Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Johnny Mnemonic Scene That Aged Poorly

"Johnny Mnemonic" is a dystopian sci-fi movie starring Keanu Reeves, before his tenure in the "Matrix" franchise redefined his own career. Like "The Matrix," though, this 1995 flick also deals with the notion of hacking one's own brain, albeit through a different lense. 

Reeves plays the titular character, Johnny, a specialized type of courier in the future that replaces sections of their own brain and memories with a digital storage space capable of holding sensitive business data. Corporations reign dominant over the world in this future, and they reach crosses borders and governments: Johnny takes on a dangerous job that sees his limits pushed to their maximum, and he is told that he needs to get the information out as soon as possible before he suffers extreme psychological and mental damage that will result in his death. This leads to him becoming entangled in a vast conspiracy involving a massive conglomeration, organized crime, and resistance fighters led by J-Bone (Ice T) and their pet militarized psychic dolphin. 

However, there is one scene from the movie that hasn't held up against the test of time.

The CGI graphics when Johnny hacks his own brain have aged poorly

"Johnny Mnemonic" is loaded with practical effects — like a cybernetic assassin with a penchant for the Bible, gun play, and martial arts sequences — but the scene that has aged the most involves computer generated images. That is, perhaps, not unexpected: practical effects usually retain their potency, but CGI graphics often age rapidly due to the rate in which technology improves. The graphical power in computers surged enormously from 1995 to 2005 (via Tom's Hardware), and the processing power of computers has increased at a geometric rate, known as Moore's Law (via Investopedia). As a result, CGI that holds up over time is rarer than CGI that looks dated a few decades later.

In the scene that looks the fakest today, though, Johnny is forced to hack his own brain, which involves him being strapped into a virtual reality headset and aided by a psychic dolphin, trained by the military, known as Jones. This faux-reality sees a barely recognizable avatar of Johnny navigate the storage space in his own mind, and when he comes up against the innate defenses of the data in question, Johnny's digital character creates a clone of himself while also growing talon=like appendages from his hands, which he uses to physically hack away at the defenses.

At the time, it was a dazzling display of fancy computer graphics, but these days, the images look rather pedestrian, at best. The truth is that our smart phones today have significantly more power than even the beefiest computers of the mid-1990s, so the graphics look just a wee bit dated. Still, it would have been impossible to film the hacking scenes with practical effects, and they now act as a quaint time capsule for computer graphics of the time.