Follow TV Tropes


Headscratchers / Johnny Mnemonic

Go To

Why did PharmaKom create the cure to NAS if they were just going to suppress it?

  • Fridge Brilliance: Because they wanted a treatment, something they could make people pay for on an extended basis. That's what they're making a killing on.
    • Fridge Logic: But if a treatment is more profitable than a cure, why in the world is PharmaKom then wasting those very profits on creating a cure that they have no intention to use in the first place? Moreover, it's not like a cure for the disease wouldn't reap tremendous economic benefit and a ton of goodwill and a glowing public image for the cure's creator(s), anyway.
      • The treatment is likely derived from the cure.
        • Is it? I don't remember that being established anywhere. Given that the Opening Scroll tells us that the cure is supposed to be "unknown" at the very beginning of the story, it would be flat out contradictory if the cure had actually been around since roughly the very start of the NAS plague before they put lesser treatments on the market.
    • Advertisement:
    • There's the possibility that Pharma Kom could have created the cure, treatment and the disease. Yes, Spider says its information overload caused by the technology around them. But if that were the case, we'd be seeing something similar to it now or everyone in the world of the story would have it. It makes more sense that the disease was also developed by Pharma Kom and they released it, giving out false information as the cause of it. Just tossing that idea out there.
      • If PharmaKom had intentionally created and released the plague from the start (as well as already possessed a cure), it begs serious questions why PharmaKom wouldn't have first distributed their cure to protect and immunize themselves, their ranking executives and employees, and their own families at the expense of the rest of the world's prolonged suffering. If Takahashi's own daughter had contracted and succumbed to the fatal virus, then, logically, the rest of the corporation's workforce and their loved ones are just as susceptible, and PharmaKom's determination to make themselves suffer from their own unleashed plague is flat out stupid, self-destructive, and suicidal behavior.

PharmaKom didn't even make the cure for NAS available to their own employees and staff to make sure that they couldn't get the disease themselves, as evidenced in Takahashi's storyline with his daughter. What's the point in a company using their own money and resources in researching and creating a cure for a disease if they're not even going to inoculate themselves and are just going to sit on it? Creating the cure was an entirely pointless venture for them.

  • It is actually quite common for corporations to hedge their bets rather than putting everything in one basket. They created both the treatment and the cure, then performed a careful economic analysis and determined the treatment was more profitable than the cure. But they keep the cure around in case economic conditions change and the cure becomes more profitable (for instance, if a competitor is about to find the cure, making the treatment valueless, they can suddenly reveal the cure themselves and still make a big profit). They don’t use the cure on their own employees because word could get out and people would know they had the cure.
    • What's this have to do with PharmaKom not making a cure they created available to themselves, even if they didn't want anybody else to have it? Nevertheless, this here is an entirely moot point without a concrete explanation for how an economic analysis actually reaches such a conclusion. The film itself establishes both that (1) the prices for treatments are so exorbitantly high that millions of people already struggle to afford them, and (2) even Takahashi's daughter—someone with a wealthy/important enough parent who could afford to give her the best possible access to the treatments—still dies from the disease. How could their overpriced treatments possibly be profitable if their consumer base can only drastically shrink? Even raising their prices won't solve anything because the treatments are already unaffordable to the vast majority of people who desperately need them, and the very few wealthy, privileged elites remaining who could possibly pay for them die off, anyway.
      • To be fair, the Yakuza they have on staff are their Elite Mooks. PharmaKom may have the cure for executives or an immunization but didn't want it going through the entire company in case not everyone was a complete asshole.
        • Aside from ignoring all of the issues raised, above, this much still overlooks that Takahashi was, after all, employed in a white collar executive role by PharmaKom, complete with a giant swanky office, in spite of his standing with the Yakuza, and he still couldn't get the cure or immunization for his own daughter. Takahashi's first conversation with Shinji about the objective to retrieve Johnny's head implies that Shinji may already know that Johnny possessed the cure to NAS. If PharmaKom was trying to hide knowledge of the cure just from their Yakuza goons, how come Shinji was still permitted to know enough about it and be trusted to keep it a secret only with Takahashi?

Why is the corporation even suppressing the cure in the first place? The "treating the disease is more profitable than curing it" rationale is totally flawed; if half the people in the world are victims to this plague yet the evil corporation can stand to reap one hell of a profit from a cure with a very low markup (as well as gain a ton of good PR—a Nobel Prize for Medicine, anyone?). Tom Cruise gets to make $20 million-per-movie just because he can get millions of people to pay $10 for a ticket—not by getting a dozen Bill Gates types to pay a million bucks each. That same logic would apply here; if 500 million people (likely a generous underestimate for what half the world population in Gibson's Sprawl universe would be) were suffering from NAS, and the evil corporation sold the cure for a $10 profitnote  per sale, the corporation would already have $5 billion in their pocket. Instead, PharmaKom sells on-going treatments at $2,000-a-pop. How many people out of HALF the entire planet would be expected to be able to pay that much money on a continual basis? PharmaKom could be making an incredibly easy couple billion dollars by selling something everybody wants at a low price everybody can pay and afford, but instead they only try and sell something very few people could ever have a chance to pay for regularly. Again, you don't make billions of dollars in profits selling something only a handful of wealthy elites can afford.

