Someday—maybe next week—our children and/or our children’s children will look up from the FX channel’s infinite loop of The Matrix and ask: “What the hell is that banana-shaped hunk of space gray Neo’s talking into?”
You’ll laugh, and sigh … and then feel really old remembering the Nokia 8110. Once considered a status symbol for early adopters, this particular model was already a couple of years old in 1999, when The Matrix hit theaters.
Even with the sliding cover that Nokia added exclusively for the Wachowski’s prop department, the phone looks as ridiculously outdated as the brick-sized Motorola DynaTAC Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) lugs around in American Psycho (2000).
Now that Microsoft’s sounded the death knell—changing the name of Nokia’s smartphone business, which it bought last year, to Microsoft Lumia—old movies and TV shows remain the only place Nokia will live on. Pay attention and you’ll notice Nokia products were actively placed in a lot of movies. A lot of movies.
(Update: Apparently even Microsoft couldn’t bear to kill off this bit of mobile phone history, at least not entirely. See below.)
Each Nokia that catches our eye as we veg on the couch watching Alias on Netflix or some other crap is yet another reminder that the only thing constant about change is that it sucks.
It means, for instances that the name Nokia, once the largest maker of mobile phones, may be remembered primarily as a product placement eyesore in Man of Steel (2013). The Nokia Lumia 925 is Superman’s cellphone of choice in a superhero reboot drowning in $160 million of brand promotions:
Product placement, when done right in a movie that does well, can be the best advertising a brand can hope for. (In the DVR age, nobody watches commercials anymore.) Alas, all the box office hits in which Nokia phones are prominently displays weren’t enough to save even the name.
Yet in the movies, Nokia phones perform all kinds of amazing (fictional) feats. The ultimate feat of technology in Tron: Legacy (2010) isn’t the de-aging of Jeff Bridges. It’s how his character’s son breaks into a tech giant’s super servers using a Nokia N8.
In fact, there’s no end of super heroism made possible with a Nokia device. In The Dark Knight (2008) Wayne Enterprises applied science head Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) enables his boss, Bruce Wayne (Oh, hey! Christian Bale) to infiltrate a high security company in China by purposely neglecting to pick up from reception his overclocked Nokia Tube 5800 when leaving the building. Operation Sky Hook ensues.
Despite all the near-future technologies still fiction in the Minority Report (2002), it was the brand new Nokia 7650 Tom Cruise’s PreCrime cop used when he wasn’t rocking touch screens and interactive heads-up display.
In The Hurt Locker (2008), a guy uses a Nokia 1600 to detonate a bomb … which probably isn’t the best example of product placement in a movie:
Equally questionable is the John Turturro’s Nokia N93i in Transformers (2007) which goes all evil Decepticon at an inopportune time.
Good times. Sadly, there will be no more of them, at least under the Nokia name.
Update 10/24: Apparently Microsoft, itself one of tech history’s most noteworthy players, couldn’t stomach the thought of squashing the Nokia name, at least not entirely. According to Tuula Rytilä, Microsoft’s Consumer VP of Marketing for Phones, the Windows maker will keep the branding, but just for its entry-level phones.
So it would seem that, while Apple may be destroying Finland, Microsoft just gave its native son a reprieve.