We’re just getting settled in at the Sundance Film Festival, but virtual reality film companies are already using the show to announce new VR series — and one of them, yes, is based on the cult 1992 science fiction film The Lawnmower Man.
You may know The Lawnmower Man as “that movie everyone brings up when someone mentions virtual reality, after The Matrix and before Ready Player One.” You might also remember it as a seminal depiction of the technology as a kind of low-poly dream world generator, as imagined during the height of the ‘90s VR boom. (It actually featured real headsets, provided by VR pioneer Jaron Lanier’s short-lived company VPL.) Or maybe you remember it as a futuristic retelling of Flowers for Algernon with psychic lawnmower murders, full-body virtual sex, and a young Pierce Brosnan. The point is, it’s both a thematically obvious choice for an adaptation and a fantastically weird movie infused with the tech and aesthetics of its decade.
We don’t know much about the series, except that it’s being released by Jaunt, the company also behind Doug Liman’s VR series Invisible. The original film spawned a sequel and two video games, but Jaunt’s press release references “a VR realization of the film,” not a separate story. Jaunt is apparently working with the current rights holders, Jim Howell and Rupert Harvey, but it doesn’t say who might be writing and directing the series. It’s also not clear whether the original film’s director and co-writer Brett Leonard — who has maintained an interest in VR — is involved. (You can find Leonard talking about the production in my 2014 VR oral history.) The series will go into production in 2017, but there’s no release date.
Besides The Lawnmower Man, Jaunt announced four other scripted series that are also in development. Luna is a 12-episode “sci-fi suspense series” set on an abandoned lunar base, and The Enlightened Ones is a political sci-fi series written by Tye Sheridan, who is also playing the protagonist in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Ready Player One. Miss Gloria is a far-future series about a “robot hero” tracking down a young girl, written by Robopocalypse author Daniel H. Wilson. And Bad Trip is a stoner comedy by The Final Girls director Todd Strauss-Schulson — according to the synopsis, it will “place the viewer in the hyper-visual and uncomfortable situation of taking various drugs in environments that are less than ideal.”