Good evening! Some of you guys might remember my recent post about steampunk in 2017 and where it might be heading in the future. Today, I’m going to have a similar discussion about cyberpunk in 2017. Why am I taking an interest in this topic? It’s worth noting that cyberpunk was a significant predecessor to steampunk. We wouldn’t have steampunk without cyberpunk. Regarding entertainment, cyberpunk tends to move through media in spurts. Sometimes we don’t see it for several years. Lately, it seems like cyberpunk is making a small comeback. It definitely caught my attention. Here’s what I noticed so far.
There are two major cyberpunk films being released in 2017: Ghost in the Shell and Blade Runner 2049. Ghost in the Shell came out in March and it received mixed opinions. Many critics and fans thought the visual effects were very impressive. The film also received some praise for having entertaining action scenes. But I read numerous articles about whitewashing, a mediocre plot, and a general unfaithfulness to the anime. I bought Ghost in the Shell on Blu-Ray and gave it a shot. Actually, I thought it take took quite a few elements from the anime series. I also appreciated the film’s cyberpunk material. Everyone was right about the breathtaking visual effects and action sequences. However, the whitewashing was really distracting and the plot was confusing. Granted, the anime is also confusing in my opinion. I don’t understand why the film makers didn’t cast more Japanese actors. Maybe they wanted a bigger following in North America. Ghost in the Shell had really strong cyberpunk elements, but other components brought down the film’s quality. It wasn’t particularly successful in theaters either. So, I doubt this movie will be an indicator of future cyberpunk films.
The new Blade Runner movie is going to be released in October. I feel really excited about that one. Hopefully, it will be just as good or better than the original film. A lot of hope is riding on Blade Runner 2049. If it bombs at the box office like Ghost in the Shell, I don't think we'll more cyberpunk films for a long time. But the trailers certainly look promising. It definitely seems like film makers are intrigued with cyberpunk at the moment. Keep in mind, none of the material is new. Ghost in the Shell was a Japanese anime. Blade Runner was a 1980s cyberpunk film. Think about a recent trend in cinema. Remakes, sequels, book adaptations, and franchises are a big deal in the modern era. Last year, we saw a remake of the Magnificent Seven. We’re still seeing a slew of Marvel and DC superhero movies. Kingsman is getting a sequel next month. We saw the first Assassin’s Creed movie last year. It took twenty years to make a sequel for Independence Day. Star Wars is making quite a comeback with new films. Alien also resurfaced from a long hiatus. For some reason, we’re still seeing more Transformers movies. Fantastic Beasts is a spinoff from Harry Potter. You get the picture. Unfortunately, the cinematic interest in cyberpunk is probably part of this trend with remakes and sequels. It might not be a very authentic interest in the genre.
I’m also noticing an increase in cyberpunk games. It’s not a specific trend to 2017. Deu Ex: Mankind Divided was released in 2016 and more games are in development. I thought Mankind Divided nailed the punk element, but the gameplay was pretty hard. It seemed like Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst also had some cyberpunk elements, but I haven’t played that one. Is The Surge a cyberpunk game? I think it counts to a certain extent. It’s a post-apocalyptic and dystopian video game that was released in 2017 with a heavy emphasis on body modifications. At some point, Cyberpunk 2077 is going to be released. There aren’t a lot of details for that game yet, but it’s certainly cyberpunk. A remake of System Shock is going to be released in 2018. We might not be seeing tremendous growth in the video game industry for the cyberpunk genre, but it’s still making a presence. Cyberpunk seems to fit better in the gaming world than literature. Can you guys think of new cyberpunk books? I can’t think of anything. They probably exist, but I don’t see a lot of cyberpunk literature in Barnes & Noble. In contrast, I see a lot of steampunk books on shelves. Gail Garriger, Cherie Priest, Scott Westerfeld, and Meljean Brook are some of the popular steampunk authors.
Basically, cyberpunk is thriving in some of the areas where steampunk falls short. It’s not unusual to see cyberpunk games and movies. Occasionally, steampunk films and games appear on the market, but I want to see a lot more. Why are film and game creators more receptive to cyberpunk than steampunk? I have some basic theories. Cyberpunk has more success in cinema and gaming during the past. Films like The Matrix, Terminator, and Blade Runner were very popular. A lot of Japanese anime series uses cyberpunk elements too. Several cyberpunk game series had a lot of success, including Deu Ex, Mirror’s Edge, and System Shock.
We didn’t see this level of success with steampunk films or games. A lot of the popular steampunk games were created for smaller platforms like tablets. I assume Dishonored is one of the more popular steampunk games for Xbox and PlayStation. It makes sense for cyberpunk to thrive well in the world of gaming. After all, technology, computers, and cybernetics is the heart and soul of cyberpunk. The aesthetic and stylistic elements give a lot of interesting opportunities in video games. Some cyberpunk games are darker and grittier like System Shock. Others are brighter and shinier like Mirror’s Edge. A lot of people call BioShock and Mad Max steampunk games, but they’re really part of the dieselpunk genre. That includes the Mad Max films too. Many steampunk movies tanked in the box offices and I have a feeling that directors and producers are hesitant to dive into steampunk again. With that said, the Mortal Engines is going to be released in 2018. That could be a good step forward for steampunk in cinema.
None of this information means cyberpunk is generally more popular than steampunk. We’re not seeing the quantity nor quality of cyberpunk work in literature, comic books, cosplay, conventions, DIY projects, clothing design, etc. Steampunk became an entire subculture. That’s a very impressive feat. Yeah, people could argue that cyberpunk is a subculture too. I just don’t see a huge cyberpunk following in the subcultural or literary world. We might see some cosplayers for Ghost in the Shell and Blade Runner this year, but the trend won’t last. Will cyberpunk eventually grow into a big subcultural movement? It could happen someday. Anything is possible.
Overall, I would say cyberpunk is taking a few steps forward. One of two things will happen. Cyberpunk could become increasingly more popular through the next few years or it will be a one hit wonder in 2017 and drop down noticeably afterward. There’s a young adult film called Ready Player One coming out in 2018 and I’m pretty sure it’s going to have some cyberpunk elements. So, I don’t think cyberpunk is going to die out yet. Let’s see what happens. Please leave comments if you have any theories about the direction of cyberpunk. Next week, I’m going to post my review for The Dark Tower film. Believe me. I have a lot to say about that movie. Feel free to subscribe to my author website by filling out the Contact section. You’re being a great audience. Be safe and stay tuned for next week’s post.
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