A Sylvester Stallone
movie in which he plays loose cannon policeman
John Spartan, who is dedicated to hunting down archcriminal Simon Phoenix
(Wesley Snipes), causing havoc and property destruction every time they face off. This earns Spartan the nickname "Demolition Man
". Their final confrontation goes a little too far, resulting in the deaths of several dozen innocent hostages. Though Phoenix was finally captured in the chaos, both
men are condemned to cryogenic prison
Flash forward 36 years, where Phoenix is mysteriously released from his ice prison, and proceeds to go on a rampage. Since this brave new world is a parody of Mary Sue Topia
, Phoenix's old school brutality is unheard of by the wimpy future police and they are easily outmatched. Figuring they need an old school police officer to deal with an old school thug, they thaw out Spartan. It's now a Race Against Time
to stop Phoenix.
The rest of the film is a blend of Fish out of Temporal Water
comedy and action-adventure which, as the title would indicate, results in a city-wide insurance nightmare. Spartan wouldn't have it any other way.
Not to be confused with the Demoman
, or Alfred Bester
's The Demolished Man
This movie provides examples of:
- Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Edgar Friendly's lair is located in the San Angeles sewers. Justified because the "Big One of 2010" sunk the old Los Angeles and San Angeles was built on top of it.
- Adam Westing: Edgar Friendly basically is Denis Leary in a dirty coat.
- Affably Evil: Dr. Raymond Cocteau. Friendly, fatherly, cares about the well-being of the utopia he's made... and plans to keep it that way by unleashing criminals on the underground populace that causes problems for his utopia. Lampshaded by Phoenix, who calls him "an evil Mr. Rogers".
- Affectionate Parody: A subtle one of 80's sci-fi action movies.
- Ambiguously Gay: Administrative Assistant Bob, in the film. In the novelization he's a eunuch.
- And I Must Scream: Criminals aren't supposed to be aware of the time spent as a Human Popsicle. But John spent the time dreaming of the innocents that he didn't save, and seeing his wife pounding on the ice cube he was in. When pressed, Cocteau uncomfortably states that "The side effects of the freezing process are unavoidable".
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: One of Phoenix's crimes in his brought-up file, in the midst of rape and random murder, is littering. Justified as this is a future where you are fined for semi swearing, so any infraction of the law you commit is considered a serious crime.
- Artistic Licence Gun Safety: The museum has displays filled with working guns, ammo for the guns, a loaded cannon that is in no way kept from being used, and laughably useless security in the form of glass that isn't even bulletproof. Arguably invoked, as San Angeles is so pacifistic that the mere idea of stealing these guns is unthinkable to someone of that time. Only a psycho like Phoenix would actually go as far as to steal them.
- Ascetic Aesthetic: San Angeles.
- Ask a Stupid Question...: A reporter is tactless enough to ask Spartan how he can feel justified in destroying a mall worth far more than the ransom of the hostages inside, right in front of one of them. The response from the hostage, who also happens to be a little girl: "Fuck you, lady!"
- Asskicking Equals Authority: Simon Phoenix's plan. Possibly justified, since nobody in San Angeles could stop him.
- A-Team Firing: Used abundantly by both Phoenix and Spartan, but most notably when Phoenix fires an automatic weapon at Spartan while he's confined in a vise, and still doesn't hit him — although that may have been deliberate, to prolong Spartan's torment. This does backfire, though; Phoenix empties the magazine and finds himself having to devise an alternative method of killing Spartan.
- Ax-Crazy: Phoenix. It's used as a plot point; Spartan noted that someone like Phoenix wouldn't hesitate to kill Cocteau, unless there's a sinister reason.
- Badass Longcoat: Edgar Friendly's is very long and quite badass.
- Bad Future: Los Angeles, 1996, looks as devastated by violence as Sarajevo - and gang members have anti-aircraft capabilities. It's gotten to the point the police are using humvees and had to track Phoenix via satellite. According to Dr. Cocteau, between 1996 and 2032, it went From Bad to Worse.
- Depending on whether you're the sort of person who prefers freedom to safety, Cocteau's future could easily be considered the "worse" part of that.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Huxley wishes for "some action".
- Beneath the Earth: Home of everyone who doesn't want to be a part of San Angeles, in the ruins of Los Angeles from the last earthquake.
- Blond Guys Are Evil: Phoenix, although it's obviously dyed.
- Blunt Metaphors Trauma: Variant, Huxley doesn't get 90s slang, neither does anyone else from San Angeles, really.
- Brick Joke: Set up during the initial confrontation in 1996:
Spartan: Where are they, Phoenix?
Phoenix: Now where did I put them? I swear, I'd lose my head if it wasn't attached.
Spartan: I'll keep that in mind.
- Book Ends
- "Send a maniac to catch a maniac."
- "Is it cold in here, or is it just me?"
- The movie starts and ends with Phoenix and Spartan fighting in a building full of frozen people, if Phoenix's "cold as Haagen Dazs" line is literal, that is..
- Borrowed Biometric Bypass:
- Phoenix escapes the cryoprison by gouging the warden's eye out and holding it on a pen.
- The police note that Phoenix is unable to pay for any food or shelter, nor can he mug anyone to get the money, as all transactions are done using the chip implanted in people's hands. Spartan immediately realizes a way around this and simply notes that "Let's just hope that he doesn't figure that one out."
- Break Out the Museum Piece:
- Done literally with the firearms by Phoenix and Spartan.
- Edgar Friendly's 1970 Oldsmobile 442 is commandeered by Spartan and Huxley when Phoenix steals their car. In the book, it is explained that civilian cars have severely restricted engines so they can't travel at the same speeds as police vehicles.