  • Except that pricing the treatment highly ensures keeps poor people from getting it regularly. Maybe they're environmentalists doing some Population Control.
  • This argument is trivially easy to counter. If they sell the treatments for $10 profit then they make the same money they would from the cure, but they make that money indefinitely.
    • Not "indefinitely"—Takahashi's daughter still died from the disease, despite having easy access to PharmaKom's readily available treatments.
    • And it's "easy to counter" so much that taking this position requires one to stop reading after seeing the phrase "$10 profit" and blatantly disregard where it's pointed out that the bad guys in-story are explicitly NOT doing this but are, in fact, selling what products they do make publicly available at exorbitantly high prices, like "2 grand-per-clinical unit", that only a much smaller fraction of those suffering from the disease could ever afford to pay on a regular, never-ending regimen.
  • The answer is that, like in a lot of cyberpunk stories, they're Straw Capitalists who claim to be doing it for the money but are more accurately just doing it For the Evulz.
    • But then they have no business being described as "straw capitalists" in the first place, if they're not in it for the money, and there's no point in any of the primary antagonists being involved in running a Mega-Corp if their principal goal isn't to turn a profit. Through their actions, they'd be hurting themselves (both personally and as a corporate entity) just much as they are hurting the rest of the world. PharmaKom doesn't even distribute the cure to their own high-ranking staff and their own families, as evidenced with Takahashi, so that they could be immunized from NAS while the rest of the world dies off from it. This isn't For the Evulz at all; it's just pointless, easily-avoidable suicide at the expense of the rest of the planet, which would only be dragged down with them, which is is flat out irrational and stupid. It's a wonder how PharmaKom even managed to build itself up as a massive corporate entity in the first place, if their sole intention is only to run themselves into the ground and NOT sell certain products that are in increasingly high demand at prices which could turn a sizable profits.
      • I don't think you really understand what the term "straw" means in this context. The fact that their actions don't make any sense, even applied to the ideology they're supposed to represent, is part of the point. They're Captain Planet villains, they're not supposed to make sense, they're just supposed to make your blood boil and scream "Fucking capitalists!" The fact that plenty of people sincerely believe this is the way pharmaceutical companies operate says that it works, too.
  • It doesn't matter whether, in real life, it is usually better to sell treatments or cures. The premise of the movie is that selling the treatment is more profitable than selling the cure, and doesn't provide enough economic data to calculate whether it is true. To dispute the premise, you'd have to prove there is no reasonable economic model under which it could be true. Imagine this model: They sell the treatment to one million people for $240,000 per year (or to 10 million people for $24,000 per year). That would be 240 billion dollars per year of revenue. Whereas if they sell the cure to 2 billion people for $10 each, that would be only $20 billion dollars. Making treatment far more profitable.
    • 50% the entire global population is suffering from a deadly plague, and the only economic sense is in selling a medicine that only 10 million peoplenote  can afford?! Chuck out any numbers you want. Selling a medicine to 2 billion people for just 1% of the $240,000 figure you're putting out could just as well yield twice as much cash in return (as well as help the lives of 200x as many people to sustain broader socio-economic human productivity around the world, opposed to limiting the scope of humanity to the comparative size of just a single densely populated metropolitan area).
    • Could one even find 10 million people who can pay out nearly a quarter-of-a-million bucks for any sort of routine expense every year? $240,000 would still be a very significant slice of the annual income for even the wealthiest earners in the highest income tax brackets in the United States and other developed countries (even comprising more than half of the US President's annual salary). The rich gotta eat and have to meet other essential expenses, too, you know?
      • There are surely 10 million people in the world that can afford $24000 per year if it was the difference between life and death. As for 1 million people paying $240,000 per year each, that is more of a stretch, but it looks like the 99th percentile for household income in the US now is nearly twice that, and income disparity is probably greater in the dystopian future, and you might pay a large portion of your income to be alive instead of dead.
        • Most people already require "a large portion of personal income" just to pay for food, housing, electricity, heating, water, maintenance, transportation, gasoline, insurance, education, hobbies, entertainment, government taxes, and other basic living expenses, not to mention potentially supporting a family and paying for one's children's own expenses, too. Survival would not be as simple as just paying everything towards expensive treatments for a medical disease when paying this kind of money could still force most people into abject poverty, homelessness, and starvation (which would take an additional toll on large societies and their economies). If half the people in the world are inflicted with a debilitating illness, like in this movie, then a family of four or larger would, on average, require additional treatment and healthcare for at least two people, so any of these hypothetical, astronomical drug prices would already mean many households having to pay double or possibly even triple those amounts.

The PharmaKom defectors destroyed the only other copy of the cure. The only existing copy of the cure is in Johnny's head. If PharmaKom isn't interested in using or profiting from the cure in any way, why do they even bother to seek to preserve his head? They could just shoot him in the head, the cure would be gone forever, and they'd still get exactly what they want.

