Howdy all you Supercultists out there on the interwebz! I’m Bad Movie Professor Cameron Coker (BS in “Hacking” with a minor in “Hack the Planet!”) and I’ll be posting my hype-tacular speeches every week along with some long lost speeches from past Supercult Shows!
This week Supercult mashes the keyboard like a moron while listening to techno and watching Hackers!
11-year-old Dade “Zero Cool” Murphy is arrested and charged with hacking and crashing 1507 computer systems in a single day and banned from owning or operating a computer until he is 18 years old. Seven years later Dade is eager to get back into the hacking game, but things get personal he discovers a plot to unleash a dangerous computer virus and pin the crime on the local hacking community. Can Dade convince his rival, Kate “Acid Burn” Libby, and newfound friends to utilize their unique skills to evade the authorities, save the net, and catch the malevolent computer genius behind the plot? Mess with the best, die like the rest! Tonight we are all Hackers!
Hackers is a 1995 American sci-fi thriller directed by Iain Softley and written by Rafael Moreu. Hackers was Softley’s second job as director (his first film, Backbeat, did moderately well on limited release), but it shows not in inexperience but in unabashed exuberance and dynamism makes the entire film feel positively giddy. The film is chock full of techno babble and instantly repeatable catchphrases like “My crime is that of curiosity”, “Remember, hacking is more than just a crime. It’s a survival trait.“ and of course, “Hack the Planet!” With it’s insanely inaccurate, but nevertheless entertaining depictions of technology, Hackers shows us a world where punk rock, rollerblades, misanthropy, and hormones can topple corruption and authoritarianism. One hacker confides, “There is no right and wrong. There’s only fun and boring,” and this movie is anything but boring.
Moreu was highly inspired by the hacker and cyberpunk subcultures when writing the screenplay and he saw the film as more than just a computer hacking movie: “In fact, to call hackers a counterculture makes it sound like they’re a transitory thing; I think they’re the next step in human evolution.” The writer, director, and some of the cast actually attended the New York City 2600 meeting, a monthly hangout of the local hacker community, to observe and talk with real-life hackers in preparation for the film. There Moreu met convicted hackers and others being harassed by the government and began to figure out how it would translate into a film. Moreu remembered, “One guy was talking about how he’d done some really interesting stuff with a laptop and payphones and that cracked it for me, because it made it cinematic”.
As a result of Moreu’s research, the film has numerous references and nods to hacker history and culture. The phrase “ARF! ARF! GOTCHA”, which appears near the end, is a reference to one of the earliest Trojan horse programs, EGABTR from 1985. Disguised as a graphics utility, EGABTR spread by email, wiped out everything on a victim’s hard disk, and left only the message, “Arf, arf, Gotcha!” on the screen. “ARF” may also serve double duty as a reference to the German hacker group “Asoziale Randgruppe Frankfurt”. The “Hacker Manifesto” read by Agent Bob in the film was actually written by a hacker of great renown in the 1980s named Loyd Blankenship, who went by the name of The Mentor. It was published in PHRACK magazine, issue 07, file 03 in 1986. The computer that the Hackers break into is a fictional mainframe computer called a “Gibson” – an homage to cyberpunk author William Gibson who coined the term “Cyberspace” in 1982 for his book, Neuromancer. Other references include the pseudonyms Babbage, for Charles Babbage, the inventor of an early form of the computer, and Hal, most likely a reference to the HAL9000 computer system from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
As a marketing stunt MGM/UA set up a website for Hackers that soon afterwards was allegedly hacked by a group called the “Internet Liberation Front.” A photograph of the film’s stars Angelina Jolie and Jonny Lee Miller were doodled upon, and the words “this is going to be an entertaining fun promotional site for a movie,” were replaced with “this is going to be a lame, cheesy promotional site for a movie!” The studio maintained the site during the theatrical run of the movie in its altered form.
Hackers stars Johnny Lee Miller as Dade (a.k.a Crash Override), Renoly Santiago as Ramόn Sánchez (a.k.a. The Phantom Phreak), Mathew Lillard as Emmanuel Goldstein (a.k.a. Cereal Killer), Lawrence Mason as Paul Cook (a.k.a Lord Nikon), Fisher Stevens as Eugene Belford (a.k.a. The Plague), and Angelina Jolie as Kate Libby (a.k.a Acid Burn). The director auditioned Hilary Swank, Heather Graham, and Liv Tyler for the role of Acid Burn. The part was originally offered to Katherine Heigl, but due to prior commitments she had to turn it down and Hackers became one of Jolie’s first feature film roles.
Hackers got mixed reviews, criticizing the believability of the acting and plot, but praising the film for its stylish visuals. Roger Ebert gave the film 3 out of 4 stars and wrote, “The movie is smart and entertaining, then, as long as you don’t take the computer stuff very seriously. I didn’t. I took it approximately as seriously as the archaeology in Indiana Jones”. Hackers has a 6.2 on IMDB and a 34% on Rotten Tomatoes. It may not be pretty, but it’s got enough sheer moxy to crash the net!
Hack the Planet Supercultists!
The Supercult show is proud to present, Hackers!
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