- Car Fu: The chase sequence with Phoenix and Spartan near the end.
- The Cast Showoff: Denis Leary, in the 1990's was famous for his motormouth rants in his comedy routine. His character falls into these.
- Catch Phrase: Simon says...
Phoenix: Simon says BLEED!
Phoenix: Simon says DIE!
Spartan: You forgot to say "Simon says"!
- The Cavalry Arrives Late: And useless! They demand that Huxley and Spartan be put under arrest. At least Friendly's uprising has an excuse, being, uh, underground and without vehicles. Not to mention the fact that Phoenix caused a mess back at their home. And the police only turn up because Spartan crashed into the fountain at the front of their HQ.
- Celebrity Paradox: When Phoenix steals a gun from a soldier mannequin in the Hall of Violence, he says, "Excuse me, Rambo, I need to borrow this."
- Chess Master: Averted with Dr. Cocteau. It turns out he sucks at being ahead of the game when a real maniac is involved.
- Chekhov's Gun
- Phoenix says he'd lose his head if it wasn't attached. Guess how he dies?
- Spartan laments that kissing is illegal because he was a good kisser. After the Final Battle he plants one on Huxley, from her reaction, he wasn't lying.
- Cluster F-Bomb: John Spartan to the machine that dispenses fine slips so he can use them as toilet paper.
Spartan: Thanks a lot, you shit-brained, fuck-faced, ball-breaking, duck-fucking pain in the ass.
- Coca-Pepsi, Inc.: Taco Bell, the only survivor of "the Franchise Wars", is now the only restaurant chain in existence. (In some cuts and localizations of the movie, it's Pizza Hut instead.) Spartan notes that, ironically, whatever they're serving isn't tacos (or pizza).
- Of course not. They went to a fancy Taco Bell (or Pizza Hut). Meat, spicy foods, and salt are illegal anyway.
- Cold Sleep, Cold Future: Inverted.
- Comic-Book Time: A ridiculous amount of things have happened and been forgotten in just 36 years, but is necessary for the humor and plot.
- Convection Shmonvection
- Phoenix holds a blowtorch inches away from a pool of gasoline, notwithstanding that the fumes are far more flammable than the liquid itself.
- Also a rare example of this trope applied to extreme cold temperatures: when Spartan is frozen, a computer display lists the temperature of the cryo-blocks at 1 Kelvin (in other words, 1ºC away from absolute zero), yet technicians are shown standing within touching distance of them. And an example of Artistic License – Physics as well. If they were that cold, the air should be freezing onto the surface of the blocks. Rapidly.
- Cool, but Inefficient: When Simon Phoenix finds an energy gun, it takes 2.6 minutes to reactivate.
- Cool Car
- The awesome (doomed) Oldsmobile 442.
- The novelization specifically refers to one customer at the dealership staring after it and, some innate car-lust of yesteryear stirring and igniting inside him, declares "I want one of those!"
- Corpsing: During his Motive Rant, Friendly's allies are clearly cracking up. Justified since they're likely just as into it all as he is.
- Cowboy Cop:
- John Spartan arguably both plays it straight and deconstructs it. He's got all the extreme combat skills, the Bond One Liners, the trail of destruction in his wake... but he's also uncomfortable with a lot of his reputation, and clearly doesn't love violence for the sake of it. His superiors are none too fond of him, either. He is distinctly bothered with Lenina casting him in this mold, going so far as to sulkily protest that "I just do my job... and things get demolished."
- Lampshaded. Huxley changes her assessment of Spartan from (paraphrased) "Macho he-man" to "Sulking gunslinger with a troubled past who only draws his gun when he needs to".
Huxley, enough! This isn't the Wild West. The Wild West wasn't even the Wild West
. Hurting people's not a good thing! Well, sometimes it is, but not when it's a bunch of people looking for something to eat!
- Furthermore, going in half-cocked all action movie style at the beginning is partly what gets Spartan frozen in the first place; in originally apprehending Phoenix, he's led into a trap, and people die because of it. Although he is later revealed to have been framed as they were dead already which is why the heat scans didn't show them.
- In short, he only operated the way he did because he was operating in a Crap Sack World and that was what it took to take down the kind of people causing it.
- Crapsack World: Los Angeles, 1996. And how. The opening sequence shows the Hollywood sign on fire, along with maybe 10% of the entire city, and anti-aircraft fire all over the place.
- Crapsaccharine World: San Angeles. Imagine Lawrence Welk as Big Brother and you have a fuzzy concept of what you're in for.
Friendly: I've seen the future. You know what it is? It's a 47-year-old virgin sitting around in his beige pajamas, drinking a banana-broccoli shake, singing "I'm an Oscar Meyer Wiener"!!
Phoenix: All right, gentlemen, let's review. The year is 2032 - that's two-zero-three-two, as in the 21st Century - and I am sorry to say the world has become a pussy-whipped, Brady Bunch version of itself, run by a bunch of robed sissies.
- Cryonics Failure
- Presumably, a lot of the occupants of the cryo-prison destroyed in the final battle had their sentences extended permanently, with no hope of parole. It's certainly what happened to Simon Phoenix, courtesy of John Spartan's boot.
- They'd already had their sentences extended permanently with no hope of parole by Cocteau. The Warden even begins to explain the law that did so before Simon shuts down his speechifying.
- By the time Spartan and Phoenix have their final showdown, there's really nobody left to thaw...
- Cryo Prison: Both Spartan and Phoenix.
- Crystal Spires and Togas: The upper crust of San Angeles. The sewer refugees live quite differently.
