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Virtual Reality, Real Impact: a Sci-Fi Legacy

MOVIE REVIEW
The Lawnmower Man Collection (Limited Edition) (Blu-ray)
The Lawnmower Man (theatrical and directors cuts) -
-     
Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace - -     

Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi / Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Year Released: 1992 / 1995, 2024 101 Films Blu-ray
Runtime: 1h 48m / 1h 33m
Director(s): Brett Leonard / Farhad Mann
Writer(s): Stephen KingBrett LeonardGimel Everett
Cast: Jeff Fahey, Pierce Brosnan, Jenny Wright, Mark Bringelson, Geoffrey Lewis, Jeremy Slate, Dean Norris, Colleen Coffey / Patrick Bergin,  Matt Frewer, Austin O’Brien, Ely Pouget, Camille Cooper, Patrick LaBrecque, Crystal Celeste Grant, Sean P. Young
Where To Watch: available June 10, 2024; pre-order here www.101-films-store.com


RAVING REVIEW: Step into a time capsule of groundbreaking sci-fi (at the time) with the Blu-ray release of THE LAWNMOWER MAN and LAWNMOWER MAN 2: BEYOND CYBERSPACE. This special edition from 101 Films offers both the theatrical and director cuts of the original film, enriching the viewing experience with extended scenes and deeper narrative layers. The director’s cut, in particular, adds significant depth, fleshing out the storyline and characters beyond the original cinema release.


THE LAWNMOWER MAN emerged in 1992 under the innovative direction of Brett Leonard and Gimel Everett, breaking away from its initial Stephen King adaptation roots to forge its path in cinematic history. The film introduced audiences to a spectacular virtual reality world, a narrative that interlaced human ambition with high-stakes digital adventure. This early ’90s gem showcased cutting-edge CGI and special effects, setting a precedent for future sci-fi endeavors. With the ever-growing use of AI and virtual reality becoming the everyday norm, the film feels more critical than ever.

At the core of this narrative is Dr. Lawrence Angelo, played by Pierce Brosnan, whose groundbreaking work in virtual reality selects an unsuspecting Jobe Smith (Jeff Fahey) as a test subject. Jobe’s journey from a simple gardener to a near-divine entity questions the moral implications of technological manipulation, blurring the lines between horror and sci-fi.

Despite the film’s dated effects, its influence on the genre is undeniable. Fahey’s transformation into an influential, almost mythical figure remains a highlight, particularly his iconic luminous suit scene, symbolizing his complete metamorphosis. The director’s cut allows us to see deeper into the “real” world and the virtual worlds created in the film.

The narrative thread unravels as we delve into LAWNMOWER MAN 2: BEYOND CYBERSPACE. Matt Frewer takes over as Jobe, now caught in a sinister plot orchestrated by the mysterious Jonathan Walker (Kevin Conway). The sequel ambitiously tackles the broader implications of virtual reality within a global context but often needs more narrative cohesion, flitting between grandiose concepts and underwhelming delivery. A mix of various genres and unclear on its target audience, the film is an exciting addition but doesn’t do enough to put itself on the level of the original movie.

The return of Austin O’Brien as Peter from the original film struggles to ground the increasingly tangled storyline. Although the sequel is visually striking, it relies too heavily on CGI, which does not compensate for its narrative deficits. It oscillates between visionary and mundane, struggling to recapture the original’s innovative spark. Interestingly enough, the increased focus on child actors sets a bar for the film, making it a tale of its time.

These films explore the double-edged sword of virtual reality, a theme that has only grown in relevance. The pioneering visual effects, once revolutionary, now offer a nostalgic glimpse into the technological strides made since. This Blu-ray release rejuvenates the visuals and sound. It allows new and long-time fans to explore these seminal works, appreciating their place in the evolution of the sci-fi genre.

Looking back, THE LAWNMOWER MAN series carved a unique niche at a time when virtual reality was just a speculative frontier filled with endless possibilities. Some of these futuristic visions have materialized, while others remain figments of imaginative storytelling. The enduring legacy of these films underscores a significant era of creative and technological experimentation, continuing to resonate within the sci-fi community. I would love to see a third film in the series, similar to how TRON made a modern-day sequel. The franchise is ripe for the picking, and we could see a fantastic story with the proper storyline!

SPECIAL FEATURES:
Limited edition rigid box packaging. Limited Edition Booklet: Includes Grassroots and Cyber Suits: Variations of The Lawnmower Man by Rich Johnson and This Diseased Mainframe: The Abject Horror of Bodily Digitisation in The Lawnmower Man by Andy Marshall-Roberts

DISC 1: The Lawnmower Man Theatrical Cut
 • Cybergod: Creating The Lawnmower Man • Audio commentary with writer/Director Brett Leonard and writer-producer Gimel Everett • Deleted scenes • Original electronic press kit with cast interviews and behind-the-scenes footage • Edited animated sequences • Theatrical trailer • TV spot

DISC 2: The Lawnmower Man Director’s Cut 
• Audio commentary with writer/Director Brett Leonard and writer/producer Gimel Everett • Conceptual art and design sketches • Behind-the-scenes and production stills • Storyboard comparison

DISC 3: Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace

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[photo courtesy of 101 FILMS]

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Chris Jones
Entertainment Editor

Chris Jones is the Mail Entertainment Editor covering Movies and Television topics. He is from Washington, Illinois, and is the owner, writer, and editor of Overly Honest Reviews.