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Jan 8, 2009

Burning Questions - Demolition Man

I know what you're saying. "Surely you're joking, Fletch. How could have anyone have any burning questions relating to Demolition Man, of all films?

Well, what can I say? In the halls of my guilty pleasure flicks, Demo Man is high up there. It probably shouldn't be - it's cheesy, full of overacting, is home to quite possibly the most egregious bit of product placement put on film ("All restaurants are Taco Bell"), and features Rob Schneider, amongst other people. But it's just so damned appealing: the aforementioned cheesiness, a kickass Denis Leary (playing himself...with a beard), a creative futuristic society ("He doesn't know how to use the three seashells!"), gratuitous nudity, a solid, deep cast - it's got it all!

In case you're unaware (or have just blocked it from your memory), here's the solid premise: habitual cat-and-mouse play until the cat eventually catches the mouse, but at a cost (he implicates himself and gets sent to prison as well). As it just so happens, each are sent to the latest in prison technologies: a cryo-prison. Each is frozen, case closed. OR NOT!!! Fast forward some years later when the mouse somehow escapes/thaws/whathaveyou. Cat is then thawed as well, as he is THE ONLY MAN ALIVE THAT CAN CATCH THE EVIL MOUSE.

There's actually a lot more to it than that, believe it or not. I might typically spare you that "more," but that's where my burning question comes into play. See, the mouse and cat (Wesley Snipes and Sly Stallone, respectively) were initially frozen in 1996. Over the next few decades, there was a massive earthquake and god-knows-what-else that led all of society away from crime and a myriad of other things deemed "bad for you," like sexual intercourse, fatty foods, and cursing. Basically, society is now more or less all a part of one massive cult, led by a Dr. Raymond Cocteau (Nigel Hawthorne).

Just one problem - the bulk of the film (the futuristic part) is set in 2032, some 36 years after the opening sequences. Ignoring many of the technological hurdles that were apparently not hurdles at all, are we really supposed to believe that an entirely new form of civilization (government, culture, architecture, etc.) sprung up in less than four decades? But here's the worst part:

Dr. Cocteau (and, to a lesser extent, the police chief played by Shawshank warden Bob Gunton) repeatedly refers to Stallone's John Spartan and Snipes' Simon Phoenix as if they were primitive cavemen, from a time so long ago that it's a wonder they understand the same language. You'd think they were the lead character from The Time Machine, gone forward in time some 800,000 years or so. Now, we already know the whole 36-year thing makes such thinking a stretch for anyone, but Cocteau and the police chief are each well older than 36 years old, meaning each should recall (and probably not with disdain) the culture (and the events) around the time of Spartan's/Phoenix's freezing.

So, what happened to these yahoos that made them forget their past so completely? And more importantly, why do I care?

12 people have chosen wisely: on "Burning Questions - Demolition Man"

THN said...

I am trying to think of a decent answer, but I'm stumped. It be like somebody being frozen in 1973 and being thrown into today's society. And it's not that big of stretch. Well, maybe if they were an athlete not taking roids, but still.

Sorry Fletcherson, you have stumped me and ruined this movie for me. Thanks.

Adam Ross said...

This one's a guilty pleasure for me as well (the three seashells joke still makes me laugh). I'm drawing a blank on this one, so I'll answer it with another burning question: we know you can't feed Gremlins "after midnight," but when does that no-no time end? Like, can you feed them at 6 a.m.?

JacksSmirkingRevenge said...

LOL. I too have long wondered about the mere 36 year discrepency. In truth I am more annoyed by it than perplexed. Just seems like lazy writing. Make it 2136 and it makes much more sense.

Sea_of_Green said...

You know, I've run across this movie many times on TV but I've never been able to bring myself to actually sit down and watch it. I may have to give it a try next time!

Nick said...

I've not seen the movie, but the best answer I can give is...