- Dangerously Genre Savvy: Simon Phoenix may be forty shades of insane maniac, but he isn't stupid. As Spartan correctly predicts, the first thing Phoenix does is find out where in this future world guns are stored, then heads there and loads up. Phoenix is also clueless as to where all his knowledge of future technology has come from, but rolls with it and takes advantage of it. And he ultimately gets around his inability to harm Cocteau by convincing him to release some other criminals to aid him, then getting one of them to shoot him.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Edgar Friendly is as close as San Angeles has to a real criminal, and all he is doing is fighting for the right for people to eat real food, listen to real music, have real sex and generally make their own choices. Cocteau wants him killed for this.
- Dark-Skinned Blond: Simon Phoenix. Of course, he dyed it.
- Destructive Saviour: Spartan's nickname. It's one of the reasons why he's put into cryofreeze as well.
- Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: After Spartan's car crash, Huxley comments that his uniform is in shambles.
I can fix it later. All I need is a needle and thread. (beat
) Did I really say that?
- Didn't See That Coming
- Cocteau reprogrammed Simon so that he wouldn't kill him, but didn't anticipate that Simon would have someone else do it. Way to not see that one. Simon lampshades it.
- Cocteau also didn't expect, or have a means to prevent, Simon thawing out a small army of mooks to help him.
- Double Take: Spartan does this a few times. First outside the museum when he spots a periscope, and again after getting the topless wrong number.
- Dramatic Gun Cock: Averted. They tried this in the museum; we see Spartan reload his shotgun as he walks towards the next room and we get the crescendo, telling us that it's about to get awesome. It culminates in Spartan darting around the corner and snapping his barrel back up... and it falls back down, forcing him to do it manually.
- Dueling-Stars Movie: Stallone vs. Snipes. Most of the posters had this phrase and nothing more.
- Dystopia Justifies the Means: Simon Phoenix is a Chaotic Evil mass murderer who wants ultimate freedom just so he can destroy, plunder, and rape as much as he wants. This is the primary conflict with his boss Dr. Cocteau, the benevolent dictator of the San Angeles future society, who represents the Utopia Justifies the Means side because he wants to preserve peace by suppressing free will. Phoenix eventually murders and usurps Cocteau's position to give the people his own ideal society of constant death and chaos.
- Eternal Prohibition:
Huxley: Smoking is not good for you. Anything not good for you is bad. Hence, illegal. Alcohol, caffeine, contact sports, meat... bad language, chocolate, uneducational toys and spicy food. Abortion is illegal, but so is pregnancy if you don't have a license.
- Evil Brit: Dr. Cocteau, in a way. Although his name is supposed to be French, his actor, Nigel Hawthorne, is British.
- Evil Counterpart: Simon Phoenix, a maniac who believes in freedom only so he can create as much violence as possible, vs. Edgar Friendly, an iconoclast who believes personal freedom is the path toward a fairer society.
- Evil Is Not a Toy: Cocteau releases Phoenix to kill Edgar Friendly, gives him combat training, and knowledge on how to hack various computers. He did implant a program in him to keep Phoenix from killing him, but then he decides it's a good idea to let some of Phoenix's gang out, who don't have any restraints to keep them from killing him.
- Even Evil Has Standards
- Phoenix invokes this several times on Cocteau, and in the end seems to kill him as much because he detests Cocteau's prissy brand of fascism as much as anything. Made even more explicit in the novelization.
Why the hell did you follow that guy around, anyway? Associate Bob:
Well, sir, you see, he had me... castrated. Phoenix:
Shit! He took your balls
Yes, sir. To limit any aspirations of power I might have. Phoenix:
Well, don't you worry, man, I'm gonna get you some new ones
- Evil Is Deathly Cold
- Invoked verbally by Spartan during his last fight with Phoenix with the classic line:
"Is it cold in here, or is it just me?"
- The Evils of Free Will: Cocteau believes in this. Of course, it means turning Southern California into Sissy Land.
- Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: After Spartan tells the chief that Phoenix will be looking for a gun, the chief responds that such a thought is ridiculous. The only place anyone can even find a gun is in a museum...
- Eye Scream: Simon Phoenix pulls the eye out of a warden with a pen and uses it on an eyescan to escape. We see the moment when the pen nears his eye, and then (after, thankfully, a Gory Discretion Shot), a close-up of the eye getting scanned. We then see the eye still stuck on the pen. Later we see the warden laying on the floor dying from, among other injuries, "severe eye trauma".
- Face Palm: Spartan has a minor "two fingers to the forehead" facepalm when he hears the 'oldies' station on the radio, which is nothing but old commercial jingles.
"Somebody put me back in the fridge..."
- Fan Disservice: The 2032 method of having sex. It's less erotic than a block of wood, and can cause epileptic seizures.
- Fan of the Past: Lenina Huxley collects 20th Century memorabilia; her superior calls it an "addiction" at one point. She rather shamefully admits to Spartan that she had to use not-strictly-legal means to buy some of it.
- Fanservice Extra: The nude video call wrong number.
- Considering how uptight, repressed, and 'anything that could be considered bad is illegal' attitude of the film's future world, it seems even MORE blatant. Even if a woman had 'the courage' to call a boyfriend or lover in such a way, the world they live in suggests she would be far more nervous and not laugh the accident off as she ends the call.
- It could be that nudity is not a big deal on video because there is no touching possible. Fear of diseases made physical contact a taboo, but Lenina proposes "sex" quite casually, so this society may actually be quite direct and open about sexuality... as long as it stays virtual.
- Fantasy Gun Control: Guns only exist in a museum in San Angeles. Unsurprisingly, Phoenix and Spartan head straight for it.
