“You’re going to regret this for the rest of your life… Both seconds of it.”
– John “Demolition Man” Spartan
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Waaaay back in the day, we started this blog/podcast/social media empire to watch bad movies and laugh about them. We had a focus on bad action movies, but it had been a while since we watched one. It was time for us to go back to our roots. It was time for us to watch Demolition Man.
San Angeles, 2032.
Law itself has touched anything and everything, so we didn’t feel right breaking the laws of the future. Lenina Huxley, played by Sandra Bullock, quickly gives an overview of what you can’t do: “In this future, smoking is not good for you, and anything that is not good for you has been deemed illegal: alcohol, caffeine, contact sports, meat, bad language, chocolate, gasoline, un-educational toys, and anything spicy.” And so, it is within these laws that we will start our meal.
We started off with food from the only restaurant that exists in the world of Demolition Man: Taco Bell. You wouldn’t expect Taco Bell to be the only restaurant in a world where unhealthy food is illegal, but they won the franchise wars and have rebranded themselves as luxurious and health conscious. For example, John goes to Taco Bell and is served a plate of salt-less chips with small spoonfuls of beans, corn, and salsa on each chip. We recreated this meal from scratch, making our own chips, and we have to say…chips taste a lot better with salt on them.
For the next stop on our culinary venture, we traveled down to where the Scraps live: the underground and opposing society in Demolition Man where the law doesn’t exist, so our entrée is free to exist. Meat is a banned item, so we recreated the rat burger John eats during his visit. Simple and straightforward, with nothing on it but rat and bun and a dash of salt. Our feelings on the burger matched John’s: “Not bad!”
After returning above ground, we decided to make the best of a bad situation and try to find a dessert with no added sugar. We came across a recipe for three-ingredient orange granita which looked pretty good. Of course, this recipe was from the early 21st century when sugar and salt were still legal, so we had to modify the recipe a bit and cut both of them out, making it a one-ingredient recipe: oranges. Just oranges. Still, oranges are sweet enough on their own that the dessert ended up being quite tasty. We served it in a sumo orange because we figured that is what a fine establishment like Taco Bell would do. 2032 Taco Bell is all about plating. It also helps that sumo oranges look kind of like bells.
We’re pretty sure liquor is illegal in the world of Demolition Man, and fire definitely would be illegal, so we decided to make a smoky cocktail to balance out our goody-two-shoes dessert of just oranges. We settled on a modified Smoke Show – mezcal, Cynar, Green Chartreuse, lemon juice, and simple syrup. After mixing the ingredients, we lit a cedar board and placed our glass over the flaming board to scent the glass with smoke. The smell of the smoke mixed beautifully with the mezcal as we savored the taste of lawlessness.
We took a different approach this week with two of our rules focused on drinking and our last rule more thematic and humorous.
☠ Drink whenever someone says “Murder Death Kill.”
🍿 Drink for pop culture references.
💪 Drink whenever you feel like Sylvester Stallone is acting in a different movie.
Demolition Man is a bit of a head scratcher. We’re not sure what it is trying to be. Is it a dumb action movie, or is it a smart satire? In the Hollywood Videos and Blockbusters of old, in what section would Demolition Man sit? Sci-fi? Action? Comedy?
Look at the casting for this movie and you’ll start to see what I mean. Sylvester Stallone is in the same movie as Rob Schneider. Rob Schneider is in the same movie as Sandra Bullock. Sandra Bullock is in the same movie as Wesley Snipes. Each of these actors play in very distinct, separate spaces for the most part, and you would never expect to see any of these combos. But somehow, it works for each of them. Of course, Sylvester Stallone is in this movie cast as the strongman who solves problems with brute force. The goofy writing and bizarre scenarios the police find themselves in work perfectly for Rob Schneider. Wesley Snipes gets to use that black belt of his in a bunch of martial arts scenes. Sandra Bullock has been cast as a cop in a comedy many times since, like in Miss Congeniality, Miss Congeniality 2, and The Heat. Demolition Man can somehow contain all of them and make sense, but it is still weird to see them share the silver screen together.
