The 1980s were very worried that Satan was trying to get at their kids through nerd shit. Comic books, cartoons, and Dungeons and Dragons were all being influenced by the devil, because he needed dorks in hell to help invent the internet. The 1990s were very worried that our nerd shit would become Satan, and this mostly manifested as movies about the evils of virtual reality. None represented that extremely stupid genre as boldly and with their pants down as Lawnmower Man, a movie about your garden-variety idiot who becomes the digital devil thanks to video games. But we’re not here to talk about that.
The rogue video game scientist was played by Pierce Brosnan who brought a lot of class to this movie about evil polygons stealing our town dullards. The slow-witted Lawnmower Man was played by Jeff Fahey, and the movie handled mental disability with all the grace and subtlety one could expect of the ‘90s.
Maybe that’s fine. The movie isn’t making fun of a specific birth defect or anything. They don’t specify what’s wrong with him, he’s just medically dumb as shit. Exactly smart enough to mow lawns, no more, no less. Like there’s a whole breed of maintenance dummies who like the taste of paint and keep America’s infrastructure sound. They call him the Lawnmower Man because he mows lawns… and also because he lives in a garden shed, and also because he prays to a cross he made out of lawnmowers, because this was originally a Stephen King joint and I love the man, I honestly do, but he’s never met half an idea he didn’t think could be 47 pages.
But again, we’re not here to talk about that. We’re also not going to discuss how Pierce Brosnan’s character gets so excited about finding a largely unclaimed idiot that he immediately straps him into a VR rig and starts making him smarter by firing up the Make Smarter program, which consists of a brain and a hand that you use to grab Smart from the menu and drop it onto Brain.
Smart is the little red blotch. Be careful not to drag Grail onto the brain or you’ll wind up with a deluded video game messiah, possibly even some kind of Cyberchrist. Oh, and obviously don’t drop Mantis on there. Honestly, I don’t know why Mantis is even still on that menu — how many fat-fingered video game scientists must be pincered in half before we move “Forge Mantis Man” to its own menu?
I’m sorry. We aren’t going to talk about any of that. We certainly won’t cover how all VR in the film has to take place while wearing a Tron suit in a spinning gyroscope.
The VR so complex it has to be run by military-grade supercomputers even though it looks like a screensaver that came pre-installed on a Ukrainian bootleg Dell.
“Is Doll computer; is just as good! You will be eight-tittied purple balloon in world of Peeps. You will love! $40. Follow to alley.”
Oh man, we are definitely not going to talk about the bored housewife who can’t wait to molest a yard dope.
At this point enough Smart has been dropped in Lawnmower Man’s brain that he’s not getting lost in closets, but he is still way below the line of informed consent and the bored housewife knows this. She has to teach him how to kiss, even though she’s clearly still sticky from a threeway with Dunning and Kruger, because she thinks kissing is when one person sticks their tongue out like a curious earthworm and the other glomps it down like a hungry robin.
Then she stops sucking off his tongue like a frightened anime girl trying to placate a Decepticon and starts teaching him basic concepts:
And none of this is played for horror, or even laughs — it’s supposed to show the audience how much he’s grown: That he finally hit a maintenance groupie’s low bar for molestation, the ultimate goal of all grass morons and pool dipshits. Here’s the very next scene!
Let’s not talk about that.
I bet you think we’re going to talk about the VR sex scene, where Lawnmower Man lures his new girlfriend into the virtual world so he can segue out of real sex and into clumsy cybersex, the exact opposite dream of every computer engineer who worked on this film.
It looks like you wiggled the N64 cartridge while the intro was loading. Like something you’d see rendered by a water-damaged demo 3DO in a shuttered K-Mart. It looks like you failed a puzzle in Myst, but I assure you that’s supposed to be hot. Even when they grind so hard they meld together into a sexual cyber-dragonfly…
The soaring and explorative soundtrack tells us: This right here, this is the beauty of love in the age of computers, and not an unpopular Moby video that even MTV2 won’t play.
Then Lawnmower Man gets so carried away with gyro-boning that he turns into an Oddworld enemy and barfs stupidity on his girlfriend-
Until she turns into a bed idiot.