- Faux Affably Evil: Simon Phoenix. He seems like a real fun guy to be around. Too bad he's a psychopath who'd probably maim you twice for shits and giggles. Think The Joker in the body of Ruby Rhod.
- Fetal Position Rebirth
- Fish out of Temporal Water: Spartan and Phoenix; Spartan, especially.
- For Inconvenience, Press "1": "Greetings and salutations. Welcome to the San Angeles Emergency Line. If you would like an automated response, please press '1' now."
- From Bad to Worse: The crime situation at the opening of the film was just the start. Los Angeles was apparently leveled by "The Big One" sometime while Spartan was frozen, and it was so bad that they basically just built San Angeles on top of the ruins. And apparently there were two more STD epidemics as bad as AIDS in the same timeframe.
- From the Mouths of Babes: In the video of Spartan rescuing a girl.
Reporter: John Spartan, how can you justify destroying a seven million dollar mini-mall, to rescue a girl whose ransom was only twenty-five thousand dollars?
Rescued girl: Fuck you, lady!
Spartan: *laughs* Good answer.
- Full-Name Basis: Everyone in the future refers to each other by their full names.
- Funny In Retrospect: "President Schwarzenegger" wasn't that far from the truth.
- Future Imperfect: Apart from 20th-century buff Lenina Huxley, the younger officers have no idea what toilet paper is and people think that advertisement jingles are music while real oldies are unknown.
- Future Music: AKA Top Ten Jingles.
- Genre Shift: There's nothing funny about the prologue of the movie, taking place in 1996 in Los Angeles. It gets funnier than hell in 2032 in San Angeles, though.
- Gosh Darn It to Heck!: The light-hearted San Angeles is mostly profanity free, due to swearing being illegal and can cause a fine to anyone who slips it out.
- Got Volunteered: The San Angeles police realize they don't know how to deal with Phoenix, but luckily, the guy who beat him last time is also in the Cryo-Prison. Despite otherwise being a Chessmaster, Cocteau is visibly surprised that they thought outside the box like that, but hides it well enough.
- Graffiti of the Resistance: The Underground had automatic sprayers for painting the walls in seconds. The government had paint vaporizing devices which could undo the work just as fast.
- Grievous Harm with a Body: In one scene, Simon uses a museum guard not actually as a weapon, but as a tool to break a glass box.
What seems to be your boggle? Phoenix:
My boggle? Oh, brother. [beat
] Hold on... how much do you weigh? Guard:
Well... I happen to weigh exactly... *GRAB* WAAAUUGGHH! *SMASH*
- Ham-to-Ham Combat: Between Simon Phoenix and Spartan, who is normally reserved but rises to meet Phoenix's ham with his own when they have a confrontation.
- Hand Cannon: Edgar Friendly's massive double-barrelled pistol
Huxley: We're looking for a murderdeathkiller. Are you going to help us or just bully us with your primitive weapons?
Friendly shrugs and fires his pistol into the ceiling, blowing a massive hole in it.
Huxley: Okay, maybe they're not so primitive.
- Hello Boys: the naked "wrong number" on the videophone.
- Hero Insurance:
News reporter: How can you justify destroying a $7,000,000 mini-mall to rescue a girl whose ransom is only $25,000?
Girl: Fuck you, lady!
John Spartan: Good answer.
- History Marches On: Phoenix makes a crack about "I love that guy!" when he finds serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer's name on a list of cryo-cube prisoners. The Real Life Dahmer was killed in prison the year after this film was released.
- Hoist by His Own Petard
- Cocteau intended for Simon Phoenix to be his weapon against Edgar Friendly, but ultimately his weapon kills him instead.
- Phoenix set up an elaborate plan that would send John Spartan to jail with him. Though he had no way of knowing it at the time, if he'd have just let Spartan arrest him, Spartan would have stayed out of CryoCon and would have been an old man when Phoenix got out. He might have even been dead.
- Horrible Judge of Character: Cocteau overestimated Friendly and underestimated Phoenix even more.
- Human Popsicle: Spartan, Phoenix and the paroled cryo-cons, of course.
- Humans Are Morons: The film provides the unique depiction of a future where humanity has eradicated all the things that make humans bastards but has become more paranoid, inexperienced, and clueless as a trade-off.
- "I Am Great!" Song: "Demolition Man" by Sting.
- I Did What I Had to Do: How Cocteau justified his power grab.
- Also how Edgar Friendly sees himself and his role with the Scraps.
- Spartan, too. As he puts it, he just does his job, and things get demolished.
- I Know Mortal Kombat: Huxley learned elaborate kicks by watching Jackie Chan movies.
- Innocent Innuendo
- In-universe: Huxley often mangles 20th century sayings into... something else, prompting Spartan to react with irritation/disgust and correct her.
Huxley: OK, I'm with you. Let's go blow this guy.
Spartan: (frustrated groan) Away! Blow this guy away.
- Until she manages to do so in an acceptable way.
- Insult Backfire
Taco Bell patron: What would you say if I called you a brutish fossil, symbolic of a decayed era gratefully forgotten?
John Spartan: I don't know... thanks?
- I Want My Jetpack: After Phoenix finds a stash of rifles (in a museum).
- Ironic Echo
- Spoken by Phoenix before blowing up his fortress in 1996, and later by Spartan during their final fight in the Cryo-Prison:
"Is it cold in here, or is it just me?"
- Irony: "We're police officers... we're not trained for this kind of violence."
- Certainly some Fridge Brilliance in this troper's opinion since this is, essentially, the LAPD saying this.
- Is That What They're Calling It Now?: Inverted. The thing with the headsets and possible seizure-inducing flashes freaks Spartan out.
Huxley: I thought you wanted to make love!
Spartan: Is that what you call that?!