Look at what happened in Austin Powers. They come back from 1969 (I believe) into the 90s, and there's a HUGE difference between cultures and technology that they have to get used to. And that's just 20-something years. AND, it's true. A *lot* happened in that 20 years, culturally and technologically.

And to think about advanced technology... the more technologically advanced you are, the faster you can invent new things (it took the world HOW long to come up with computers, but then how long after that to come up with iPod Minis?). So if they're technologically advanced to the point they can do the cryogenic freezing of humans with the capability to unthaw them safely (which even our scientists are trying to figure out), then I'm sure they'd be able to stretch their technological advancements however much is in the movie within 40 years.

But that's just a guess.

Fletch said...

THN - I could ask for nothing more. Success! By the way - headed to Vegas in late February. Sweet deals abound!

Adam - you're a wise man. I've wondered the same thing in regards to the Gremlins. Also, what happens around daylight savings time and all that? Or if you cross state lines into a state in a different time zone?

Jack'sSmirk... - It annoys me in general when sci-fi flicks aren't set far enough into the future for the techy crap that they dream up to believably be in existence. Just tech speaking, I've never thought that Demo Man was all that bad. The cars were well done, looking neither too current (1993) or too fakey (the foam was a great touch), the glowstick weapon things were pretty cool, etc. It was just everything else that didn't make sense: the entire re-building of society, the wardrobes, the change in philosophies, etc.

Long story short - yeah, a jump forward 100 years would have helped out tremendously.

S_o_G - well, you're not exactly missing much. It's a pretty retarded movie...but it's a FUN retarded movie...

Nick - see my points above. My issues are barely with the tech side and more with the fact that a dood in his 60s acts like everything that happened in the first 25+ years of his life never happened and/or he had his memory erased. And acts as though the characters from just a few decades earlier are cro-magnons. It's like it's Encino Man part of the time.

THN said...

Yeah, staying at Binion's next weekend for $33/night. Unbelievable.

I also second Ross' notion. When can you feed the Gremlins? If you feed them at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, it's still after midnight from the previous night.

Shane said...

I have to admit that Demo Man is one of my favorite guilty pleasure movies as well.

Some thoughts on your question.

For the age thing, I do think 30 years was being a little lazy. I think it would have been a little better if it had been 50 or 60 years. But, when the movie came out Bob Gunton was 47. If you place him at that age for the future setting he would have only been 17 when the world started falling apart or whatever. That makes it a little more believable I think. But Nigel Hawthorne was 64 at the time of the movie release. Backing that up by 30 still makes him 34. I'm chalking that one up to him being a pompous jerk.

For some reason the 30 year span reminds me of 12 Monkeys, not that the two movies were anything alike.

One thing I've always wondered about the movie was, is it just the San Angles area (or whatever the city name is) that Dr. Cocteau runs or is it the whole US? I always assumed it was just that area.

Reel Whore said...

My brain's a churnin'!

First off, the Gremlins time-thingy ALWAYS bugged me too. I mean if they are assumedly a creature of China, why wouldn't midnight be like noon US time?! I guess it's a lunar cycle thing but that just gets more complicated. Don't even get me started on the wet rule either! Still, love that damn flick.

As for Demo Man, it's another fave. I agree with Shane; Cocteau was just a jerk who ignored the past and was forced to regret that mistake. I also thought San Angeles was separated from the US which made this more plausible. I'd look to mind-alteration a la Equilibrium for societal obliviousness until the cro-mags and Denis Leary shook things up.

Fletch said...

Shane - that ought to be the first and last time that Demo Man and 12 Monkeys are ever compared. ;)

As for the area of destruction, I suppose it could just be the San Angeles area, but that just doesn't seem to make sense to me. How could Cocteau turn that area into Cultland while the rest of the country/world went on per usual? Unless there was no rest of the country left.

Either way, I fine you all one credit for a violation of the Morality Statute. Be well.

Shane said...

It did kill me a little on the inside to even put Demo Man and 12 Monkeys in the same sentence. I apologize and graciously accept my one credit volition of the Morality Statute.