You know me pretty well. You almost certainly thought I was going to talk about that. I am not. I’m also not going to cover the way Lawnmower Man develops psychic powers by playing video games two hours a week:
And oh shit, I would love to talk about the time Pierce Brosnan says…
And Lawnmower Man ominously whispers…
But there’s no time to even mention it!
Because immediately afterward he turns fully evil…
And burns a priest in his church using the power of computer-fire.
Lawnmower Man gets revenge on his gas station bully — natural predator of the maintenance idiots — by mowing the man’s brain with his VR powers, which can’t be exactly what it sounds like, surely, but it is.
Obviously Lawnmower Man turns into a floating virtual head.
Of course he kills a man by turning him into bubbles.
It almost goes without saying that he attacks a private security team with cyberbees.
If you can follow narrative arcs at all, you’ve already assumed that Lawnmower Man uploads himself into the supercomputer — which actually withers his body in real life since computers drink blood — because he wants to be the internet.
Only he winds up looking like an early Aphex Twin video and moving like a puppet whose master is fighting off cyberbees.
We cannot discuss any of that stuff, it’s all irrelevant, because what we absolutely have to talk about is the chimp murder.
Zoom in on a lab at night, two scientists arguing:
They’re fighting about the ethics of science as an engine of war. We’re led to believe this is a super soldier training program, and then…
No, it’s so much bigger than that. They’re deciding the fate of the best damn chimp Pierce Brosnan has ever had the pleasure of knowing. He loses the argument, of course, and we smash cut to a supercomputer using virtual reality to train a chimp for cyberwar.
Listen, what does a chimp care for graphics? Everyone knows the chimp eye can’t see above 10FPS. Why burn out your supercomputer rendering his little chimp hands when it’s widely known that great apes only care for gameplay? Strap the little bastard into that K-Mart waterlogged 3DO and he’ll be all-
I mean if you want to see something really funny you can make a little Tron suit for his chimp body and strap him into a gyroscope. If you wanna mess with an ape, that is like the second best way to do it. The best will always be basic sleight of hand. You ever done magic for an ape? They love that shit! Where’d the banana go? They have no idea. They don’t even have a guess. They just assume you’re a fruit wizard and they go nuts. But this is pretty hilarious, too:
You know this chimp fucking dominates at LAN parties. Little screeching son of a bitch hauling a gyroscope and an 8-ton supercomputer down the basement stairs just to dominate Devon at Quake II. Look how tiny that hitbox would be. It’s like he’s always Oddjob.
But what’s the number one danger in teaching a chimp how to use a gun? Right. It’s that you taught a chimp how to use a gun.
So when the chimp picks the lock on his own cage and dresses up in his best mallsoldier gear, you know somebody’s about to get their ass shot and their face torn off.
He fires up his APE HUD, which is weirdly full of human words instead of icons of different tire swings and various states of chimp genitalia.
Then he steals a rent-a-cop’s gun…
And here’s the best scene in movie history.
Remember, this is not within the VR program. This lab actually designed an augmented reality helmet just for combat apes, and then left it around unattended. You can’t even blame the chimp for this. This is an elaborate suicide-by-chimp scheme gone awry. Pierce Brosnan was two offices down with a half-empty bottle of bourbon and an insurance plan that pays double if a zoo animal accidentally discharges a gun in the workplace and he’s wondering what’s taking Mr. Tickles so long when he’s never been more ready for the void.
Combat Ape flees for the exit…
But oh no, another security guard spots him, takes aim…
And it’s game over, Combat Ape.
RIP, we should have known you better. This movie should have been called Combat Ape’s Big Adventure, like a hyperviolent Curious George, and it should have ended with you bringing video games back home to your troop. But instead the saga of the digital murderchimp has ended in tragedy.
Then the title pops up.
THEN THE TITLE POPS UP.
All of this happened before the title! This is the cold open for Lawnmower Man! Scientists trained a warchimp to destroy robot gorillas in virtual reality so it stole a mallcop’s gun and murdered its way out of the lab, only to die at the exit.
But that’s not what I wanted to talk to you about. I only want to talk to you about the combat ape’s adorable little “what’s up now, motherfucker?” head nod before he pulls the trigger.
Isn’t that just the cutest?
I’m glad we could talk.