In Stephen King’s 1978 short story “The Lawnmower Man,” a pagan employee of a lawn service company run by the god Pan murders a new customer with a magic lawnmower. It’s not a great story, but it is what it is. What it is not is a riff on Flowers For Algernon about a mentally challenged greenskeeper who becomes an all-powerful, all-intelligent, telepathic super-villain thanks to early ’90s virtual reality technology. Stephen King sued New Line for slapping his title on a completely different screenplay and advertising the film with his name. I think about this more often than I should, because how the hell did anyone think they could get away with that?
Anyway, the film version of The Lawnmower Man is about to get a second chance at being a thing that exists: it’s being developed as a VR series, which is so on-the-nose that I expect it to cause a nasal fracture.
Jaunt, the same company behind director Doug Liman’s VR series Invisible, is responsible for this one. It should be noted that “The Jaunt” is the title of a 1985 Stephen King short story about teleportation gone hideously awry, just in case you’re like me and are in constant search of unnecessary connections between disparate things.
According to The Verge, the new Lawnmower Man series will be a “a VR realization of the film,” whatever that means. I can’t help but hope that the series retains the 1992 setting of the original film and allows the viewer to experience some truly ghastly early CG imagery using cutting edge modern tech. Otherwise, I have no idea what a VR adaptation of The Lawnmower Man looks or feels like.
Jaunt is currently working on several other VR projects, including a science fiction suspense series called Luna, a political sci-fi series called The Enlightened Ones, a futuristic series about robots called Miss Gloria, and a surreal stoner comedy called Bad Trip. I’ve had enough experience with VR at this point to be completely won over by it as video game experience, but I’m not quite as sold on it as a new form of cinema. The rules are still being written on how to create a satisfying VR movie and I’m not sure we’re 100% there yet. Still, there’s something here. VR isn’t going to replace traditional movies, but it will offer us something new to explore and enjoy.
And one of those things will apparently be a new version of The Lawnmower Man. Sure. Okay.
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