- Interplay of Sex and Violence: Huxley discusses this trope before asking Spartan if he wants to have sex. He readily agrees. It leads to something with virtual reality headsets that is so different, and disturbing, it freaks him out.
- Japan Takes Over Los Angeles: San Angeles has a very Japanese feel, from high society wearing kimonos to computers running everything to the mannerisms of its citizens. After Spartan knits her a jumper Huxley smells it, an Asian trait.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: Phoenix killing Cocteau, who went to extreme, disgusting lengths to create a saccharine dystopia.
- Knight Templar: Dr. Cocteau
- Large Ham: Wesley Snipes was definitely enjoying himself.
- Except for the hair; Snipes reportedly hated the blonde dye job, and shaved his head to get rid of it as soon as filming was complete.
- Laughably Evil: Simon Phoenix, who has some of the funniest scenes in the movie and is having a grand old time.
- Light Is Not Good: Cocteau, who dresses in white, speaks calmly to everyone, encourages peace and well-being, and dreams of a utopia without freedom of thought or choice. As a telling trait of his true nature, when shown in his private home, he wears a black robe over the white one.
- Literally Shattered Lives/Off with His Head!: Phoenix in the end, as a result of the contact with cryogenic "seed" and, seconds later, Spartan's boot.
- Lock Down: Phoenix is locked in the armory after killing (at least) two people in that room. This goes about as well as you'd expect.
- Malaproper: Lenina frequently attempts to use 20th century slang, resulting in accidental innuendos.
Huxley: He finally matched his meat. You really licked his ass.
Spartan: That's met his match, and kicked, KICKED his ass!
Huxley: Let's go blow this guy!
Spartan: Away. Blow this guy away!
Huxley: Chief, you can take this job, and you can shovel it.
Spartan: ...Close enough.
- Loophole Abuse: It doesn't take long for Phoenix to realize that the Restraining Bolt preventing him from offing Cocteau only applies to him specifically.
- Magical Security Cam: Spartan watches footage of Phoenix and Cocteau, which is lifted straight from earlier in the film and contains several impossible angles.
- Manchurian Agent: The reason Cocteau thaws out Phoenix to begin with. "Don't you have someone to kill? Mr. Edgar Friendly?" Notably, the compulsion doesn't seem to be very strong, as Phoenix only gets down to sniffing out Friendly after being told a second time by Cocteau personally, and even then he seems to arbitrarily give up on that so he can get back to scheming against Cocteau. Indeed, by the time the two do come into conflict, Phoenix puts more emphasis on killing Spartan (who's also in the room) than Friendly.
- May-December Romance: Spartan is in his early 70's (objective time) thanks to cryostasis, and Huxley was in her early 30's at most. Even putting aside the time Spartan was on ice, Stallone is still 18 years Sandra Bullock's senior.
- Meaningful Name: John Spartan is a mighty warrior. Simon Phoenix is raised from death-like cryo-sleep. Lenina Huxley lives in the regimented, eugenicised future. Edgar Friendly is a perfectly nice, reasonable man, if a bit unclean.
- Mental Affair: Spartan and Huxley, until he realizes that's all there is to it and promptly removes his headgear.
- Minion with an F in Evil: Administrative Assistant Bob. Of course, with Phoenix, he has no choice. He would have killed him, too. And Phoenix needs an assistant, anyway.
- Mirrored Confrontation Shot
- Monumental Damage: As we swoop over the hell of 1996 Los Angeles, we see that the Hollywood sign is on fire.
- Motor Mouth: Edgar Friendly. Not surprising since it's Denis Leary.
- Neural Implanting: Part of cyro-rehab is giving people skills and the desire to use them. Spartan gets knitting, Phoenix gets a lot of much more useful skills...
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero
- John accidentally sets the building, used as Phoenix's base, on fire. The firefighters found dead bodies in the rubble, bodies of the hostages he was trying to save. However, they were already dead when he arrived to capture Phoenix.
- Phoenix later states explicitly that he knew Spartan would use a thermal scan to check for hostages, which is why they were "cold as Haagen-Dazs." You'd think that kind of thing would come up during the investigation, but Spartan's superiors seem to have been looking for an excuse to get rid of him.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Simon Phoenix framed John Spartan and got him locked in cryo prison, thereby unwittingly providing the future SAPD with the only man who could stop him. If he hadn't framed Spartan, best case scenario Spartan is a septuagenarian. More than likely, Spartan would have died when the "real disturbances began", as Cocteau put it, when "civilization tried to destroy itself."
- Nobody Poops: Notably averted - Spartan excuses himself to use the bathroom, starting the Running Gag of the "three seashells" that have replaced toilet paper.
- Noodle Implements: "You don't know how to use the three seashells?"
- Stallone revealed the mystery of the three seashells in an interview (Question #9). Warning: contains Squick. From the interview, I-Mockery created this 'handy illustrated instructional guide' for the seashells. Warning: as above, contains Squick, and a (not so graphic) drawing of human buttocks and feces.
- Retroactively, the three seashells lampshades a later real-life innovation in toilet design that saw two buttons replace the traditional flush handle. When they were introduced (allegedly to save water consumption), they were often compared to Demolition Man's three seashells.
- No-Paper Future
- Dollars have been replaced by credits, and currency is exchanged through subcutaneous microchips in people's hands. Toilet paper doesn't exist, either.
- Subverted by the swear fine system, which provides a paper receipt every time someone uses harsh language. Swear enough, as Spartan does, and one need not worry about using the seashells.
- No Sex Allowed
- Sex is performed via electronics, since fluid transmission causes horrible diseases (extremely feared in San Angeles, partly because of past STD epidemics) and pregnancy (now illegal without a license).