  • Shinji actually explains this to Johnny in the backroom at Ralfi's nightclub. PharmaKom wants everything the data has been stored in. Apparently there would still be residual traces of the data after download that could be recovered with "mnemonic sensors".
    • This still doesn't answer the crucial question being asked: "Why?" For what pragmatic reason would they want "everything the data has been stored in" when they already demonstrate that they have no need to keep any of it, anyway? Why wouldn't a large caliber bullet through Johnny's head (or hard drive) be enough to ensure there are no "residual traces" and resolve all their concerns?
  • The Yakuza are the ones seeking Johnny's head, and they're only nominally on the same side as PharmaKom. If they actually got it, they'd be more likely to use it for blackmail than return it to Takahashi.
    • Only nominally on the same side? Shinji informs Takahashi that he was explicitly given the job of recovering Johnny's head by one of PharmaKom's offices (Tokyo); he acts on behalf of their interests. This is his job; the evil corporation is paying him and his yakuza soldiers to do this for them. Why would Shinji want to use Johnny's head to blackmail the corporation when the corporation would already pay him for doing what they want done (which Shinji had already agreed to, no less), anyway?
    • Not to mention, what would Shinji expect to blackmail anybody for? The data in Johnny's head has no monetary value to anybody. On one side, the evil corporation wants to ensure that nobody gets it, and on the other, the underground resistance wants to give it out for free. Nobody would be giving a blackmailer any money for it because they have no interest in using it to make that money back, anyway.
    • Johnny even makes an attempt at negotiating with the corporation himself, and they were revealed to never have any interest in making a deal, anyway. They just showed up at the meeting point with their hit-squads (who were led by Shinji, so much for only "nominally" being on the same side) and aimed to kill him. Having already gone through this once, why would the evil corporation not do the same exact thing if another person then tried to make a similar deal in exchange for the same data?
    • Which still brings us back right where we started—'Why wouldn't parties acting to suppress the information in Johnny's head and ensure that nobody gets it (and that includes Shinji and the Yakuza) just shoot him in the head?'
  • Possibly retrieving the head intact is the only way they can be 100% sure that the data wasn't already downloaded. We know from how it ended that it is possible to crack the security of Johnny's data vault, and the company can't risk there potentially being another copy of it out there somewhere.

The Opening Scroll explains that in 2021, corporations "rule," and a resistance movement emerged to take down the corporations. But what's the corporations' response to the growing resistance? Hire the Yakuza. I mean... What? Seriously, couldn't they have just used their immense wealth and influence to influence and/or buy out government and law enforcement departments to work for their interests?

  • Well, yeah. The corporations implicitly own the cops and the army, but contract out really dirty tricks to the guys who do dirty tricks for a living.
    • But why would a corporation even do that if they have the police and army in their pocket? The Yakuza operates outside law and order; police and the army enforce exactly what law and order are supposed to be and would likely have a lot more resources at their disposal. You're saying the corporations have access to professional soldiers, who would actually be trained as well as have the most access to the best available equipment, but the corporations would rather give out all their more violent jobs involving sensitive corporate materials to street thugs and gangsters; that just sounds so pointless and unnecessary when you have the army.
    • Two words: Plausible Deniability. And they do call in the army anyway when they lay siege to Lo-Tek headquarters.
      • Were those guys really the army? I always thought those guys were part of PharmaKom's private security (which would be equally bizarre, if they indeed have access to police and military) or, at best, a crooked SWAT team. I just remember Shinji dressing exactly like those mooks, and he was definitely not part of the army. And what would they need plausible deniability for if they pretty much own or even are the government; can't they just influence the law enforcement and justice divisions that we're already arguing they had control of? If you're running The System, you can basically pull all the strings to just make you look like the good guy. Introduce legislation that benefits your corporate agenda. Print propaganda. Brand the Lo-Teks, NAS Underground, and corporate "defectors" as Enemies of the State and use your influence over government bodies to use police and military to wipe them out. There's no need to ever have to hire the Yakuza, ever, even if your corporation is supposed to be under Japanese ownership.
      • Neither the army nor crooked SWAT teams raid Heaven. They are the Yakuza. All the characters refer to them as the Yakuza.
    • The problem is that just about everyone in the world is Genre Savvy enough to recognize any of the above(let alone all of the above combined) as indicative of a police state. OTOH, street gangs at war in broad daylight is guaranteed to make sheeple scream "MORE COPS! SEARCH OUR HOMES! JUST FIND THE CRIMINALS AND KILL THEM!"
      • Police state or not, a Mega-Corp making full use of government institutions would have only been a benefit for its own agenda, in addition to creating a better PR image than what relying on organized crime syndicates would garner.
      • They don't exactly advertise that they hire the Yakuza. Paying the Yakuza to commit crimes is less complicated than bribing various agencies over and over again - the Beijing police for the hotel raid, the Newark police for the bulk of the movie. And cops usually don't have expensive training and weapons.
      • No, they don't "advertise" that they hire the Yakuza, they just put them in middle-management positions overseeing entire global regions (Takahashi). Corporate relations to organized crime in this world were never exactly subtle. Even Jane knows that the Yakuza has great corporate ties.
      • Are you assuming that Takahashi is part of the Yakuza just because he's Asian...?
      • No, this is based on the character having an ornate dragon tattoo on his back (a common trait among yakuza soldiers) and a passive remark that demonstrates how he recognizes that Shinji only got his laser wire thumb after having to perform Yubitsume. Granted, these clues might not be easy to pick up on if one watching the movie isn't already familiar with yakuza customs and rituals, but it's evident alright. Moreover, the Japanese edit of the film includes an additional scene in which Takahashi executes two people Shinji had appointed as his personal "kobuns" after remarking that he never gave Shinji permission to have kobuns—something which Takahashi should not have the authority to do, if he weren't a ranking member of the yakuza.

