Hackers of the World, Reunite! Iain Softley Teases a Hackers Sequel


As far as this reviewer is concerned, Hackers is one of the most effortlessly entertaining films of the 1990s; an unlikely but irresistible blend of semi-cyberpunk techno-thriller and charming high school dramedy which has only gotten more fun as it has aged into a time-capsule of its decade with just the right amount of cheese. It is packed with lovably weird characters like Matthew Lillard's Cereal Killer and Renoly Santiago's Phantom Phreak, endlessly quotable dialogue ("We've got no names, man, no names; we are nameless!"), a great combination of neon-colored art design and electronic music that makes for perfect cyberpunk eye and ear candy, and a vision of both computer technology and mid-90s fashion that may not have been wholly accurate, but that very accurately captured how cool young people of that era thought those things were. And now, according to an upcoming interview that director Iain Softley did with Collider in honor of the film's 25th anniversary, Hackers may also be getting a sequel.

The sequel isn't officially greenlit yet, but Softley says that after years of himself and some of the film's actors frequently being asked why there has never been a Hackers 2, he's finally feeling ready to make it a reality, and "there has been interest, from kind of mainstream producers." In the excerpt from the interview already released by Collider, he references how one of the reasons why the film was able to exist in the first place is that in 1995, the technology the film is all about was fairly new, and not all that complicated yet; they could deal with the concepts of early cyber-espionage without worrying about the plot being obsoleted too fast, or the details getting too complex. And since most viewers didn't have that deep a knowledge of computers, they could take some liberties for the sake of the story. Hackers was written with computing and hacking consultants to make sure they got the broad strokes more or less right, and the writers clearly understand how computers and hacking work, but they just as clearly take liberties for the sake of entertaining visuals, and as Softley puts it in the special features on the film's 20th anniversary blu-ray, they weren't concerned with showing how computers actually work, but with visualizing how it feels to have the rush of successful hacking. Films can't take those liberties today, though, in a time when most people are pretty computer-literate. And the technology is so ever-evolving that, as Softley says in the interview, "it’s much more dangerous that it would become outdated almost as soon as the film’s released."

But with how strongly cyber-espionage factors into world events and politics these days, Softley has apparently found the potential relevance of a Hackers 2 hard to resist:

hat’s happened now, with big data, and the way that it’s actually broke through and become maybe the dominant force in the world, in terms of influencing politics and finance and elections, that I think there is a call, for the first time ever, that the Knights of the Round Table should be woken up to sort of answer the call again. And there are a couple of conversations."

Just what are those conversations?
That is the big question. It is unclear if Softley is envisioning a modern-day reboot, or a sequel with the same returning cast. Personally, I would much prefer the latter: I think it's safe to say that Angelina Jolie would be very unlikely to return as Acid Burn, but Johnny Lee Miller being able to come back as Crash Override seems a good deal more likely, and I would love to see what he, Cereal Killer, Phantom Phreak, Laurence Mason's Lord Nikon, and Jesse Bradford's Joey are up to these days, to say nothing of pirate media icons Razor and Blade.

The one thing that makes me question the wisdom of a modern-day Hackers 2 is one of the key reasons I cited in the introduction for why the original film is so much fun to revisit: Hackers is a perfect time-capsule of the mid-1990s, and so many of its pleasures, certainly its aesthetic and aural ones, are rooted in its very specific sense of time and place. I often describe the film to the uninitiated as "the most '90s of all '90s films, in all the best ways." Because while it is obviously first and foremost a film about hacking, it is also a film about a bunch of misfit counterculture teenagers in 1995 New York City, hanging out at the coolest arcade/indoor-skate-park ever, listening to The Prodigy and Massive Attack and playing Wipeout, and getting into extremely '90s teenage drama. It is hard to imagine this story and these characters - not to mention its aesthetic and overall sensibility - working in any other temporal context. 

But that said, those hesitations are mild in comparison to my desire to see these characters return in a Hackers 2, and to see what Iain Softley's modernized vision for the story is. It is encouraging to know that '90s nostalgia is definitely not part of Softley's agenda here: he specifically says that "I don’t think any of us would want to do it unless we thought it was worthwhile to do. We wouldn’t do it as just a commercial exercise." If this sequel does indeed happen, it sounds like he is coming at it from the right perspective, which hopefully means he will be able to give us something truly elite.

Hack the planet!

- Christopher S. Jordan

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