- Kissing is not allowed either. Presumably, not even a peck on the cheek. Even the word "kiss" disgusts Huxley, like an elementary school student would be disgusted by the word "penis".
- Even touch is avoided; two characters even give a "high-five" without hand contact. When Spartan gives someone an actual high five, the other guy is visibly revolted by the physical contact. You can hear him exclaiming "Germs!" in disgust, as if he has been instantly contaminated.
- Not Me This Time: Almost word-for-word, John then tells his superior that Simon rigged the building he was hiding at to blow up.
Captain Healy: Yeah right, like you had nothing to do with it.
- Nothing Can Stop Us Now: Phoenix after gathering his old gang together and killing Cocteau.
- Oh, Crap: John specifically snaps out an "Oh, hell!" when he hears Phoenix's blaster rifle reach full charge. The look on Cocteau's face when Phoenix tosses a gun to an unrehabbed cryo-con is a suitably epic one as well.
- Order Versus Chaos
- Spartan versus Phoenix - and Cocteau versus Friendly, respectively.
- Between villains, Cocteau versus Phoenix.
- Outrunning The Fire Ball
- Pretty much why Spartan is called the Demolition Man. It's even lampshaded by his fellow cops, Phoenix and himself.
- At the end John Spartan runs away from the cryoprison as it blows up in flames.
- Outside-Context Villain: Simon Phoenix.
- Overly Narrow Superlative: While eating a rat burger, and learning what it was made from, Spartan tells the cook that it was "the best burger he'd had in years." Only Huxley knows the context; after thirty years of cryo-suspension and a few days in San Angeles, he can't possibly have any real meat for decades. Nevertheless, Spartan's praise is sincere, and he finishes the burger.
- Override Command: Simon Phoenix tries to activate an electrical anti-graffiti system to zap a cop behind a wall. It detects the policeman and refuses to activate, so Phoenix overrides it with the password 7777777 and kills the cop. "Lucky Number Seven!"
- Parenthetical Swearing: Dr. Cocteau's dismissive "Be well" to Spartan, after their unpleasant moment at gunpoint. Spartan wouldn't mince words, though...
- The Password Is Always Swordfish: In a downplayed example, the voice password (which is not coded to specific voices) for the restraint chair at the cryo-prison is "Teddy Bear". While hardly something one would expect a hardened criminal to say, it's nevertheless a common phrase that could conceivably come up in conversation, which is rather silly considering these are dangerous felons being interrogated.
- Perfect Pacifist People: Subverted and deconstructed. Due to the lack of crime and war, neither the police nor anyone else have any idea how to take care of Phoenix, and shit hits the fan.
- Percussive Prevention: Spartan knocks Huxley out with a glow rod before going to fight Phoenix at the cryoprison in the climax.
- Police Are Useless:
- A variant; the police genuinely do want to do their jobs and protect the citizens, but their society has grown so pacifistic that they honestly have no idea how to actually deal with violent criminals. This is most obvious during the police's first encounter with Phoenix, where the lead officer has to get advice word-for-word just on how to approach the guy - and is completely at a loss when Phoenix blows him off.
"Maniac is imminent; request advice."
Erwin: We're police officers! We're not trained to handle this kind of violence!
- Even Cocteau doesn't think highly of them, and he's the one that made them that way.
- Political Correctness Gone Mad: Essentially the entire plot setup. San Angeles is a place where attempting not to offend anybody and maintaining civil, peaceful coexistence has arguably usurped the value of life in importance. San Angeles is what would happen if the people who organize proper workplace behavior seminars had absolute power and went mad with it.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Phoenix mocks some Asians at the San Angeles museum.
- Population Control: Implied; pregnancy is illegal without a license, and fluids are cleaned and transferred by authorized medical personnel.
- Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: "You're gonna regret this the rest of your life, both seconds of it."
- Precision F-Strike: Spartan, of all people, after Cocteau threatened to send him back to Cryo-Prison and told him to "be well".
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "Hey, Simon! Heads up!"
- Product Placement
- The only existing restaurant chain is Taco Bell, unless you're watching the European version, where it's Pizza Hut. (Taco Bell barely exists outside the USA. Oddly enough, the British version is unchanged; Britain doesn't have Taco Bell, but does have Pop-Cultural Osmosis.) Spartan is noticeably confused when everyone dresses up. Taco Bell also modified their logo because they liked the version in the film. In some TV versions, the name of the restaurant is unmentioned altogether.
- The first thing Spartan wants after being defrosted is a Marlboro.
- John Spartan just happens to crash through the floor of an Oldsmobile dealership...driving a 1970 Oldsmobile 442. Also serves as Zeerust since Oldsmobile went defunct in 2004, and the movie is set in 2032.
- Professional Butt-Kisser: Bob. In the novel, it's revealed he's been castrated for this purpose.
- Psycho for Hire: Phoenix is initially this to Doctor Cocteau but then, like many psycho henchmen, he turns the tables.
- Punch Clock Villain: Associate Bob. He basically just serves whoever's in power, regardless of their alignment, because that's his job. Appropriate, considering who his boss is.
- Punched Across the Room: When Phoenix first attacks the SAPD officers at the information booth, some try to flee in their car. Phoenix smashes the windshield, grabs one of them by the jacket one handed and throws him across the street. His strength was tripled during cryosleep by the electrical stimulation meant to keep cons from shriveling up, mentioned briefly when they put Spartan under.
- Ragnarok-Proofing: Friendly's 1970 Oldsmobile works just fine 62 years after it was built, thanks to constant repairs.
- Real Men Wear Pink: During their ice rehab, the cryo-cons were programmed with skills to be more productive to society. Spartan was trained in knitting.