The Lo-Teks fight their enemies with crossbows and falling cars, in accordance with their low technology values. They also hijack satellite television signals to broadcast their own messages globally and use a cyborg dolphin to hack into human brains.

  • The Lo-Teks could be more appropriately known as Schizo Techs - they steal any weapons they can and kitbash the rest. After they rescued Jones from the U.S. Navy, he became the core of their hacking system. Guerrilla warfare at its most basic.
    • But then why do they only use crossbows if they could just take the heavier firepower their slain enemies always carry? It's not like they never had the opportunity to steal that.
      • Firearms are harder to maintain, and ammo is harder to come by. Crossbows are quiet - and wrist-mounted ones are great for sneak attacks.
      • No Lo-Teks ever made sneak attacks with crossbows or bladed projectiles though. We can replace all of the Lo-Teks' firing weapons with actual guns, and everything they did would have played out exactly the same.
      • During J-Bone and Johnny's first meeting, J-Bone kills a mook with a wrist-mounted blade launcher made with surgical tubing - and it worked precisely because the mook believed both J-Bone and Johnny were unarmed. He barely has time to register that, "Yes, the street rat I was about to curbstomp just put a throwing knife through my throat with a five-dollar piece of shit" before he keels over.
      • The wrist-mounted blade-launcher was still in plain sight on J-Bone's arm and worn over his clothes, not to mention how extending an arm towards someone pointing a gun at you isn't exactly a subtle movement. J-Bone's skill at killing "the black cowboy" or whoever he was has less to do with being sneaky and everything to do with being quick enough to get a shot off before the other guy. J-Bone may as well have just shot him with a handgun, and it wouldn't have changed a thing.
      • Again, this all comes down to Schizo Tech: If they expect high tech, go low. If they expect low, go high. The mook was expecting to get shot at, not shanked at range.
      • First, you're mentioning something here that was exclusive to the original short story; the film and the original stories are separate adaptations, separate continuities; they shouldn't be mixed, especially when the LoTeks' actual values and methods in the film were largely left unexplained beyond being at war with the corporations and hacking satellite TV signals from The Man's "500 Channel universe." Second, given how established the LoTeks are as a faction in this world (even a low-level idiot Mook like "Baldie" knows EXACTLY who J-Bone is), not expecting that anybody they fight to have any knowledge of their preferences for crossbows and other bladed projectile weapons (when not standing directly beneath their "headquarters," at least) is a pretty difficult thing to buy. And again, J-Bone's wrist-mounted knife launcher is clearly visible on his arm. Being low tech or high tech has nothing to do with it; when someone is wielding an obvious weapon that is typical of his faction's fighting techniques in plain view of someone else who is in a position to kill him, pointing it at the threat in question and getting a shot off in time is just something that comes down to sheer speed and luck—not stealth, and definitely not the type of weapon used. All in all, J-Bone and the LoTeks could have reasonably used guns throughout the entire movie without any drastic consequences.

When Johnny points a gun at J-Bone and demands J-Bone tells him who he is, J-Bone immediately tells Johnny (a total stranger to him at this time...who could be anybody...and who is pointing a gun at him) that he is the leader of the underground resistance that fights the corporations, and then he points to where his base of operations is.

  • In a bit of (probably unintentional) Fridge Brilliance, however, this particular act of stupidity eventually does lead to all of the resistance movement's enemies finding out the location of their headquarters from Johnny.
  • He was hoping that since the Yakuza wanted to kill the guy, he was a potential ally. And given that he's pretty much a criminal, he was pretty desperate. Still stupid, though.

How come Shinji's molecuwire whip can cut through anything you can think of...except for a chain-link gate?

One of Ralfi's bodyguards helps Shinji chase down Johnny and Jane after Shinji killed Ralfi. Why would she want to help the person who killed her own employer and the person she was supposed to bodyguard? Your guess is as good as mine.

  • How about - "My boss is dead, I never liked him that much, maybe this guy has money to pay me?" There's a reason bad guys prefer mercenaries.
    • Only she did like Ralfi, as they showed signs of a sexual relationship in addition to their already present business relationship. She doesn't even have a single apparent reason to not like Ralfi; in fact, if Jane's criticisms about the age and speed of Ralfi's bodyguards have any merit, Ralfi is very likely the only person who would have even been willing to employ them in the first place (which would be enforced by the fact that Shinji didn't hire her, even in spite of her not taking any issue with him for murdering her employer for very little reason). The bodyguard's only real incentive to give chase was to get back at Jane for beating her up and criticizing her even earlier, but this plot thread is heavily marred by the Fridge Logic revolving around Shinji's actions and her unexplained, unmentioned exit from the story once the chase is over.

There's a scene that explains that the AI (a.k.a. "Electronic Ghost Woman") in the movie, Anna Kalmann, has Swiss citizenship under "the artificial intelligence laws of 2016," but by the end of the movie, PharmaKom has sent a virus to "burn" her out of their own computer mainframe. But why should she be a part of PharmaKom's computer database if she's a Swiss citizen, and if Switzerland went through the trouble of passing legislation on the issue, shouldn't they also reasonably take measures to protect their AI citizens with data-storage space set aside specifically for them?

