Thursday, July 21, 2016

Demolition Man

   Demolition Man isn't a great movie, but it's a fun one. In fact, it's almost meta at this point. Watching it in 2016 was a bit surreal to me. The brand of reckless over-the-top action on display in this movie and it's ilk is long gone, replaced by shiny, sleek and safe franchise properties that dole out most of their thrills with CGI. When the movie opens with Stallone's character, John Spartan, rappelling out of a helicopter over an urban warzone, it's stunning. It's a real stunt. Some bona fide Tom Cruise shit.  Whether it's actually Stallone or a stuntman is irrelevant, someone was falling out of that helicopter. I miss those days.

   This movie seems to realize that even in 1993, the days of it's brand of action/adventure were numbered. Half the characters in the movie can't resist calling Spartan a caveman, a savage, a neanderthal or worse. So what does that say about characters like John Rambo, John Matrix, or any other action hero John? Sandra Bullock is also in Demolition Man as Spartan's sidekick, Lenina Huxley. She's probably more enamored with the action movies of the 80's and 90's than I am, and she is just thrilled to pieces that she's partnered up with a legitimate shoot-em-up legend.

   In one scene, after Spartan has beat the shit out of a bunch of guys, she comments that she loved the way he doled out a one-liner before he knocked a guy out. She's positively giddy about it. I feel that way when modern action movies have callbacks to the 80's like that. The closest we got these days is guys like The Rock, Vin Diesel, and Jason Statham. A trio of stars that wisely didn't wait til they're old men to star in the same movie together. But even so, they're not quite Schwarzenegger or Stallone. And I'm comparing their films to juggernauts like the Rambo and Terminator movies. Even in lesser offerings like Commando and Cliffhanger, Sly and Arnie just... had it. None of these guys have it anymore. They have... something else, I guess.

   The landscape of action movies has changed. If it's not martial arts craziness like The Raid, it's movies with arguably interchangeable stars. Was Adrien Brody anyone's pick to star in a follow up to Predator? Action heroes usually don't have Adonis-like physiques anymore. We don't have a pack of Van Dammes, Lundgrens, and Norris' running around kicking ass. Only to actionphiles like myself is Scott Adkins a household name, and I'm not even keen on his movies. He's alright. Demolition Man is a slice of perfectly preserved nostalgia pie from a bygone era of musclebound cavemen who would crash cars and blow up buildings and be no closer to catching the bad guy than they were in the first hour.

   It's tight as a drum, balancing humor, sci-fi, and balls-to-the-wall action scenes. Juggling it's two leads in Stallone and Snipes effectively, and letting Snipes loose on this movie to create one of the most memorable villains the genre ever saw. Simon Pheonix. Goddamn, John Spartan? Simon Pheonix? Those names are awesome. Movies don't give their characters awesome names like that anymore. They're too self aware these days. Anything from Nu Image is a safe bet if you're looking for throwback action, but they lack the budget and star power to fill a red carpet premiere. Hollywood used to thrive on these summer action movies, they used to be the main attraction. Now?

   It's all superheroes and remakes. If not that, then franchises that are quickly speeding towards a future where they've outstayed their welcome. Demolition Man is the kind of movie they don't make anymore, because Stallone belongs to a breed of action stars that have no successors. Action stars these days are outfitted with too much post production, too much CGI. And this is coming from a guy who liked Gods of Egypt. Demolition Man is great, even if it isn't a great movie. It's so much over-the-top, self-referential, explosive fun. It'd make a hell of a double feature with Total Recall. The mid-90's saw the end of these kinds of action movies, but thank god for home media, and thank god for Blu Ray. Now things are in HD when they explode. Gotta love it.

   I feel like I've barely talked about the movie itself, but if you haven't seen it, see it. It's full of shootouts, one-liners, fist fights, and sci-fi technobabble. It's full of charisma from it's leads, and plenty of humor to lock everything down tight. John Spartan is the ideal man of action, and Simon Pheonix is a psycho that could only exist in a movie like this. A genre classic for sure.

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