- Red Alert: The Chief, surrounded by the police force, calls for a "Defensive Red Alert" when Edgar Friendly and the scraps start coming. (Spartan chills them out.)
- Reduced to Ratburgers: Spartan, who keeps his game face on and continues to chew.
- Restraining Bolt
- Phoenix is unable to kill Cocteau (he gets around it by having one of his goons do it).
- The cars also have restraining bolts to prevent them from exceeding the speed limit. When Phoenix has to steal a police car, he repeatedly feeds the computer various crime reports to get it to remove various levels of restriction. In the novel he goes Up to Eleven by describing an elaborate situation in which a family is being trapped in a burning house while they're being raped and stolen from, prompting the computer to finally remove the restraint completely. Spartan and Huxley, meanwhile, have commandeered a 1970 Oldsmobile which has no such limitations.
- Rip Van Tinkle: Spartan had to use the bathroom once he fully got over the freezing.
- Running Gag: The machine which dispenses fines for saying bad words. John and Simon notice it the first time, but ignore it thereafter (except when John exploits it to get some toilet paper). The buzz can be heard at all the right points. Gets a lampshaded ending when Spartan shoots one such device, causing it to short out.
- Sarcasm Mode: When the police are out of leads on where to find Phoenix, the chief's plan is to simply wait until the next "MurderDeathKill" and zero in on that, leading Spartan to sarcastically remark "Nice plan." Nobody gets it, save for Lenina, who snickers.
- The initial encounter between Phoenix and the SAPD officers:
: What's this? Six of you. Such nice, tidy uniforms. Ooh, I'm so
[the Police Officers look at each other
] Simon Phoenix
: What, you guys don't have sarcasm anymore?
- Saw It in a Movie Once: How Huxley learned to kick like that. "Jackie Chan movies." It's a Shout-Out to the fact Jackie Chan and Stallone are friends - Jackie was originally slated to play the villain, even.
- Sawed-Off Shotgun
- Spartan uses one against Phoenix during the museum fight.
- Friendly's weapon of choice.
- Scary Black Man: Simon Phoenix.
- Scary Impractical Armor: The Scraps, and the armor that Phoenix wears that was presumably stolen from them, is constructed from scrap materials, most prominently cut up tires. Spartan beats them up just as handily as anyone else, and of course, rubber isn't very bulletproof. It does make some sense, though; Scrap armor is meant to defend against San Angeles cops, who only carry glow rods. Though we're not told exactly how the rods work, it stands to reason a rubber insulator would render them ineffective. The tires would also be very effective against clubs and other blunt weapon attacks.
- Schmuck Bait: As John eats the burger underground, Lenina tells him, "Just don't ask where the meat comes from." Of course, he immediately does. This doesn't dissuade him from finishing it, though.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: Practically everyone in the cryo-prison, but Phoenix especially. Cocteau seems to have been planning to open Phoenix's can for some time if he ever had need of someone with his... leanings.
- Shoulders of Doom: Simon Phoenix and some of the scraps.
- Shrug Take: Spartan's reaction to the realization that his burger is made of rat.
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: While the Warden was interrogating Simon, Simon repeats what he says in Spanish. The Warden screams at him to stop. Simon just smiles.
- Slobs Versus Snobs: Edgar Friendly's dirty, gritty freedom-fighters against Dr. Cocteau's relentlessly clean, neat, orderly society.
- Sound Effect Bleep: When shown on TV the news report where a girl says "Fuck you lady" is bleeped out, giving a stylistic and unique twist to the trope.
- Simon Phoenix says "BLEEP!" when the swear machine fines him the third time.
- Straight Edge Evil: Cocteau.
- Summon Bigger Fish: The future San Angelenos view the release of John Spartan like this. To them he's just as much a criminal as Simon Phoenix and his worldview and behavior is just as alien.
"Send a maniac to catch a maniac."
- The Swear Jar: Every time you curse, a machine pops out a ticket. Do it enough, it calls the cops. Unless you're already a cop, of course. When Spartan can't figure out the "three seashells", he swears at the machine until it gives him enough tickets to use as toilet paper.
- Take the Wheel: John Spartan to Lenina Huxley while they're pursuing Simon Phoenix.
- Take a Third Option: Rather than finding out how the three seashells works, John lets loose a line of swear words, then takes his tickets to use as toilet paper.
- Technical Pacifist: While nonviolent, all the San Angelinos are this by default since, as Lenina points out, the society can only exist because of the cryo-prison.
- Terminator Twosome: Inverted, in that both time-travelling warriors go from the present into the future.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Friendly and his gang are, at best, moderately well-armed hobos who are not much more than irritants. Cocteau logically responds by turning mass-murderer Simon Phoenix into a highly-trained guerrilla warfare expert who is even more of a psycho. This much overkill backfires, naturally.
- These Hands Have Killed, followed immediately by I Did What I Had to Do:
Huxley: That man has died at my hands.
Spartan: It was him or us.
Huxley: ...There is that.
- Time Passes Montage: Sort of, after John Spartan is frozen. It's just a series of shots of his frozen naked body.
- Too Dumb to Live
- For starters, nobody has any idea how to deal with violent criminals or anything at all that is not perfect and ordered. And secondly, they place loaded guns, including an energy weapon that makes a roughly baseball-sized area explosive, among other things inside a museum behind only glass. Of course, this wasn't expected in a society where everyone is completely non-violent.
- "I told everyone not to come down here! Postmen figured it out! Policemen figured it out! But the goddamn bus drivers just wouldn't listen!"