  • The "Corporations Rule" the world. There isn't an independent Switzerland anymore. With the cure released, they're about to have a world-wide French-style revolution. They killed her as their parting shot.
  • If there isn't an independent Swiss government anymore, then there would NEVER be any Swiss laws to ever bring up.
    • There are one set of laws for serfs, and another set for corps.
      • Well, the particular laws we're talking about here recognized the "Electronic Ghost Woman" as a Swiss citizen. And whether her being the CEO of a corporation has any added benefit under the law or not, being recognized by a country as an AI citizen should come with the all rights, benefits, and privileges endowed to a citizen of that country, which, in the case of an Artificial Intelligence, protection from foreign threats and viruses would sound like a given (and, hey, if corporate types are getting preferential treatment under the law, well, helloooo, we got a wonderful AI CEO to please). It's just terrible how the filmmakers would come up with such a detailed backstory to both explain and justify the existence of the AI character only to completely discard it and ignore it by the time they were trying to come up with an exit for the character to make from the movie.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication; Other Gibson work explain that the Swiss-citizenship thing is a mostly symbolic political compromise between the Swiss government (apparently the only one that gave a damn) and some international companies. For an AI being a Swiss-citizen meant that the AI itself had the freedom to act independent of any owners, but the hardware on which the AI was kept could still be owned by a private individual or company. To protect the interest of private companies the hardware itself did not need to be kept in Switzerland. This concept was shoehorned into the JM movie with any scenes explanation the concept either left on the cutting-room floor, or never made at all.
    • But wait, she couldn't have been kept on any hardware with PharmaKom because she was able to leave their network entirely to appear on the television set at the hotel room in Beijing (she's one of the three images for the download code) and on the Lo Tek's network during the story's climax. It's safe to say that her consciousness could freely explore all of cyberspace and leave the PharmaKom network. How would removing her from the corporate computer mainframe kill her when she could already willingly leave it on her own?
  • They might, if they care enough about their citizen to have assumed that responsibility. Few countries assign personal bodyguards to every citizen living and working abroad. She chose to "live" and "work" in the yakuza mainframe, why would Switzerland set her up with her private home just because she's Swiss? They might file charges against her murderers, like most countries do when their citizens are killed abroad but considering how bad most countries are at taking care of their own [i]even in their own country[/i] it wouldn't be difficult to assume that Switzerland has other concerns.
    • The AI is digital data. Do world governments not place their digital data on protected servers so hackers can't send in viruses to "burn the mainframe"?
    • We're talking about an Artificial Intelligence. "Living and working abroad" is pretty much meaningless when you live in a computer system. Again, if the Swiss supposedly passed laws that allow AI's to gain citizenship, it's only rational that they can reside in a Swiss databank that provides some protection from foreign threats and invaders, no different than how the Swiss Army protects their flesh and blood citizens residing in the country from foreign threats and invaders. If the AI in this movie is going to, apparently, exist on a corporate computer mainframe, then there may not as well have ever been any mention of "Swiss Artificial Intelligence Laws" at all and the AI could've just been called the "property" of PharmaKom.

In response to Johnny's line about the cure being worth a lot of money, a movie critic once asked in response, "To who? The corporation that wants to hide it and do nothing with it or the people who want to give it out for free?" This is a very valid question. Who in this movie is in a position to gain any kind of monetary profit from the information in Johnny's head (the Street Preacher contracted to bring Johnny's head to the corporation doesn't count)?

  • Could be worth a lot of money to a sane corporation that would be satisfied with making a ton of money off of the cure by selling it at a normal price that is both affordable to the average person and also nets them a profit. Not that those likely exist in the straw dystopia of most cyberpunk settings, but the theory is sound.

It's established very early in the film that Johnny must undergo a very expensive and risky "procedure" in Chiba City to remove his brain implant if he were to regain his lost memories of his childhood. It's also made apparent later that getting the implant required him to remove a chunk of his brain, which is to the reason for Johnny's childhood memories being lost. However, the story inexplicably concludes with Johnny's lost memories returning to him, without ever undergoing the "procedure" to remove his implant and/or restore the missing parts of his brain mentioned in the initial moments of the story. The filmmakers appear to be implying that completing the download code for the PharmaKom data in Johnny's head brought these memories back to him, but this would make zero sense and contradict everything established between Johnny and Ralfi in the very first scene.

  • Indeed, if the intention of the filmmakers is to establish that the download code restores Johnny's lost memories, this only raises more questions than it does answer. Why would PharmaKom have Johnny's childhood memories? What purpose would the corporation have for them? Why would the corporate "defectors" whose only intentions are to leak the cure for NAS steal them? By what coincidence did they happen to hire the courier which these memories belong to? Why wouldn't they have told Johnny that a portion of what he's uploading is specifically for him and not the client Johnny is supposed to be meeting in Newark? Why would the memories selectively remain in Johnny's head and not get broadcasted around the world with the rest of the data when the cure for NAS is finally downloaded?

An enormous issue for Johnny completing his delivery is the possession of a complete "download" code he has the customer randomly make from three stills of a live broadcast he can't see. He later tries to get at a copy of the complete code that was supposed to be sent via fax, even going so far as to track down the dated phone records from the hotel room this transpired in and then look at the fax buffer list for a corresponding timestamp. Is it really so hard to apply the same principle to looking up what was being broadcast that specific day, on that specific channel, at that specific time, and just grab the long but still finite number of possible stills from a copy of the movie?

