I know, I know! It’s been a bit. So, sue me. The Fiancee and I kicked back to watch another movie, and this time, it was one that she selected. One of her favorites from her youth, in fact…
The fiancee’S PICK: DEMOLITION MAN (1993)
Demolition Man t takes place in a future society where there’s no crime. But the story actually starts in L.A. in the “near future” (aka the Late Nineties), when L.A. has become a total crap hole. Sylvester Stallone’s “Demolition Man” aka LAPD Sergeant John Spartan is trying to take down a career criminal named Simon Phoenix, played by Wesley Snipes, who’s taken hostages in an abandoned building.
Spartan, being the kind of cop who “doesn’t follow the rules” in movies, makes an unauthorized call to go after Phoenix that causes the entire building to explode and Spartan to be charged with manslaughter for killing the hostages (PS – they were already dead, because Phoenix is not a nice dude). But rather than going to regular jail, they put him in their new “Cryo-Penitentiary” – the idea being that inmates are frozen, and rehabilitated through chemical conditioning while in deep freeze.
Cut to 2032 (the Future!), when Phoenix, who was captured and also put in deep freeze, manages to escape the cryo-penitentiary and goes on a killing spree! The cops can’t handle it. Why? Because in the future, there’s no crime, because after the Great Earthquake “San Angeles” (the new metroplex made up of L.A, San Diego, and Santa Barbara) has become a sort-of utopia helmed by pacifist Doctor Raymond Cocteau who has somehow made anything “bad” (which incorporates everything from swearing, to fast food, to sex) illegal, causing the city to turn into this overly-sanitized place where the police have become completely incapable of dealing with problems, because there “aren’t any.”
Except of course for the poor people who’ve been forced to live in an underground sewer city that no one takes care of or cares about. Called the Scraps (and led by Dennis Leary basically playing himself), these impoverished people who’ve been pushed underground for their free-thought and their unseemliness have begun pushing back against the society that wishes them gone by coming above ground to steal food and other resources.
Long story less long, Cocteau altered Phoenix’s chemical conditioning to give him even more of his bad traits and to embed a goal in his mind – Kill Dennis Leary, er, Edgar Friendly. Spartan is unfrozen to deal with Phoenix and is partnered up with Sandra Bullock’s cop, Lt. Lenina Huxley (Brave New World reference, whaaaat?), who is obsessed with 20th Century culture. Action, mayhem, and hilarity over seashells ensues.
Why does The Fiancee like this movie so much?
“It’s just a fun action comedy. Sort of like this absurd future society where everyone is very polite, and no one commits any crimes, but it’s all just a facade. I don’t know…I like it. It’s funny. It’s mostly the humor that I like. There’s good action, too, but I mostly like it as a comedy.”
And why does she think I should or would like this movie?
“I think you would think its funny.”
Aaaaand there you have it. That’s my laconic sweetie pie for you.
WHAT DID I THINK?
I had no idea what to expect when I sat down to watch this. But I have to say, that not only did I enjoy it more than I thought I would, but it was surprisingly more thought-provoking than I thought it would be.
This movie is definitely early-1990s. cheeseball action film. However, Spartan and Huxley are a great team and have awesome chemistry. You enjoy watching them navigate the case, and each other throughout. Wesley Snipes was a pretty stylized villain as Phoenix, but that’s pretty much to be expected for a movie of this type, and he looked like he was having a ball playing this part.
I especially loved Huxley. I loved that she was this extremely competent cop (for her time) who was also completely earnest. I loved that she was a 20th Century geek, and I loved her attempts at 20th Century slang. She was such a sweet character, which is rare for a movie like this.
The Fiancee was right, too, about the humor. Demolition Man was pretty hilarious, and a lot of fun! (and what IS the deal with the three seashells?!)
What really struck me about this film, though, is how much it made me think, both as the movie was going on, and long afterwards. I thought about the socioeconomic issues the film’s script brings up…and then I thought about the current issues that this film unwittingly embodies.
As for what’s in the film, you’re definitely forced to think about what a True Utopia would mean. After all, nothing can be completely perfect unless you silence/get rid of those who are less-than-perfect, and what does that say about your civilization? Perfection means marginalizing people: the poor, the weak, the uneducated, etc. The film also explores the idea that pleasure is sometimes “dirty,” and that that’s okay and what makes us human. Touching-each-other sex? Way better than sex via virtual reality helmet.
But then, there are issues that came up for me as I examined the film through a modern lens. Like, I thought it was a shame that the “criminals” in this utopia who were sympathetic (you understand them, because they’re poor and not being treated fairly) are led by the white guy and are mostly white themselves, whereas the “real” criminal – the psychopath – was played by the black guy. Granted, Phoenix is a bigger role, and I’m glad that Snipes has it, but it’s interesting to see the subtle messaging that’s happening here. White people who commit crimes are sympathetic, because they “probably have a good reason,” but black people are just crazy.
It’s the kind of thing that, had this film been made a decade later, a savvy screenwriter might have referenced in the text and used. Alas.
Bottom line, Demolition Man is hugely entertaining, and will reaffirm any progressive values you hold.
Well, that’s it for this week! Now that I’ve taken two weeks off to get over being sick as well as some other stuff that’s happened recently, I definitely hope to get back to regular blogging here at TJXP.
So there should be another She Said/She Said here next week! (Hopefully!)
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