (Patrick Bergin), a retired virtual reality whiz, who is the only man who can stop the dastardly scheme.

Realising who is working against him Jobe makes numerous attempts to kill Bergin (who spends the whole film dressed like he’s in an extra in Dances With Wolves) and his team of unlovable street urchins.

The effort of most interest to us comes around two-thirds of the way into the film. At Bergin’s mountain hideaway the heroes plot their next move without realising that Jobe has tracked them down.

Using the ‘power of the internet’ - hell it was 1996 nobody really knew what it was back then - Jobe takes control of a helicopter that happens to be flying nearby.

He steers it on a crash course towards Bergin’s wooden cabin, but the tell-tell ‘thwacka thwacka’ of the rotor blades alerts the inhabitants who flee as the chopper bears down on them. The helicopter crashes into shack with the blades making a pleasing wood chip out of the roofs and walls.

However, as Bergin and the pesky scamps flee out the back of the cabin the danger isn’t over. The chopper’s momentum takes it skidding through the hut, now resembling some kind of burning sleigh the wrecked copter pursues the heroes who are only able to avoid being mown down by diving into a ditch as the helicopter’s burning shell passes harmlessly overhead.

Artistic merit

Surprisingly good. Despite the low budget quality of the bulk of the films special effects the sequence is actually pretty good. The crash into the cabin looks like it might be model work, whilst the skidding burning chopper looks computer generated. However, both a reasonably well rendered to leave it an exciting sequence.

You might justifiably have higher expectations given that when Lawnmower Man was released in 1992 it’s special effects were widely praised, despite now looking incredibly dated. But as Lawnmower Man 2 is a cheap cash-in, with budget notable by its absence, it should be judged on its merits.

Exploding helicopter innovation

It’s a nice idea to turn the burning chopper wreckage into a skidding sleigh that pursues the heroes. It’s probably been done before, but it’s the earliest example I can remember.

Relevance to plot

Shaky. Let’s just say it’s mightily convenient that the helicopter was nearby and could be turned into a remote controlled kamikaze chopper.

Interesting fact

Intriguingly for a film about computer generated realities Jobe is played by Matt Frewer who was the face behind 80s video jock Max Headroom. Director Farhad Mann directed an episode of the series which presumably led to his casting here.

In the first film Jobe was played by Jeff Fahey. He like Pierce Brosnan wisely decided not to return for this piece of celluloid drivel. Austin O'Brien is the only person to feature in both films.

1 comment: