Demolition Man (1993) – Originally written September 2003
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
OK, here we have yet another Sly Stallone action film, but perhaps this time is one with a different. There’s absolutely no denying that deep down this film is simply violence with the occasional highlight of comedy. So what is it about this film which makes it so much better than your regular action feature?
Truth be told, I confess I might be looking into this film too much, but the writers of this movie appear to have quite a knowledge of dystopia ideals. From the opening scene of 1994’s Hollywood, with it’s fire like tribute to the buildings from the start of “Blade Runner”, this film proceeds along a similar route.
Once Sly’s “John Spartan” is frozen, the future in which he is defrosted is an idyllic future with no violence. This world of health, no sex, illegal swearing and minimal violence is developed by Dr Raymond Cocteau (played without any real need for passion by Nigel Hawthorne) is a dystopia world for simply the reason that it appears dystopia to us. Like other dystopia (Brave New World, for which this film obviously takes a few things, 1984, & Thomas More’s “Utopia” to name three) the moral viewpoints and standings of the citizens are alien to us & we reject them. Yet, the vast majority of those in these places are perfectly content in these roles & thrive.
The wonderful thing about this film is just how blatant some of the characters are named after books, people, etc. John Spartan or “The Savage” is obviously named after the Savage in “Brave New World” (also, by Greek standards, were the Spartan people also Savages?). As is Lenina Huxley (again played without too much effort by Sandra Bullock) who’s first name is the love interest in “Brave New World”, who’s Surname is the surname of Aldous who wrote “Brave New World”, and who’s character is almost that of both Bernard Marx of “Brave New World” & of the female lead in “1984” (who’s name currently escapes me).
As well as the main two stars being named after characters in Brave New World, I found myself wondering if anyone else had names based on anything. Whilst unlikely, the only potentials I could think of were Simon Phoenix (the highlight of the film, played well by Wes Snipes) being a tribute to the idea of the Phoenix From The Flames and Dr Cocteau again. The name Cocteau is such an obscure name, it seemed worth doing a bit of research and the most likely link is that the character is named after Jean Cocteau the French Poet who promoted the avant-garde (irony in lifestyle choice but not outfits perhaps?) and who once said “the worst tragedy for a poet is to be admired through being misunderstood”. It seems a probable, and clever link between the two men.
I won’t say much more as, it is really is a bit of a daft idea looking too much into such a regular action movie, but I do find it interesting that Spartan is re-awoken in a future in which he has an intense dislike and which he attempts to change (again similar to “Brave New World”) & yet, as with so many American films, the American way of life always prevails. Don’t get me wrong, I know I’d dislike living in a world without burgers, beer and sex too, but surely the point is that these people sacrificed a bit of their personal freedoms a few years ago and as a result also sacrificed crime. It’s worth considering just which is more important. Security and less freedom, or too much freedom and the fear of suffering. Take your pick. Just don’t think too hard, it is only an action film after all.
Special effects good, acting adequate for the situation, humour occasional, constant Philosophical thought as a result of the dystopia ideals, a bit too consistent. But then again, I’m a Philosophy Student, I find questions in everything.