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This week, Shout factory releases the 20th Anniversary edition of the film Hackers. You may remember this as the film starring a young Angelina Jolie and her real life future one-time husband Jonny Lee Miller as computer hackers, with a plot centered around saving the Earth thanks to a floppy disc and 28.8 modem. A classic of cyberpunk culture, and a definitely ’90s entity, there’s a lot about this film that makes it such a beloved one-of-a-kind entity. Among its unique charms is the curious legacy it carries thanks to its soundtrack.
Yes, the ’90s was the height of motion pictures connecting with audience through a compact disc or cassette full of the same pulse-pounding and soul-stirring rhythms that echoed with the spirit of the film from whence they came. Existing at the exact nexus of marketing, merchandising and curated art, the movie soundtrack could spread the word about a film, as well break new artists and gave us some of music’s biggest icons’ signature hits.
But the legacy of Hackers’ soundtrack is a little bit different. While the 1995 film eventually became a cult hit, the soundtrack which boasted an assortment of impeccably chosen electronic music like no other collection at the time, was a certified smash with techno fans. So much so, that its success lead to an officially released CD titled Hackers 2 hitting store shelves with more music from the film two whole years later in 1997. Then, in 1999, yet another collection of songs titled Hackers 3 was released as well. A third volume of a soundtrack for a moderately successful movie that came out almost a half-decade prior was something largely unprecedented. Even at the music industry’s height, it was rare any movie got more than a soundtrack and score release, let alone three distinct volumes three entire years apart.
Of course, when it comes to releasing officially licensed items to a devoted fanbase, there’s always the risk of the devotees reading too deeply into what’s rolled out in front of them. This lead to Hackers‘ aforementioned follow up soundtracks, which, again, were titledHackers 2 and Hackers 3, creating a stir amongst the movie’s ever increasing cult fanbase, suggesting a sequel was either in the works or sitting on some shelf. Being this was a pre-Youtube pre-BitTorrent age, the tape-trading communities were frantically trying to find if there actually were additional Hackers films.
Then, in 2000, fans discovered a online that there was indeed a European release for a film titled Hackers 2: Takedown starring Skeet Ulrich, Russell Wong and Master P. Eventually, when copies made their way stateside and distributed amongst tape trading circles, it was revealed the film wasn’t a sequel, but the 2000 hacking film Trackdown retitled in foreign markets to simulate being a successor. Despite this, and an American release of the film as just Trackdown, some devotees still refer to the film as Hackers 2. It’s troubling to think about how media could legally be released in parts of the world as successors to other creations.
To this day, the ubiquity of the Hackers 2 and 3 soundtracks gives casual and newer fans the misleading idea that there’s a sequel. We can’t really blame them as the cover art blatantly says “Hackers 2“, not “More Music From the Motion Picture Hackers” or something along those lines. While the soundtracks, boasting the best-of-the-best of the films’ excellent song selections including The Prodigy, Orbital and Underworld, have aged incredibly well, they capture that era of cyberpunk culture as clearly as the film does. Now let’s hope the inevitable Netflix original series based on Hackers five years from now keeps the music as perfect.