1995, written about extensively here, pretty much created hacker/cyber chic thanks in no small part to the likes of The Net, Johnny Mnemonic, Strange Days, Ghost In the Shell, Virtuosity and, naturally, Under Siege 2: Dark Territory. But none of those would really, at their time or later, match how in tune with the culture at large (and would become) that was Hackers. When 1995 didn’t belong to the most 1337 amongst us, it belonged to the teens thanks to huge popular and critical successes like Clueless and Kids. Hackers managed to combine the two into something resembling a cohesive narrative. Albeit one that allows Fisher Stevens to play an aging, long haired hacker named The Plague. But I digress.
Hackers is a pretty strange flick, especially when looked at 20 years later. It heavily involves relatively new technology from when it was made – which is very dated now, obviously – yet it dumbs it down as much as possible for its target demographic. It ends up being a tale of outcasts who revel in the power they have over the adults that are technologically behind them, the chaos they can easily cause and their status within the tight-knit community of hackers they have come to be a part of. And they all have fun names like Crash, Burn, The Phantom, and Cereal Killer. It moves briskly and surprisingly serves its characters rather well, with plenty of melodrama and romance getting in the way of all of that hacking, it is high school after all. It may not fare as well with new viewers, especially those not even born by 1995, but anyone with a fleeting memory of the sound of a 56K modem, would know how to properly dress at a Skinny Puppy concert or longs for the feeling of roller blades on their feet should find something to be entertained by, if not potentially related to, here.
Shout Factory have finally brought Hackers to HD for its 20th anniversary and the results are very good. It’s a fairly dark movie, with lots of glowing screens and blue lights throughout and the transfer does it justice. I noticed no damage and film grain is inherent throughout. Anything that looks a bit poor, sketchy computer effects, is likely due to the time in which it was made and has nothing to do with Shout’s transfer. Audio is in the form of DTS HD 2.0 and it gets the job done amply. The soundtrack was pretty big at the time and it’s still a charmer, coming through bombastically even on two channels. It never becomes overbearing though with dialogue and effects clear and balanced throughout.
The only feature we get here is luckily a major one, “The Keyboard Cowboys: A Look Back at Hackers” is an over hour long documentary about the making of the film and leaves pretty much no stone left unturned. Many cast and crew show up for interviews and all have positive stories to share with director Iain Softley going the most in depth for technical details. Fans of early digital effects as well as miniature/practical effects should absolutely give this a watch. A theatrical trailer is also included.
Time has not really been kind to the technology of 1995, unfortunately. Making Hackers a viewing experience that ultimately depends on where you’re coming at it from. At it’s best, it’s a charmingly dated mash-up of cyberpunk and the 90s teen movie, two things that I wanted everything to do with then and still do now. Shout Factory’s presentation is great and the included documentary is a treat for fans. Recommended.