- Cocteau programmed Phoenix so that he couldn't kill him. So why the hell didn't he apply that programming to the other psychos hand-picked by Phoenix? Possibly justified if the process, referred to as "synaptic suggestion" in a throwaway line, takes time to be effective.
- Totally Radical: Lenina often sounds like this to Spartan when she tries to use 20th century slang and Spartan instantly corrects her.
- Tracking Chip: As part of Doctor Cocteau's master plan, almost everyone in San Angeles had an organic microchip implanted in them. Sensors around the city can determine the exact location of any of them at any time. The Scraps clearly don't have chips implanted, or Cocteau's forces would have hunted them down before the movie started. Of course, it's possible there are no sensors in the underground ruins of Los Angeles. Simon Phoenix is also noted as not having a chip, as he was frozen before the chips were implemented, and John Spartan, being frozen at the same time, had one implanted right after being defrosted.
- Trashcan Bonfire: Several are visible in the Absurdly Spacious Sewer where Edgar Friendly's people live.
- Twenty Minutes into the Future: Southern California became a very different place, no thanks to a major earthquake and several pandemics - and, of course, Dr. Cocteau's guidance.
- The Un-Reveal:
- Huxley starts to explain the 61st Amendment to the Constitution that allowed Austrian-born Arnold Schwarzenegger to become President, but Spartan cuts her off. In the last lines of the movie Huxley whispers the secret of the three seashells to Spartan, who replies "No way! That's much better than toilet paper!"
- Despite some plans (see the trivia page) and the obvious set-up, the movie never follows up on the fate of Spartan's daughter. The novelization reveals that she's a Scrap, which both saddens Spartan because of her situation and makes him proud that she's chosen freedom.
- Underground City: The part of the San Angeles population that doesn't accept Doctor Cocteau's rule lives in the underground remains of old Los Angeles below San Angeles' streets. They survive by eating stolen food and rats.
- Upgrade Artifact: The rehabilitation programs that all frozen convicts go through. Spartan learns elite knitting skills, much to his annoyance. Phoenix got hacking skills, terrorist training, and tripled strength (!?) as part of the villain's plan. Numerous martial arts are listed amongst Phoenix's rehab. He's probably simply learned to apply his strength to maximum effect with every move he makes from them.
- Utopia Justifies the Means: Subverted, as the "utopia" turns out to be way too passe.
- Video Phone: Present in the future, naturally. John Spartan even gets a wrong number from a topless chick.
- Veganopia: If you want red meat in the future, find a hearty-looking rat and a grill.
- Villain Ball: Cocteau gets called out on this, and is promptly dumped in a fire.
- Villain Cred: Simon Phoenix tries to unfreeze a cryo-prison full of psychotic murderers. When he hears that Jeffrey Dahmer is among the convicts, he joyfully expresses admiration for the guy.
- Villains Blend in Better: Phoenix happily hacks his way into electronic systems and has no trouble finding his way around the city and calling up information on prominent people; meanwhile, Spartan cannot even use a futuristic toilet. Justified because... Phoenix's "rehabilitation program" was altered to give him inside knowledge of computers and hacking in preparation for him being sent to kill Edgar Friendly, which in turn would mean he could easily access maps and personal data, while Spartan's program taught him how to knit.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Dr. Cocteau.
- Walking Disaster Area: Both John Spartan and Simon Phoenix.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Cocteau tries to get rid of Edgar Friendly, the only thorn in his side and the closest thing San Angeles has to a real criminal, by taking an already psychotic criminal genius and making him worse.
- He's also the one who turned San Angeles into what it currently is.
- We Will Use WikiWords In The Future
- "MurderDeathKill MurderDeathKill MurderDeathKill"
- They also seem to use the word "JoyJoy" to mean anything good.
- Cocteau talks about having to run the CitiGov. Probably a Shout-Out to 1984's Newspeak
- Wham Line: "Captain, there are dead bodies everywhere! There must be twenty or thirty of them! They're everywhere!"
- This leads to another Wham Moment later in the film when Phoenix reveals that they were already dead, and it was a gambit to frame Spartan.
- What Year Is This?: Spartan, naturally, asks how long he's been frozen upon getting thawed out.
- What Happened to the Mouse?
- Phoenix defrosts somewhere between eight and twelve of his old buddies. One looks to die in the sewer fight, another three go down to Spartan and Huxley, and the rest are never seen again, and presumably eliminated when the cryo-prison explodes.
- Spartan's closest friend, Zachary Lamb, last appeared in a scene where he drops off Spartan, Huxley, and Garcia before their descent into the Wasteland. He was not seen again. In a deleted scene and the novelization (based on the original shooting script), Phoenix kills Lamb before taking Huxley's car.
- You Are Too Late: Phoenix killed the hostages before Spartan even arrived; either he'd get away with murder (literally), or Spartan would get framed and imprisoned for his own crime. Either way, he wins.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Near the end Simon Phoenix tries to unfreeze all the criminals held in the cry-prison at once to kickstart his new dystopia. He thanks the prison's cryo-stasis technicians for their help, before gunning them all down because he no longer has any use for them.
- Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Spartan comes to this realization after noticing that Friendly's gang only wanted the food from a truck. Spartan called Cocteau out on this, but he didn't care either way.
- The Future is round and chrome.
- There's also an element of this in how Los Angeles is depicted to have become all round-and-chrome — the urban unrest the movie depicts, to date, hasn't been quite as bad as that.
- "You're even better live than on laser disc!"
- 1996 has come and gone without a single cryogenic prison being built.
- Jeffrey Dahmer was murdered in prison a year after the movie was made (two years before the first setting). So there was no chance of him being released. Of course how he was transferred from Wisconsin to Los Angeles is another question.
Somebody, put me back in the fridge.