Throwback Thursday: Demolition Man (1993)

A friend and I have been discussing recently how few “good/bad” movies are being made these days. The kind of films that are clearly lacking in what makes for a typically good film while still having something that makes them unmistakably enjoyable. Then, as if by magic, fate has handed us one of the best good/bad movies ever made – Demolition Man is on the TV. 

The once almost unfuckwithable Sylvester Stallone headlines here as wonderfully, terribly named John Spartan, a get-the-job-done-by-any-means super cop, frozen in time for his reckless law-upholding techniques. He faces off against the ironically just-released-from-real-jail Wesley Snipes, Spartans arch-nemesis, fellow fridge inmate and holder of our second great/awful name; Simon Phoenix, a con who – you guessed – rises from the ashes of his own destruction.

From this point, Phoenix is mysteriously gifted with a deep knowledge of the inner workings of future computers and subsequently breaks free during a parole meeting. Next up on his list is causing all kinds of trouble. Of course to catch an old school nutter, you need an old school cop so Spartan is brought out of his ice nap and reinstated into the police force. 

As you’d expect, these two über-macho, out of time hard men clash with each other and the world around them, aghast at the societal leaps and bounds made in their absence. What follows is a 2 hour mash up of cultural satire, kooky Sci-Fi flights of fancy, many, many (practical!) explosions and puns, put downs and puerile poetry aplenty. Aside from the two actual stars of the show, the script shines through as one of those so uncommon these days. It’s vulgar and hilarious, filled with all the God-awful punny goodness you’d expect from the golden era of Stallone/Schwarzenegger days.

What it also boasts in abundance is insight and commentary, something that is straight up missing from the big budget, big screen, big (CGI!) explosion fests of our current cinematic era. As per, there are sly nods towards Sly and Arnie’s on screen rivalry/ off screen friendship. In this timeline, Schwarzenegger has become president, Spartan doesn’t want to hear about it. 

Here, every restaurant is a Pizza Hut following the “franchise wars”, the radio only plays jingles and meat, coffee, booze, salt, all illegal. All that and physical connection is outlawed, procreation requiring a permit. A lot of this all seems relatively prescient looking over the last 2 decades of government-installed food-hysteria, the seemingly ever safe musical output of the most popular “artists” and the almost-permanent threat of Chinese takeover on the horizon.

What this represents to me is 2010’s Hollywood’s total lack of risk taking. No one is poked fun of, everything is about the money and self preservation. “Lets not make our films goofy and loveable but Nolanised and scowly or just plain unfunny and unlovable” must be every producers mantra. When the biggest film of the year is ostensibly always about a brand or a robot, it takes the human heart away from things. Humans make mistakes and mistakes can be funny. Hollywood spends it’s time tirelessly trying to never make them without realising that films like Demolition Man, Universal Soldiers and the original Robocop never were mistakes.

– Ollie Drew



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