  • The images for the download code are "random" images from the TV. Specific channels may not be known or easy to determine—especially when future TV is, in J-Bone's words, a "500-channel universe".

Why does Jane even fall in love, let alone feel any sympathy for, Johnny by the end of the movie? Johnny never gets Jane the money he says he'd pay her for getting him out of the tight spot with Shinji and Ralfi, he "scams" her "phone card" when she would prefer that not happen, he prepares to abandon her and leave her for dead in a pile of garbage when she suffers a seizure from her illnessnote , he doesn't show any desire to help get Jane the cure for her illness when he finds out what the data inside his brain implant is, he gives the villains the location of Jane's friends' (the Lo-Teks) hideout, and he brushes her off when she tries to talk emotional sense into him ("Maybe it's not just about you anymore!") and whines about how much he'd rather just have a beer, a sandwich, and a prostitute. Yet after that most juvenile, selfish, and callous rant, Jane feels nothing but sympathy for Johnny! Jane’s sudden affection for Johnny in the third act doesn’t seem redeeming; rather, it makes her look like one of those women who are most attracted to the guys who will care for them the least in return.

  • Don't you know that All Girls Want Bad Boys? *sigh* honestly though, the main reason why she likes him by the end of the movie is that he gave the cure for free, and it is in fact implied in a scene that he does it at least in part for her. Why she liked him before that, though, is anyone's guess.
    • The problem lies in the character development. Johnny never shows the least bit of care for Jane for the first three-quarters of the movie; this goes beyond simply being a "bad boy", as even bad boys actually care about their girls. In fact, after he had already been seen preparing to abandon her when she gets a seizure, it's any wonder that he would push her out of the way of a falling carnote  before immediately telling her off ("I had it with you") and expressing desire to rather be with a high-end prostitute. Likewise, Jane is always giving Johnny lip (deservedly) for various decisions that take advantage of her services (scamming her "phone card") and put her own friends in danger (giving the bad guys the location of the LoTek headquarters). These characters shouldn't have anything more to do with each other, which makes the sudden romance that blossoms between them in the third act feel tacked-on, poorly established, and in violation of every other interaction between them. Jane kisses Johnny when she has little reason to do so, and because of that kiss Johnny wants to "hack his own brain" for her. That's pretty much it.

In the Opening Scroll, the LoTeks are initially described as "a resistance movement risen from the streets" and made up of "hackers", "guerrilla-fighters", and the like. All this implies a very loose, grassroots, decentralized, divided-into-smaller-and-independent-cells vibe (which would, of course, be an advantage to a group comprised of "hackers" and "guerrilla-fighters"). However, a few paragraphs later (and for the movie's portrayal of the organization), they are described as having "strongholds". Why would hackers and guerrilla-fighters have strongholds? Shouldn't that make them less of a threat? By their very nature, guerrilla-fighters and hackers imply the existence of a dispersed, asymmetrical organization, spread out, you know, "like rats in the walls"; Anonymous functions in a similar way in our modern times. Instead, the movie depicts all the LoTeks as being camped together in one "headquarters"—inside a derelict suspension bridge from which the lights they have running could be seen for miles in the perpetually nighttime sky, and high above ground which makes an easy location for their enemies to surround them and take siege of the place (wink, wink). Given who these people are supposed to be and what values they are intended to believe in, the idea of a main headquarters/fortress which Heaven serves as is contradictory to everything that should be defining the LoTeks and is only a detriment to their apparent skills and abilities.

After escaping from Ralfi and Shinji at the nightclub, Johnny and Jane run down an alleyway where Jane stops to retrieve a duffel bag containing her "gear" hidden in a pile of garbage bags. When did she ever put the bag there, and how could Jane have known before she arrived at the club with Spider that she would be coming down this same alleyway again, later that night, to retrieve it out of necessity?

  • Even earlier at the nightclub, Jane asked the bartender to hand her equipment she had left with him, anyway; why couldn't she have left the duffel bag with the bartender, too?
    • Hell, why couldn't she have just been carrying the duffel bag with her the entire time from her first appearance onward?
  • Jane discloses the contents of the bag in a later scene, saying she has mace (which she never uses in the course of the film, so we can just go on and pretend she never had this in the first place), throwing spikes (which she had already had on her person and had already been shown using them when rescuing Johnny at the nightclub, so she didn't need to get them from the duffel bag, anyway), and a pink grenade (the only item she didn't already have and the only item from the bag itself that is actually used). Why did Jane even need to find a bag just to get this one item when she could have already had it in her coat pocket or received it from the bartender?

In Real Life, "uploading"/"downloading" digital information only involves creating/receiving a copy of the existing information from/onto a(n) old/new source". For instance, downloading one's iTunes library onto an iPod doesn't remove the music library from its original source; it only makes a copy of itself on the iPod. This logic is initially carried over in Johnny Mnemonic when the 320Gb uploaded into Johnny's Neuro-Vault by PharmaKom's defectors; all Johnny gets is a new copy made of the data, which is why the defectors still "destroy the original" as its no longer the only existing form of the data. However, after this scene, the entire nature of what computer "uploads" and "downloads" are changes in this universe. Once Johnny initiates the "download" in Newark, "downloading" the 320Gb now removes the data from his head completely, instead of only making a copy of it it, as was already established in this universe, and which should mean that the data should still be in Johnny's head and should still be killing him.

