Cyborg (1989) vs. Nemesis (1992)

I’ve always enjoyed Albert Pyun’s dystopian future movies; he could always come up with some interesting ideas or visuals despite having to work with minuscule budgets. Two of my favourite Pyun movies remain Cyborg with JCVD and Nemesis with Olivier Gruner. So today I thought I’d compare both and finally make up my mind which movie I prefer.



Plot: In a future beset by chaos and violence, mercenary Gibson Rickenbacker (Jean-Claude Van Damme) is charged with a mission that could change everything: protecting beautiful cyborg Pearl Prophet (Dayle Haddon). She holds the cure for a deadly disease that could destroy humanity, and must get it to scientists in Atlanta. But warlord Tremolo Fender (Vincent Klyn), fearing that his power will be undercut by peace, intends to make sure she never reaches her destination.

First of all let’s talk about those character names; I love how they are named after various makes of guitars. Fender (Stratocaster) and Gibson (Les Paul) and so on. There were also a few other characters named after other musical instruments which I always thought was a cool idea.

Our hero Gibson is a Slinger who isn’t really interested in saving Pearl from Fender, he just wants to kill Fender and take revenge for the brutal murder of the woman (& family) he loved. JCVD looks so young in this movie and doesn’t really say much but he doesn’t have to and lets his fists and feet do the talking. Although the action is pretty small scale there are plenty of fight scenes and when I was younger I always found it to be quite a disturbing film, especially when Fender has the young girl run her hand along the barb wire, which still bothers me even today.

I love the look of Fender with his glacial eyes and massive late 80’s shoulder pads; he also has a cool voice but is let down by the amount of times he says “Argh!”… which is a lot. His climactic fight with Gibson is the highlight of the movie and he has a satisfying bad guy death. It’s practically the same scene as the final fight from Universal Soldier as it has our two gladiators fighting in the rain.

The music is cool but I prefer the rejected score which can be found on The Best of Jean-Claude Van Damme album (if you can still find it). It has this great guitar riff that really kicked ass, but I think it sounded a little too heroic and maybe would have changed the darker tone.

It moves along at a brisk pace and has a short running time but also never loses the grim atmosphere; there’s no humour in it whatsoever which works in the film’s favour. Sure, some of the acting is pretty ropey but it never took away from my enjoyment.



Plot: Alex (Olivier Gruner), a burned out LA cyborg cop, is forced by commissioner Farnsworth to find his former cyborg partner and lover Jared who’s about to deliver sensitive data to cyborg terrorists who wish to wage war against humans. Is he being played?

Nemesis definitely has a larger scale to the action scenes but it’s also less dystopian with some one-liners and humour giving it a lighter vibe than Cyborg. It also has a more interesting cast that includes Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and a very young Thomas Jane who spends most of the time baring his arse at the camera before he is killed.

Gruner is a likeable lead with some impressive fighting skills but doesn’t quite have the charisma that JCVD had. The acting is generally pretty ropey in this movie but you never really care as you aren’t looking for Oscar material with movies like this.

Tim Thomerson plays the villain this time, the far less interesting Farnsworth who is never really all that threatening and doesn’t make much of an impact despite Thomerson being a fine actor. I like my bad guys to be physically intimidating where you know they could potentially kick our hero’s ass and we never really get that. When he is stripped of his human form for the finale Farnsworth becomes a kind of crappy looking stop motion Terminator rip-off cyborg. In its defence the effects were just fine at the time and especially considering the budget but they don’t hold up that well now. Also, the effects for the original Terminator have also dated badly but that’s another conversation.

The finale is a bit underwhelming in general for Nemesis and I definitely prefer Gibson vs. Fender in Cyborg as a one on one fight is always more satisfying as an action scene.

I may be an idiot but I always found the story a little confusing to this movie so I just sit back and enjoy the action scenes.

The Verdict

I rate a movie on how often I’ve watched it; I’ve seen Cyborg many times and despite its flaws I always enjoy it, mostly because I’m a huge JCVD fan and the dystopian atmosphere. Nemesis may be better made with more impressive action scenes but I’ve only ever watched it 2 or 3 times so it’s not a movie I return to often. The fact that Cyborg has a satisfying final fight and Jean-Claude Van Damme as the hero then Cyborg wins in my book.