Each actor brought a lot to the movie (well, maybe not Rob Schneider so much) and really pulled the film in different directions, making Demolition Man hard to define. If we were working at a 1993 Blockbuster and were in charge of moving the Demolition Man VHS from New Releases to the genre section it would reside in for the next 20 years before our store went out of business, we’d be torn between dropping it in sci-fi, action, and comedy. Pressed to make a decision so we can make room in New Releases for 1994 hits like Pulp Fiction, Forest Gump, Shawshank Redemption, and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (great year for movies!) we’d have to put it into comedy. Though you wouldn’t guess it from the title, the action in Demolition Man is really second fiddle to the comedy. Many action movies of its time just feel like they’re moving from one fight scene to another, with filler in-between so we can change set pieces before the next action sequence. In Demolition Man, plot and writing actually come first, and the few action scenes are truly earned, though ultimately forgettable. When it does show up, the action sequences are so over-the-top that they’re actually quite funny, which ultimately tips Demolition Man firmly into the comedy category for us.
Let’s talk about the writing. It is undeniably dumb, but is that intentional? Is the movie meant to be a satirical take on action movies, or is it exactly the kind of action movie that others satirize? Our guess is it lands somewhere in the middle. At times, Demolition Man is surprisingly smart, witty, and even insightful. Sticking action star Sylvester Stallone in a future where there is no room for a musclebound rogue action hero, and making many jokes about him and the type of movie he represents is clearly an intentional attempt at poking fun at the dying breed of 80s action movies. This sentiment is summed up in on one especially on-the-nose moment, when a character says to Stallone, “What would you say if I called you a brutish fossil, symbolic of a decayed era gratefully forgotten?”
They’re also obviously trying to make a statement about the way the world is going with their version of the neutered, pacifistic, Brave New World/1984-esque vision of the future. An inordinate amount of time is spent exploring this world and fleshing out surprisingly prescient details, like the political career of Arnold Schwartzenegger. However, the film never really takes a stance on where it stands on this vision of the future. Are we meant to laugh at it but ultimately embrace this peaceful, agency-less society? Are we supposed to aspire to the total freedom the Scraps enjoy, even though their world looks dirty and dangerous and barbaric in more ways than one? It’s hard to tell. You have to wonder if the writers really had answers or if they were just happy to pose the question. In fact, there are so many loose ends, you have to wonder whether there ever really was a question or if you were just looking for meaning in an ultimately meaningless movie.
André: Demolished expectations. Demolition Man is exactly my type of so-bad-it’s-good action movie. We have a classic action star who struggles with his poorly written lines, we have a villain who is unbelievably over-the-top evil, we have the typical wacky sci-fi tech, we have one high stakes set piece battle after another, and most importantly, we have terrible one-liners. So many terrible one liners. These were made even better by the addition of “future” slang, leading us to lines like “Mellow greetings. What seems to be your boggle?” As far as turn-off-your-brain-and-laugh-at-the-ridiculousness-of-it-all action movies goes, this one is right up there with Face Off and Con Air. And now, having turned my brain back on and re-examined the movie, I would even put it a step above those two. Demolition Man actually voiced questions about big versus small governments, agency, and utilitarianism that I’m still thinking about today. Demolition Man may not have had the answers to any of the big questions it brought up, but it left me thinking afterwards, which is more than I can say about most action movies.
Leanna: It was okay. Watched with the right people in the right mindset (“I’m just here to have a good time and not think too hard”), this movie was surprisingly fun to watch. I always enjoy older films’ take on what future gadgets will look like and do, and this one did not disappoint with some truly wacky UI and functionality. Sandra Bullock was a shining star, and her commitment to her character really helped pull off a lot of the humorous moments. That said, this is not a good movie, and the jury is still out about whether or not it truly deserves some of the credit we’re trying to give it. It did feel good to go back to our roots as a blog, and I’m glad to have finally seen this film.
Ben: 65%. That 65% is perhaps one of the most conflicted scores I have given thus far. To start out let’s hit at what’s good: Demolition Man goes for it, and the level to which they commit to the bit makes it work more than it should. Wesley Snipes is just having fun and it works even if his character somewhat fades towards the third act as you learn who is truly pulling the strings. Now for the bad: The queer coding of Raymond Cocteau (spoilers: but he turns out to be the bad guy) and his assistant and the despicable nature in which they are presented definitely leaves me uneasy, and that isn’t even diving into the politics of the film that views all laws as infringing on a person’s given liberties, and while it starts to present an extreme of lawlessness, it does so in a way that doesn’t ultimately balance the opposing side. Ultimately, it feels like there may have some kind of commentary on politics but it comes away both feeling toothless and simplistic in a way that doesn’t benefit the film or the politics of it.
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