Hong Kong’s unique urban landscape is featured in cyberpunk films and animations.
By Winkie Ng
Cyberpunk fan Kwong Tsz-wun always finds traces of Hong Kong in cyberpunk movies.
“Iconic cyberpunk films like Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell are set in Hong Kong. Both Japanese animation and American live-action remake of Ghost in the Shell feature Hong Kong as the setting. The animated version (made in 1995) used Kowloon City and Kai Tak Airport as a backdrop for some scenes,” he says.
The American remake of Ghost in the Shell released in 2017 has some scenes filmed in Yau Ma Tei and along Victoria Harbour.
Kwong, who is a lecturer at the Department of Chinese Language and Literature at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), has been interested in cyberpunk culture since he was a child.
He even wrote a research paper analysing a cyberpunk book, Last_year@alu.bar (去年在阿魯吧) by Ho Ching-pin, a Taiwanese author in 2013.
“It is interesting that cyberpunk culture has not thrived in Hong Kong, while Hong Kong has prominent presence in many cyberpunk films,” Kwong says.
Kwong finds the setting in cyberpunk film Blade Runner similar to present-day Hong Kong.
“Another title for Blade Runner is 2020. It is set in 2020, which overlaps the current era. Scenes of cybercity, artificial intelligence and the essence of the film echo Hong Kong’s (technological and social) environment in 2019 and 2020,” he says.
Kwong has mixed feelings whenever he sees Hong Kong in cyberpunk films.
“It looks and sounds familiar to me. But I feel sorry that Hong Kong shares similarities with cyberpunk settings. The themes of cyberpunk include confronting hegemony and having low standard of living in a high technology society ― Just like the current situation in Hong Kong,” he says.
Grace Leung Lai-kuen, a lecturer at the School of Journalism and Communication at CUHK, says cyberpunk films set in hi-tech society discuss how technology destroys humanity and causes disparity between the rich and poor.
“Surreal imaginations of technology are represented by night views with dazzling lights,” she adds.
She thinks Hong Kong’s night view is full of potential and attracts filmmakers to set cyberpunk films in Hong Kong. “Hong Kong’s landscape is very beautiful, especially the night view…When neon signs are lit at night, you can create a cyberpunk ambience easily by blurring or using filters,” she says.
She also points out that having high level of urbanization and many postmodern architectures are other reasons for cyberpunk films being set in Hong Kong.
“Hong Kong’s landscape suits cyberpunk films. Hong Kong is densely populated with many skyscrapers, contrasting old and new buildings and buildings with different shapes. It is so unique and creates great visual effects for cyberpunk films,” she says.
With the advantage of being a cyberpunk city, Leung thinks Hong Kong should make good use of it.
“Hong Kong as a city has great potential. Her charm is captured in cyberpunk films. So why not promote it to Hongkongers and visitors? It would be nice to appreciate this city from this new perspective,” she says.
Edited by Agnes Lam
Sub-edited by Bonita Wong