  • This brings up another flaw in the narrative: If this is a world where people have hard drives with space for data storage in their brains, and there are devices which can be plugged into them to expand this hard drive space and others to allow for the storing of data in them, wouldn't there also be devices which people can plug in their hard drives to outright delete data? And if Johnny is a person who couldn't care less about what is in his head, anyway ("Fuck the product; I just want it out!")—even after he finds out what the data is—why couldn't he have gone and get some gizmo like that to flush everything out of his implant?
  • Presumably, the data being locked in his brain prevents him from deleting it. Once the code is found the data can be handled - which includes copying it and deleting it.
    • In other words, "If he could do that, then there would be no movie."
    • The whole point of the service Johnny provides is that he's secure and secret transport for data. If he could mess with the data in his own head, including deleting it, it wouldn't be very secure, now would it? Thus the data being accessible only to someone who has the code, IE the receiving party, makes perfect sense.
    • The data can't even stay in Johnny's implant, anyway, because he exceeded its capacity for data storage. If the data is leaking into his brain, then it was never very "secure" in the first place. Heck, if such an implant can't have safeguards to ensure that data limits for storage capacity are not exceeded, then the only alternative without easy access to a download code (nevermind issues of how the download code would even be able to retrieve excess data that has already already leaking out of a storage unit and into someone's brain or the the original point brought up here about how specifically "downloading" data doesn't remove it from its original source) would be an emergency medical procedure to override the implant and flush everything out of the person's head. The Everything Sensor at customs at the Newark airport even implores Johnny to specifically seek medical attention for his condition so something could definitely be done here about this, and if Johnny only cares about his own life and nothing else, it's a wonder why he doesn't seek this out.
    • The villains themselves also plot to "extract" (Ralfi's words) the data from Johnny's head without having a completed download code. So there are definitely established methods to hack and override the implant's download encryption protocols.

Jane never approves of Johnny's "plan" to negotiate with the corporation and Yakuza. She even chews him out when Johnny arranges to meet the bad guys at the LoTeks' headquarters. Knowing that she never liked this idea and is supposed to be "old friends" with the LoTeks, why didn't she ever warn J-Bone that the Yakuza would be coming to the bridge and should prepare for an attack on their headquarters? Why is it suddenly a big surprise to everyone when the Yakuza finally arrive looking to kill all of them and blow up their base with a rocket launcher? Assuming Johnny was supposed to have some "grand scheme" up his sleeve when telling them to meet him at the bridge, why didn't he inform the LoTeks of it, either?

If Johnny was more willing to negotiate with PharmaKom and trying to get money for the data in his head, why does he bother to seek out Jones at the LoTeks' base? Why does he even try to get the data out of his head with the LoTeks assistance before the Yakuza he had already agreed to meet with to make a deal show up?

Because Johnny's childhood flashbacks suggest that his mother was the founder of the ParmaKom corporation who became the electronic ghost in the corporate computer mainframe, it bears asking, "What happened to Johnny that was supposed to have set him on the path to losing his long-term memory and becoming a courier?" Why wouldn't Johnny have been raised to follow his mother in running the corporation? Why wouldn't he have inherited anything from her estate, including the corporation she created, after she had died? Why would Johnny need to take up a job as a black market data smuggler when he would already have been raised among the upper-class elite and would have everything anyone could ever wish to have?

Uh... why does the Pharmakom building spontaneously catch on fire in the end?

  • Not whyhow. The why is easy; as J-Bone says, "It's payback time." The general populace finally fights back hard against the evil corporation. But how anybody stormed the sky scraper, reached the top floors, and started a fire that large in a matter of seconds after the cure for NAS was leaked is unexplained and difficult to believe.
    • Unless PharmaKom did it themselves? Seeing that they had begun "burning" the AI out of their computer mainframe with digital fire. Who is to say they didn't graduate from there to the real thing? On the other hand, that alone wouldn't explain the original question of why PharmaKom would do that to themselves or why that would happen.
    • Destroying evidence of how long ago they had the cure, probably. And also destroying whatever evidence would prove that the whole upper echelon of the company were in on the scheme to conceal the cure's existence, the better to blame it on "rogue elements" lower in the corporate structure.

Why would you put a data storage device in your brain? You can take out a lot more intestine without problem than brain.

