Ah, nostalgia! Be it that old cartoon, a favorite toy or a comic book from days gone by, isn’t it great, when out of the blue, the memories come flooding back, and you’ve no choice but to exclaim “Holy Crap! Remember?”
Taco Bell Patron: “What would you say if I called you a brutish fossil, symbolic of a decayed era gratefully forgotten?”
John Spartan: “I don’t know. Thanks?”
There are some movies that if I’m surfing channels and see they’re on, I’ll stop and watch them no matter how many times I’ve already seen them. From Dusk Till Dawn, Gremlins 2, and The Iron Giant are all on the list, along with this cinematic masterpiece, Demolition Man. Oh, it may purport to be simply a nineties sci-fi action flick, but it’s transcendent fun all the same. A game cast, fun script and nicely detailed set pieces combine to make a memorable flick.
Starting out in 1996, we see Los Angeles hero cop John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone), nick-named “the Demolition Man” due to his habit of collateral damage while catching criminals, arrest the violent Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes), destroying his hideout in the process. Unfortunately, Phoenix dupes Spartan and the world into believing his hostages were still alive when it exploded, making Spartan guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Both men are sent to the new experimental CryoPrision where inmates are put in cryogenic storage for the duration of their sentence. The film then jumps to 2032, and a very different San Angeles. (L.A., San Diego and Santa Barbara have merged into one unified area.) Guns, red meat, sex and anything dubbed “bad for you” have been outlawed, and the utopian society is led by the pacifistic Dr. Raymond Cocteau (Nigel Hawthorne). Phoenix somehow escapes during a routine parole hearing, now even more dangerous than before. Not only does he possess new combat skills and an intuitive knowledge of the current technology, but a desire to kill rebel underground leader Edgar Friendly (Denis Leary). With the police woefully outclassed, they decide to release Spartan to catch Phoenix under the watchful eye of 20th century enthusiast Lt. Lenina Huxley (Sandra Bullock). Now Spartan not only has to catch his even deadlier old foe, but figure out how Phoenix escaped and why he’s suddenly so skilled, as well as adjust to a future that fines you for swearing and has three golden sea shells where the toilet paper should be. Lots of mirth and mayhem ensues, naturally.
This movie is so much fun. The humor in both the running gags and the one-offs, like the Schwarzenegger Presidential Library, are great, and the action scenes deftly straddle the line of believability and over-the-topness. The cast does a good job as well. Stallone touches on the “man out of time” pathos but never overdoes it, and his John Spartan is a fine lead character. Snipes chews scenery like nobody’s business, but it works here with Phoenix’s outlandish personality. Bullock has never been more adorable, and Leary pretty much plays himself, but I’m a fan of his so I’m fine with that. The supporting cast also has some memorable performances, with small roles for Glenn Shadix and Benjamin Bratt, and this film is one of the few instances I didn’t want to strangle Rob Schneider. Plus, Jesse Ventura has a small part, and if you blink you’ll miss Jack Black.
Not to get into Make It So territory, but I’ve long thought the world seen in Demolition Man is ripe for more exploration, in a variety of mediums. Sequels would be obvious, especially since we never find out what the rest of the world is like outside of San Angeles. A television show that reboots and tweaks the concept could be good as well. Imagine Spartan and Phoenix being frozen and released in the first episode, with future installments seeing Phoenix as the first season’s Big Bad and Spartan adjusting to the future. After that, the world outside of San Angeles could be explored, and who’s to say there aren’t other CryoPrisions elsewhere? The bottom line is this movie is awesome and anyone who hasn’t seen it should check it out. And at next C2E2′s lobby party we can have some Taco Bell and sing the Oscar Meyer Wiener theme.