  • The "data storage device" is not in his brain, it is his brain. He has an I/O port in his head, and his childhood's been erased to make space for a few gigs of squishy RAM. Security freaks have the right to force nursing mothers to drink their own breast milk - confiscating a shiny mini-disc would be no problem whatsoever. Johnny's implant is a completely undetectable hiding place; as it turns digital data into memories, it's plugged into the Broca region of his brain and is identical to a perfectly legal dyslexia prosthetic. The difference is that he has a file folder in his head, which can only be identified, let alone accessed, with the download code - there's nothing for even the most sociopathically perverted Overreacting Airport Security to find.
    • The Neuro-Vault is "in his brain". It's not the entirety of Johnny's brain; it's only a part of his brain. He only had to remove a chunk of his brain which stored his long-term memory to make room for the storage device. It's also the obvious intention of the filmmakers to suggest that, despite how cool the device may sound on paper, installing one of these implants is a horrendous thing to do to oneself (or one's brain). Johnny doesn't like having lost part of his memory to make room for his implant, he wants to get out of the courier business and have the missing parts of his brain returned to him, and he has to endure tremendous pain whenever he uploads anything into it.
      • It's "wet-wired" - he effectively has a part of his brain sequestered for digital information. His brain is fully intact - it is his mind that has been mutilated. But yeah, horrible.
      • When his brain gets scanned early on, the computer identifies it as a "dyslexia prosthesis". The point isn't just to have the space, it's to have the space and make sure it gets past security.
      • What? So such an implant can only be disguised as something else only if its stored in the brain and not anywhere else?
      • It's a device designed for high-density data storage. Some kind of medical neural implant is the best cover available for something with that capability, especially to let him also excuse the I/O port in his skull. (You really don't want to have direct wireless connection capabilities built into something that interfaces directly with your brain, but you still would want to plug in for basic systems maintenance.) Where else could he reasonably hide it that would pass the most thorough inspection while remaining innocuous, not to mention a drastic move to try to take out if it was found?

Shinji shoots Takahashi in the back during the movie's climax. This is done in a way to suggest that the bullets are so powerful that they go straight through Takahashi's torso and exit his chest. The effect looks really cool, but Johnny and Jones's glass fish tank are directly in front of Takahashi when he's shot. Why didn't those powerful bullets that exited his chest not continue to travel forward (as rational physics would suggest) and hit Johnny or Jones?

  • "Rational" physics and projectiles entering and exiting the human body have never had a very good relationship.
    • By potholing this to Reality Is Unrealistic, do you mean to suggest that this movie carries any basis in reality?
    • Takahashi's exit wounds show pronounced and directional burst from Takahashi. Without anything being known about the ammunition these future guns are using, this much evidence would suggest that the directional path of these projectiles traveling through Takahashi would not deviate much very wide of an unmoving, unflinching Johnny. Out of four shots, the law of probability would very much be in favor of Johnny catching a bullet, as well.
      • Probability doesn't exist though.
      • Even though you just referred to it.

If it's the filmmakers' idea that the cure for NAS should be broadcast around the world so that it can't be suppressed, why didn't the guys in Beijing who had the data in the first place just spam it all over the Internet?

  • They didn't have the capability. Even in our reality, think about what you're saying. "Gosh, why didn't they just use China's internet for the free spread of information?"
    • How could anyone not have the capability when Johnny can easily hack and travel anywhere he wanted inside the web with nothing more than store inventory from "Crazy Bob's Computer Shop", all of which is implied to be commercially available tech? Hell, the guys who initially had the data hired the same character who was shown to have the very "capability" to do the necessary work, and if the threat of PharmaKom "trackers" in Newark couldn't discourage Johnny from traveling the web, why would he be discouraged by "trackers" in Beijing?
    • And where in the movie is anything established about China's Internet in 2021?

When Johnny makes his getaway after Shinji and his mooks raid the hotel room he was in, immediately after Johnny leaves the room comes a camera shot of Yakuza henchmen running down a hotel hallway and past what appear to be dead bodies on the ground. Who ever died in the hallway? Who killed them? When? Why were they killed to begin with? We never saw any of it.

Why were rocket launchers issued to the Corporate/Yakuza henchmen that were left on ground during the raid on the LoTek headquarters led by Shinji? How many of their own allies who infiltrated the base were inadvertently wiped out when they started firing the rockets into the bridge?

  • Surprisingly, this point is somewhat addressed in the Japanese cut, which includes a line where Shinji instructs those with rocket launchers to stay behind and target specific locations on the bridge's underside. However, this raises additional questions as its not clear where Shinji got his intelligence on the LoTek stronghold from or how he already knows what areas are of strategic importance when Shinji and his employers only just learned of the LoTek's location from Johnny merely moments prior.
    • Of course, even if they had planned to fire rockets into the bridge, it's questionable why this wasn't Step 1 of their siege strategy, before sending foot soldiers up to infiltrate it, if they were going to utilize rocket launchers at all.
    • Not to mention that their explicit orders to cut off and retrieve Johnny's head must mean squat to them, if they just figure they'll risk shelling him with a rocket launcher.

When checking up on the body of a LoTek Red Shirt, J-Bone was incapable of sliding down a rope without alerting Baldy, standing just a few feet in front of him with his back turned, to his presence. However, a short time later when Johnny turns his back to him, J-Bone is able to vanish without a trace... along with the body of the dead LoTek soldier, which J-Bone is presumably carrying with him. That's about 150 lbs of dead weight encumbering a man who is surely either bumbling off in plain sight just a couple of feet out of frame or slowly and noticeably climbing back up the rope and pulley which is unlikely to be able to bear their combined weight. How does Johnny lose sight of J-Bone like this? How is J-Bone this successful doing the absolute impossible when he can't do something more straight-forward like touch ground without a nearby mook noticing?

Did the filmmakers give Takahashi a katana as a signature weapon just because he's Asian...?

  • No, they gave Takahashi a wakizashi as one of two signature weapons (the other is a revolver) because he's Japanese, Yakuza, and preparing to engage an opponent he is attempting to behead, while in an enclosed space. Given all that, one would be hard pressed to come up with another weapon more appropriate.

Are you the courier? You are late! Please, step this way to the main article HERE.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: